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The Daily Churn: Friday

Updated — The hubbub about the New York Times’ article on Denver Public Schools’ pension system doesn’t seem to be abating. Superintendent Tom Boasberg hit the talk radio airwaves this morning and various bloggers were commenting furiously. Meanwhile, DPS issued a press release this afternoon about a welcome ceremony Monday for more than 400 new teachers. Coincidence?

To see the latest financial documents on the district pension plan, check here: Cavanaugh Macdonald Consulting prepared an actuarial valuation of the DPS pension plan as of Dec. 31, 2009 for Colorado PERA. For comparison, the 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the rest of PERA – not the DPS schools division – is here. (It’s a large file, be patient.) And thirty-year projections for the pension funds based on those 2009 valuations are here.

What’s churning:

Expect the New York Times article posted about 8:30 last night to continue creating a buzz among DPS watchers. The critical look at the district’s 2008 pension deal headlined “Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt” was quickly tweeted by DPS board member Andrea Merida and commented upon at

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg wasn’t particularly happy when Educaton News Colorado hired a financial journalist to delve into that deal last April, resulting in the analysis “Both Sides Right in the DPS Pension Debate.” So he likely won’t enjoy the harsh national spotlight. DPS board members are expected to begin public talks about pension issues when they resume their monthly meetings Aug. 16. See this blog post by Alexander Ooms for another perspective on the pension issue, and the Times’ story.

Meanwhile, the 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report on the DPS division of the state Public Employees’ Retirement Association has yet to be released – a PERA spokeswoman said she expects it will come out in the next couple of weeks.

Will Tuesday ever come? The primary U.S. Senate battle between former DPS superintendent Michael Bennet and Andrew Romanoff can’t end soon enough. Some Romanoff supporters are claiming Dwight Jones, the state’s education commissioner, is delaying release of the state test results until Tuesday morning because he’s worried the results will harm the Bennet campaign. As proof, they point to the two Bennet signs decorating Jones’ front yard yesterday in central Denver. CSAP results have been publicly released earlier than Aug. 10 in years past – last year, it was Aug. 7.

Mark Stevens, spokesman for the state Department of Education, said it’s total coincidence that the CSAP release comes on the morning of the primary election. The date was picked at meetings this past spring and “no political calendar was even in the room…It’s a matter of when the data can be crunched and ready to be released. This is the earliest we can absolutely bank on having all the data ready.”

On tap today:

Testing, testing 1,2,3… The Assessment Stakeholders Committee, the panel that’s advising CDE on a new state testing system, holds an all-day meeting at the Doubletree Hotel in the Denver Tech Center. The group will discuss plans for the transition for old to new state tests, the possibility of online tests and how the Colorado Growth Model might fit into a new testing system.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Education Week takes a look at efforts to build strong leadership in rural schools.

The Associated Press has an odd story about Milwaukee teachers, in an era of layoffs, fighting to get Viagra back into their health benefits.

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