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Thursday Churn: A brief mention

Updated 1 p.m. – Education consumes nearly half the state budget, but the issue got scant attention at a budget meeting today between Gov. John Hickenlooper and legislators, including members of the Joint Budget Committee.

The governor briefed lawmakers on the broad outlines of his proposed 2012-13 budget and took questions. The hearing room in the Legislative Services Building was packed with lobbyists, bureaucrats and Hickenlooper aides.

Much of the discussion focused on rapidly rising Medicaid costs. Hickenlooper devoted about a minute to mentioning his request for $7.7 million to help pay for implementation of the state’s new educator evaluation system, saying, “We need to continue our education reforms.”

Education really didn’t come up again until the very end of the one-hour session, when two of the Senate’s more conservative Republicans urged Hickenlooper to consider “structural” changes to education funding.

“The largest thing we need to look at is K-12 education [and] do it in a more cost-effective way,” said Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch. “There have been a lot of suggestions made. I come from Douglas County – God’s country – where we are looking at vouchers. Those kind of reforms will help make our school system better.”

Harvey said, “I’m not looking for an answer today” but would like Hickenlooper to talk to Republicans about the issue.

Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, chimed in on college costs, saying, “The cuts in higher education are bring us down to a level where we’re going to have to make some structural changes. … It’s also one of the greatest opportunities to look at how we’re doing business.”

Hickenlooper, as is his style, was warm, polite and non-committal in his responses.

Get details about the governor’s budget plan here, and learn more here about the looming crisis in K-12 spending. The governor is proposing cuts in both K-12 and higher ed budgets for 2012-13.

What’s churning:

The Denver Public Schools board tackles a loaded agenda tonight, including no fewer than 21 proposals for new schools, charter renewals, school placements and boundary changes.

One of the most talked about proposals before the board is the placement of the new Creativity Challenge Community or C3 elementary school at Merrill Middle School in southeast Denver.

Other items on tonight’s agenda that have drawn substantial public comment in recent weeks include the recommendation that the charter for the Life Skills Center High School not be renewed. In a related column submitted to EdNews earlier this week, Life Skills board president Peter Droege appealed to keep the school open. Also, the board will consider a West Academies boundary change that could eventually lower enrollment at Kepner Middle School by 400 students, paving the way for a possible relocation for the teacher-led Math and Science Leadership Academy to Kepner in 2013-14.

The meeting is set for 5 p.m. At its conclusion, the DPS board will hold a special meeting to swear in new board members and elect new officers. The board is meeting in its usual location, the first-floor boardroom at the DPS Administration Building at 900 Grant St. See the board’s full agenda here.

On Wednesday, Denver Public Schools announced at $4.8 million, seven-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support and improve college-readiness programs for students who attend schools in northwest Denver.

The grant, from the Department of Education’s Gaining Early Awareness & Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP), will support eight schools in northwest Denver: Bryant Webster K-8 School, Centennial K-8 School, CEC Middle College, Contemporary Learning Academy, Lake Middle School, North High School, Skinner Middle School and Trevista K-8 School. The grant will follow students from the five middle and K-8 schools through their progress into the three high schools – North, CEC and CLA.

DPS spokeswoman Kristy Armstrong said the grant will benefit about 800 northwest Denver students now in sixth and seventh grades. Students will receive regular counseling and mentoring and will be expected to enroll in more Advanced Placement, concurrent enrollment and accelerated courses to boost their readiness for college and post-high school careers. More info.

The Roaring Fork Re-1 School District board of education announced it will conduct a “360-degree” review of Superintendent Judy Haptonstall and her performance to date. The “360” approach involves taking reviews from everyone—including peers and subordinates. The board also announced it will hold a series of meetings to gather public comment as part of the evaluation process. According to the Post-Independent, individual board members are also planning special “office hours” to receive confidential feedback. Superintendent Haptsonstall is in her fifth year leading the district but the November elections placed three new members on the board who had criticized her handling of a principal dismissal last spring. No action is expected until next month.

What’s on tap:

Gov. John Hickenlooper discusses his proposed 2012-13 budget with the JBC from 11 a.m. to noon in the ground floor hearing room of the Legislative Services Building. As EdNews reported earlier, the governor’s proposal included relative good news and three surprises for education. The good news, relatively speaking, is that cuts to K-12 schools and higher education aren’t as deep as some had feared. The surprises include a proposed hold back of $67.5 million intended for schools this year; a request for $7.7 million to implement new educator evaluations; and a decision not to fund development of new state tests to replace CSAPs.

The Quality Teacher Commission meets today at the Colorado Children’s Campaign offices, 1580 Lincoln St., Suite 420, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The agenda includes a Colorado Department of Education progress report on teacher-student data link and CDE implementation on Senate Bill 10-191 educator effectiveness pilot and rule-making. The commission was launched by the legislature and asked to make recommendations for implementing an educator identifier system that links teachers and principals to their students’ achievement data. The commission also studies Colorado’s “teacher gap” — or why teachers with less experience and fewer qualifications are more likely to teach poor and minority students.

The Colorado Special Education Advisory Committee meets from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Lowry Conference Center, 1061 Akron Way, Building 697 in Denver. This is a state-level committee mandated by federal and state law. Members are interested in the quality of education received by children/youth with disabilities. More detail here.

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