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Tuesday Churn: K-12 budget outlook bleak

What’s churning:

School districts budgets might not recover for nearly a decade. That was the word from experts who discussed the issue at a University of Colorado-Denver panel Monday evening.

“We’re looking at a horizon of recovery … five to 10 years in the future. My sense is it won’t recover until 2018,” said David Hart, new CFO of the Denver Public Schools and former Douglas County CFO. Michael Griffith, a school finance specialist at the Denver-based Education Commission of the States, agreed but also said, “We will hit the bottom next year.”

Hart also warned that the budget squeeze will lead to larger class sizes, a withering of salary increases based on factors like advanced degrees and increased outsourcing of non-teacher jobs (janitors, drivers, cafeteria workers and the like) as districts try to control rising contributions to the state pension system.

Tracie Rainey of the Colorado School Finance Project and Hart also warned that budget woes might make it tough to implement school reform measures.

“We are going to have increased disconnect between expectations and what school districts are able to deliver. … We have the need for differentiated instruction. We don’t have the resources to deliver it,” Hart said.

Outgoing state Treasurer Cary Kennedy also was on the panel, which was sponsored by the Buechner Institute for Governance.

Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper’s cast-of-thousands transition effort gained a lot of new names Monday with the announcement of 16 “statewide co-chairs” and 36 “committee co-chairs.”

The “statewide” group includes former GOP Gov. Bill Owens and Democratic former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb. Names from the world of education include former CSU President Al Yates, Stephanie Garcia, president of the Pueblo 60 school board, and Kathay Rennels, CSU director of economic development.

The co-chairs of the Education Committee are Matt Gianneschi, former education advisor to Gov. Bill Ritter, and State Board of Education Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District.

Bob Rizzuto, a CSU vice president, is co-chair of the Budget Committee, along with Roy Alexander, executive director of the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.

Lt. Gov.-elect Joe Garcia and Denver businessman John Huggins are the overall co-chairs overseeing the whole effort. Garcia, of course, will be leaving the presidency of CSU-Pueblo to move to the Capitol.

Aside from Stephanie Garcia, there are no school board members or district administrators among the group. Nor are there any labor union officials. And, come to think about it, there’s nobody from CSU’s traditional rival, the University of Colorado.

See the full list here. Anyone can volunteer to serve on one of the committees that will examine state government – get more information here.

Gov. Bill Ritter, flanked by state government, higher education and business leaders, Tuesday kicked off “Complete College Colorado,” a one-month outreach and promotional effort aimed primarily at the estimated 600,000 Coloradans who have some college credits but who never received degrees. Get more information on the initiative’s website.

What’s on tap:

The State Council on Educator Effectiveness meets from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the boardroom at 201 E. Colfax Ave. See agenda here.

The Department of Education’s town hall meetings on a new state testing system continue today in the Occiato Theater at Pueblo Community College. The session runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Get background here.

The Aurora school board meets at 6 p.m. to receive comment on whether it should accept or reject an arbitrator’s recent ruling that the district was wrong to add an extra class to high school teachers’ schedules. The meeting will be in the Mount Massive Room of the Professional Learning and Conference Center, 15771 E. 1st Ave.

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