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Thursday churn: Jones seeks a little help

Updated 3:10 p.m.Dwight Jones, Colorado’s former education commissioner, wants to bring in some familiar faces to help him run the nation’s fifth-largest school district, according to a story by James Haug in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Tonight, Haug reports, the Las Vegas, Nev., school board will vote on Jones’ request to use $375,000 in private funds to hire advisers including Ken Turner, Jones’ former deputy at the Colorado Department of Education, and Larry Vaughn, Jones’ former interim deputy commissioner at the CDE.

Turner, who retired from the CDE in December 2009, would earn $250,000 for a yearlong contract as Jones’ adviser. Vaughn, who also worked with Jones in Kansas, would be paid $80,000 for work by the group he co-founded, Quality Leadership Resources. Jones also is asking to hire Vista Communications of Denver for $20,000, to develop a marketing plan.

The funding wouldn’t be from district operating dollars – instead, Jones reportedly received permission to reallocate a portion of a grant awarded to the district in 2008. Jones left the CDE and started in the Vegas superintendent’s job in December. Read the story here.

Updated 9:30 a.m. – The Senate Finance Committee this morning unanimously passed House Joint Resolution 11-1007, the controversial measure that suggests a state spending target for 2011-12.

Panel chair Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, said he had been “tempted” to kill the measure and introduce a new version of the resolution, which was the focus of a sharp partisan spat on the House floor Tuesday.

But, he said, he decided not to do that and to keep the resolution alive to see if the two parties can have “a productive conversation” about next year’s budget.

The annual resolution sets an estimate of state general fund revenues for the coming year. But that target isn’t binding on the Joint Budget Committee, which writes the annual state budget bill and which usually pays more attention to updated revenue forecasts made by state economists in late March.

Majority Republicans in the House want to set the target 2.75 percent lower (about $200 million) than the number suggested by legislative economists, saying that’s a prudent way to avoid budget cuts later, in the middle of the budget year. Democrats fear a lower target could drive budget cuts that turn out to be deeper than needed.

House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, laid out his rationale for the lower estimate when speaking with reporters Monday (read what McNulty said).

Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, asked McNulty to specify what specific cuts in state programs he wants (read news release and Morse letter).

Johnston echoed Morse’s tone this morning, saying, “That’s a conversation worth having. There just needs to be a real conversation and real numbers. We’ll see if we can get a productive conversation out of it.”

The budget debate, which won’t be finally resolved until April, has important implications for both K-12 and higher education. Both areas expect cuts for 2011-12 – school districts and colleges would just like to know how much so they can make their financial plans for next school year.

What’s on tap:

The Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Board, which oversees state programs that help students take college courses while in high school, meets from 1 to 4:30 p.m. in the conference center at the Community College System Lowry campus, 1061 Akron Way, Bldg. 697 in Denver. More information

The Littleton school board meets at 5:30 p.m. at its Education Services Center, 5776 South Crocker St. Agenda.

Good reads from elsewhere:

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