Who Is In Charge

Ritter: “Tuition flexibility is not tuition autonomy”

Gov. Bill Ritter publicly weighed in on the growing discussion over college tuition Thursday, giving an expanded view on where he stands on the question of letting college trustees set their own tuition rates.

Gov. Bill Ritter and higher education director Rico Munn spokes to reporters about the higher education strategic plan on Feb. 25, 2010.

Ritter met with reporters Thursday in an effort to raise the visibility of the ongoing higher education strategic planning process, which he launched late last year.

The session came just a day after the Higher Education Strategic Planning Steering Committee conceptually approved a proposal that would allow state colleges and universities to set their own tuition and financial aid policies – after review by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. (See this story for details.)

Ritter didn’t comment directly on the proposal, which isn’t yet in final written form.

“We hope there are recommendations … that resolve some of the short-term [financial] challenges,” he said.

But, he did say, “Tuition flexibility is not tuition autonomy,” adding “institutional assurances of access and affordability … have to be part of the plan.”

He added later, “By providing financial flexibility you have to change the financial aid model.”

The Higher Education Strategic Planning Steering Committee hopes to get a written recommendation to Ritter and the commission next week. (The panel’s next meeting is March 5.)

Asked when he might make some recommendation to the legislature, Ritter said, “I would say late March.” A higher ed financial flexibility bill is being held up in the General Assembly until the governor makes proposals for a fiscal fix that state in the 2011-12 school year.

Ritter has long been an advocate of low tuition, citing the need to maintain college access for low- and middle-income families. Asked why his views seem to have evolved, the governor cited the unanticipated blows that the recession has struck on state revenues and spending.

The governor also defended the composition of the steering committee and its subcommittees, which are heavily weighted toward present and former CCHE members and higher education administrators. There are no faculty or student members.

“By design this was to be a broad look” and needed people who could take a statewide view. Faculty members sometimes have “a parochial attitude,” Ritter said.

Both the governor and state higher ed chief Rico Munn stressed that the process is open and that the views of various interest groups will be solicited. “We’re inviting input from all different areas,” Munn said.

Some college presidents and business leaders have suggested that state colleges be converted to self-governing public authorities similar to University Hospital.

Ritter said Thursday that he’d previously told legislative leaders “We’re not going to entertain that.”

The governor also was asked if he has any concerns about the ultimate impact of the strategic plan, given that he’ll be ready to leave office at about the time the plan is finished.

He said higher education will be “a really important issue” for whoever succeeds him as governor and that “I’m still going to work on it” after leaving office.

Also speaking at Thursday’s briefing were CCHE Chair Jim Polsfut and Jim Lyons, co-chair of the steering committee.

EdNews backgrounder on the strategic planning effort


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”