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The Daily Churn: Friday


What’s churning:

Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is in Denver today for a talk titled “How L.A. Unified is Moving Forward: Public release of teacher performance, parental control, new school operators.” Seating for the Hot Lunch talk sponsored by the Donnell-Kay and Piton foundations is full but, as always, we’ll have a story and video. We’re guessing a good deal of discussion will focus on the Los Angeles Times’ decision to create a database rating teachers by their students’ progress on tests and the aftermath for LAUSD.  But there’s plenty of other hot issues to talk about, from California’s parent-trigger law to the LA school board’s approval of the Public School Choice Resolution, allowing outsiders – from charters to the teachers’ union – to bid to run schools.  Then there’s the fact that budget cuts have pushed back the start of school from Sept. 2 to Sept. 13. Is it any wonder Cortines, who turned 78 in July, has announced plans to retire?

Meanwhile, an attempt to recall Denver school board member Andrea Merida was rejected Thursday by the city’s Elections Division. See the rejection letter here. “We did reject that particular submission but all that means is they can clear up the deficiencies and resubmit” the petition, said division spokesman Alton Dillard. Dillard’s office occasionally fields phone calls from citizens curious about how to recall a DPS board member, particularly after a controversial decision such as the vote to close Manual High School for a year. But actually getting a recall effort underway would be unusual. See the Denver Post story here and there’s a good debate on www.coloradopols.com about the effort as well.

Don’t spend that Edujobs money yet. That was the message K-12 leaders got this week from state budget director Todd Saliman and CDE finance expert Vody Herrmann. Saliman told K-12 lobbyists at a meeting that the state’s September revenue forecast may be worse than the June forecast, raising the possibility of mid-year K-12 cuts to keep the state budget in balance. Herrmann sent the same message in an e-mail to district budget officials.

Colorado was formally awarded $159.5 million in federal Edujobs money last week (see release). The U.S. Department of Education is urging states and school districts to spend the money this school year to save educator jobs. But the legislation creating the program gives districts until September 2012 to actually spend the money, so rather than restore job cuts made earlier, Colorado districts could use the money to backfill cuts this year or save for an even rainier day in 2011-12. (See list of Edujobs allocations by district.)

A weak September revenue forecast also could be bad news for the state’s colleges and universities, whose leaders are trying to hold the line on further cuts (see story). The September forecasts from legislative and executive branch economists will be released Sept. 20.

What’s the best way to count kids? That’s the question a new state study committee hopes to answer. Created by the 2010 legislature, the committee is supposed to study the average daily membership method of counting district enrollments. State aid to schools currently is based partly on enrollment counts taken every Oct. 1. Critics feel that once-a-year method creates a perverse incentive for districts to slack off on retaining students, especially at-risk kids, once students are counted in the autumn.

Some school districts get nervous about the idea of changing count methods for fear it could mean loss of state support. The Colorado Children’s Campaign this week released a briefing paper on the count issue – you can read it here.

Good reads from elsewhere: