Who Is In Charge

JBC gets ball rolling on K-12 cuts

The first blow of the education budget-cut axe fell Friday when the Joint Budget Committee voted to recommend cutting $177 million in state aid to schools for the current, 2009-10 budget year.

The cuts would include $110 million that districts have been holding in reserve, plus $67 million more because districts now are expected to collect that much more in local taxes than was predicted when the state budget was approved last spring. (So, districts won’t lose the $67 million; they’ll just receive it from a different source than was expected. The $110 million is just under 2 percent of overall state support.)

And, the committee recommended not giving districts an additional $20 million they otherwise would have received because of slightly increased overall enrollment and a 10 percent increase in the number of at-risk students statewide.

The 6-0 vote was expected. Now, the proposals have to be approved by the full legislature and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter – all by Jan. 29. That’s because lawmakers agreed last spring that districts could spend the $110 million if the state doesn’t pull it back by Jan. 29.

The bill containing the trims reportedly will be introduced on Wednesday, the first day of the 2010 legislative session, in order to meet the deadline. Approval is considered likely, although not without some gnashing of teeth among public-education advocates. There was prolonged debate last spring over whether the holdback should be $110 million, a higher figure or be imposed at all.

And, committee discussion Friday hinted that the $177 million might not be the last cuts in the current schools budget, particularly if the March state revenue forecasts are bad.

Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, wondered aloud if the committee shouldn’t cut $150 million instead of the original $110 million. Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, said that while districts have been expected the $110 million to be pulled back, “If we cut another $40 million they would have to make it up in six months.”

Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge and JBC vice chair, said districts should know that the state’s financial picture “could get worse in March.”

The impact of the 2009-10 cuts will vary by district, depending on individual enrollment changes and other factors.

While making cuts in current year school aid will help control the size of cuts that will have to made in 2010-11, schools still face significant reductions next school year. Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder and JBC chair, said, “It’s really hard to say what the cuts will be specifically. … [But] we’re going to whack the heck out of schools next year.”

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meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.