Who Is In Charge

SB 191 teed up; CSAP bill redone

The educator effectiveness bill squeaked out of its last committee, the CSAP cutback proposal was completely rewritten and the higher ed flexibility bill got final approval Monday as the 2010 legislative session moved into its chaotic final three days.

Teacher effectiveness

After an emotional and sometimes angry hearing, the House Appropriations Committee voted 7-6 to pass Senate Bill 10-191, the controversial educator evaluation and tenure bill, to the House floor for preliminary consideration.

But, House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann, D-Louisville, announced late in the afternoon that the would be heard on the floor Tuesday to give it sufficient time for debate and because amendments still were being drafted. (The House also had a social function Monday evening – the annual “Hummers” show in which members of the minority party spoof the majority.)

That means the House couldn’t take a final vote until Wednesday, the last day of the session, if the bill passes preliminary consideration on Tuesday. House-Senate differences also would have to be resolved on the last day.

Democratic appropriations members Mark Ferrandino of Denver and Jim Riesberg of Greeley joined the committee’s five Republicans to pass the bill out of committee. SB 10-191 passed the House Education Committee last Thursday on an equally slim 7-6 margin.

Ferrandino, the son of two school teachers who recounted his personal story of being a special education student, choked up and began to cry as he said he was going to vote for the bill. “I’ve spent a lot of time looking at this bill. … This is a difficult bill for me.”

Appropriations Chair Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, was scathing in his criticism of both the Colorado Department of Education and of some business backers of the bill.

He accused CDE of changing its story about its financial condition, claiming earlier in the year that its budget was severely stressed yet now saying it can fund the initial costs of SB 10-191 from a department contingency fund if federal grants don’t come through.

“You tricked me,” Pommer said to Associate Commissioner Rich Wenning. Pommer noted that he’s leaving the House because of term limits, but “I think a top-to-bottom look at your funding would be appropriate.”

Pommer also had harsh words for business groups that support the bill, pointedly noting that some of them opposed elimination of tax exemptions Pommer sponsored earlier in the session. “When I looked at the list of supporters in the paper it turned my stomach,” Pommer said.

Democratic Reps. Dickey Lee Hullinghorst of Boulder, Sal Pace of Pueblo and Joel Judd of Denver also had harsh things to say about the bill.

Wenning and sponsors Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillion, and Carole Murrary, R-Castle Rock, remained composed under the criticism during the 35-minute hearing.

CSAP bill gets a whole new look

The Senate Senate Education Committee Monday gutted House Bill 10-1430, the measure that would have eliminated high school CSAP tests starting in the 9th grade next school year and also would have made writing tests a district, not a state responsibility.

The panel voted 6-2 for the new version, proposed by Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, to replace the version proposed by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, and passed by the full House 47-16 last Thursday.

The new version reportedly is close to the provisions agreed to by several interest groups last March before Solano redid it. The Department of Education strongly opposed Solano’s proposals, saying they would be costly and would disrupt the department’s data system.

The Senate version basically expands on the plan for replacing the CSAPs that’s already contained in the 2008 Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids. It stresses that schools need to use formative and interim tests in addition to the annual “summative” tests. The bill sets July 1, 2013, deadline for ending the current CSAP system but gives the State Board of Education flexiblilty in meeting the testing-adoption deadline originally contained in CAP4K.

Tuition and flexibility bill passes easily

The House voted 56-8 for final pasage of Senate Bill 10-003, the bill that creates a five-year program under which state colleges and universities can raise tuition up to 9 percent a year and apply to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education for larger hikes.

The bill also gives colleges greater control over allocation of state financial aid and exemption from some state financial and purchasing rules. (See this story for details on the bill’s provisions.)

There are some minor House-Senate differences that need to be resolved, but this bill is basically done. The bill passed the House 34-1.

Romer loses two

Senate Bill 10-210, the recently introduced bill that would have allowed a pilot rewards-for-reading program funded by the Read-to-Achieve program, failed on a 5-8 vote Monday in the House Education Committee. The panel then postponed it indefinitely.

The Senate State Affairs Committee voted 5-0 to lay over Senate Concurrent Resolution 10-004 – until July 4, long after the legislative session ends. This was the proposed keno-for-colleges constitutional amendment.

Both were pushed by Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver. Romer also unsuccessfully proposed Senate Bill 10-215, a different, non-constitutional proposal to expand gambling to fund college scholarships. That was killed in Senate Ed on May 5.

Romer argued that the 2010 legislature needed to do something about looming higher ed financial shortfalls in the 2011-12 school year, ahead of the seating of a new governor and legislature in January 2011.

For the record

Here’s a rundown of what lawmakers did Monday on other education-related measures:

  • House Bill 10-1274 – Notification of schools when students return from residential treatment, 35-0 final Senate passage.
  • House Bill 10-1131 – Creation of Kids Outdoors grant program, passed Senate 24-11
  • Senate Bill 10-064 – Simplification of college stipend application, Senate preliminary approval
  • Senate Bill 10-202 – Creation of CollegeInvest job-training accounts and allowing tax deductable employer matches – House preliminary approval
  • Senate Bill 10-161 – Charter school collaboratives, House preliminary approval

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and state information.


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.”