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Monday Churn: Colorado report cards

What’s churning:

Research and advocacy groups love to issue “report cards” about education issues, and two recent ones zero in on states’ performance in school funding and in higher ed efficiency.

First, states still aren’t doing a good job of “fairly” funding their schools, according to a new study by the New Jersey-based Education Law Center.

The organization defines fair funding “as a state finance system that ensures equal educational opportunity by providing a sufficient level of funding distributed to districts within the state to account for additional needs generated by student poverty.”

Colorado doesn’t do well in the study, which is a follow-up on a report issued in 2010.

The state gets a D for distribution — whether schools with poor students get the funding they should — and an F for effort, a measure of how school funding relates to the overall wealth of a state. Colorado ranks 35th among states in school funding levels and 11th in coverage, a metric related to how many of a state’s students are in public schools as opposed to private.

The report found only six states are “well-positioned” on all measures with grades of C or higher on the first two categories and being in the top half of funding levels and coverage.

“Several education reform initiatives have dominated the public discourse in recent years. Closing achievement gaps, increasing college and career readiness, and improving teacher quality are all laudable goals, but are goals that cannot be achieved and sustained without the fundamental base of a fair school funding system,” the report argues.

Rutgers professor Bruce Baker was one of the study’s three authors. EdNews readers will remember that he was one of the plaintiffs’ top expert witnesses in last year’s Lobato v. State school funding case. Read what Baker had to say about Colorado’s system in this story from our trial coverage last August.

There’s an EdWeek post about the new study here, and you can read the full report here.

Second, Colorado got mixed grades in a study of higher education efficiency and quality done by the Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The study, headed up by former education secretary Margaret Spellings, graded state higher ed systems in 11 areas. Here’s how Colorado stacked up:

  • A – Colorado got only one, for the efficiency and cost effectiveness of four-year institutions.
  • B – The state earned three, for efficiency of two-year schools, the “policy environment” and for innovation in online learning.
  • C – This was the mark for two-year student access and success and for openness to alternative providers.
  • D – Colorado had three of these, for four-year student access and success, four-year transparency and accountability, and four-year schools’ ability to meet labor market demands.
  • F – There were two of these, dinging two-year schools both for transparency and for meeting labor market demands.

Learn more in this story by InsideHigherEd.com, find the report here and see Colorado’s report card here.

What’s on tap:

TODAY

Denver Public Schools board members meet at 10 a.m. for a special hour-long meeting to schedule additional summer meetings on key topic areas such as the Denver Plan. It’s at 900 Grant St. Agenda

TUESDAY

In case you forgot, it’s primary election day. It’s fairly low-key from the top to the bottom of the ticket. There is a GOP primary for an at-large CU Regents seat between court-reform activist Matt Arnold and Anschutz Medical Center doctor Brian Davidson. A recent Colorado Statesman article has a good backgrounder on the contest.

WEDNESDAY

The state Capital Construction Assistance Board opens three days of meeting to decide on 2013 awards from the Building Excellent Schools Today construction program. Each day’s sessions start at 8:30 a.m. at the Adams 12-Five Star Conference Center in the district headquarters complex at 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton. See the schedule here and download the summary of this cycle’s applications (21MB PDF – be prepared to wait).

EdNews will be covering the hearings and providing updates and daily wrap-up coverage.

THURSDAY

Trustees from every state college and university will gather in Denver for a “summit” on the higher education master plan being developed by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia both will address the gathering. The session runs from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Federal Reserve Bank in downtown Denver.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Policy differences led to firing: The school board’s desire for a sharper focus on fewer policy goals was what led to the termination of Thompson Superintendent Ron Cabrera, board president Sharon Olson told the Loveland Reporter-Herald. Get the details in this story.

School funding shift: Local governments picked up a greater share of school spending than did states in 2009-10, the first time that had happened in 16 years. And the federal government paid 10 percent of school costs.

Those were among the findings of the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual Public Education Finances report. The recession, of course, slashed state revenues, districts in some states had to pick up more of the cost and Washington stepped in with stimulus funds. Stateline has the story. Colorado schools also felt the recession sharply, but the budget cuts didn’t fundamentally alter the ratio of state and local support. The state covers nearly two-thirds of K-12 costs.

The EdNews’ Churn is a roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education, published during the summer as news warrants. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at EdNews@EdNewsColorado.org.

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