Colorado

Andrew Romanoff talks education

Andrew Romanoff, the former Colorado Speaker of the House and current candidate for U.S. Senate.

Andrew Romanoff proved he was not afraid to get dirty tackling tough education issues when, in a 2007 tour of rural schools, he poked his head into bat-guano filled attics to check out failing roofs and climbed atop rickety metal ladders to explore dubious fire escapes.

That experience eventually led to passage of Colorado’s first major investment in the capital, rather than operational, needs of schools statewide, a program known as BEST or Building Excellent Schools Today.

“It is the largest investment in school construction in state history,” said Romanoff, a Democrat who was then Speaker of the House, “probably because it’s virtually the only significant investment in school construction that we’ve made at a state level in the history of Colorado.”

Scroll to the bottom to see video clips of the EdNews interview with Romanoff.

In 2008, he got his hands dirty – figuratively – by diving into the state’s messy school funding problems, crafting a proposal to reconcile the demands of Amendment 23, the initiative that increases state education funding, with the constraints of the Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights or TABOR, the constitutional amendment that limits the revenues the state can keep.

Romanoff had already proven his mettle for compromise as a leader in the 2005 passage of Referendum C, building a bipartisan effort that persuaded Colorado voters to agree to a five-year “time out” from TABOR to prevent deep cuts in state programs.

The idea behind the 2008 plan, which became Amendment 59, was a permanent fix to the conflict between Amendment 23 and TABOR.

“The proposal that we authored said let’s invest the revenues that come into the state in excess of TABOR’s limits so when the economy is booming and revenue is rolling in, the money that would otherwise be rebated under TABOR would be instead sent to a rainy day fund, a savings account for education,” Romanoff said.

But placed on the longest state ballot since 1912 as the national economy was beginning to sour, the plan was rejected by voters.

“It’s really hard to make the case to finance a rainy day fund when it’s already raining,” Romanoff said.

So what does the U.S. Senate hopeful, who’ll face Michael Bennet in the August primary, have to say about the federal government’s role in education?

Plenty.

“The federal government as a warehouse of research or facilitator of best practices and information – that would be the perfect role for the federal government to serve,” he said. “I think if the feds are going to require states to do things, they should pay for it.”

He likes the voluntary National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, called the nation’s report card, because it allows for comparisons across state lines. He supports the setting of national goals and standards – so long as they don’t “water down” any state’s own standards.

“I don’t support the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education, a proposal that one of the other candidates in this race made,” he said. “I think that’s crazy at a time when we’re engaged in an international economic competition.

“We need, I believe, a national commitment to improving student achievement and the benefits that can come from bringing some of the best practitioners in the country together and setting high national standards.”

As a lawmaker, Romanoff frequently cited three things as his educational priorities – early childhood education, recruiting and retaining quality teachers, and providing safe learning environments. He still calls early childhood education “the single best place that we can invest our hard-earned dollars.”

And as a community college teacher for the past 15 years, he has concerns about the push to link student achievement to decisions about teachers – though he declined to say how he would have voted on Colorado’s recently passed, and controversial, educator effectiveness bill.

“The single most important ingredient of a kid’s success is, of course, what goes on at home. But the second most important ingredient that contributes to student achievement is the quality of the teacher,” he said. “Since it’s harder for us to legislate good parenting, a lot of efforts in the capital and elsewhere are aimed at legislating good teaching …

“I’ve talked to a lot of teachers who feel demoralized because they’re expected to solve the problems that society has neglected.”

Click on the videos below to hear more from Romanoff. Click here to see the candidate’s education issues page.

Romanoff talks about a student who taught him about educational inequities across Colorado:

Romanoff talks about the federal government’s role in education:

Romanoff talks about the federal grant competition known as Race to the Top:

Romanoff talks about using student achievement to evaluate teachers, an emphasis of Race to the Top:

Romanoff talks about choice and charters, another emphasis of Race to the Top:

This is the first in an occasional video series in which candidates for the November ballot discuss their views on education. Reporter Nancy Mitchell can be reached at [email protected] or 303-478-4573.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.