Who Is In Charge

Prop. 103 soundly rejected

Proposition 103, the proposal to raise state taxes to fund education, was defeated by a wide margin in Tuesday’s election.

With virtually votes counted statewide, the no votes totaled 63.5 percent of those counted, compared to 36.5 percent in favor.

The father of the proposal, Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, was philosophical in defeat but still worried about the future of the state’s schools. The proposal did receive a majority of votes in Heath’s home county but failed by nearly 30 percentage points in heavily Democratic Denver.

The defeat, coupled with wide rejection of local district tax increases around the state, showed “where the mood of the people was,” Heath said. He said he didn’t hear many economic worries while on the campaign trail but that economic concerns were “clearly the implication” of the vote.

“Clearly the voters were not of the mind to give a temporary reprieve. I don’t know what it’s going to take” to educate voters about the serious financial condition of the state’s schools, he added.

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, said, “This is a victory for all Colorado taxpayers. We can’t help children by bankrupting their parents.” Republican legislators were vocal opponents of the measure, arguing it would hurt the state’s economy.

The measure, the only one facing all Colorado voters this election, was of major interest to education because it proposed providing up to $3 billion in additional funding over five years for schools and colleges.

Election logoIt reportedly was the only tax increase proposal on any state ballot this year. Many political observers, and even some in education, were skeptical of the initiative’s chances from the start because of the state’s weak economy, the modest campaign pushing the measure and the lack of support by major political figures (Gov. John Hickenlooper was neutral) and the business community.

Proposition 103 proposed increasing the state income tax rate to 5 percent from 4.63 percent and the state portion of sales taxes to 3 percent from 2.9 percent for five years, devoting all those new revenues to education.

The higher tax rates (the same as those on the books in 1999) would have been in effect for five years. Heath, prompted by 2011 school budget cuts to propose the idea, called it a temporary fix for education funding while policymakers developed broader, more permanent solutions to state revenue issues.

State lawmakers would have decided annually how to split the money among preschool programs, K-12 schools and state colleges and universities. The legislature couldn’t have used the new money to supplant existing funding; 2011-12 spending would have been set as a floor.

LogoOpponents made the argument that because the measure was intended to amend state law, not the constitution, lawmakers could change the provisions and divert money to other uses. Hickenlooper did say he would veto any such move if Prop. 103 passed and such an attempt was made.

Heath’s effort was a low-profile one. The main groups supporting the measure, Great Education Colorado and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, ran a small-budget, grassroots campaign. The state’s mainline education interest groups endorsed Proposition 103.

But Heath’s campaign committee managed to raise more than $600,000 by late October, enough to pay for a modest schedule of television ads on Denver-area stations and some cable channels.

The main opposition came from groups of Republican lawmakers and conservative activists, primarily associated with the Independence Institute, who argued higher taxes would reduce job growth at a time when the state’s economy is fragile.

The opposition campaign also focused on appearances before lots of small groups, but opponents did do some radio advertising.



  • State income tax rate would rise to 5 percent from 4.63 percent
  • State sales tax rate would go to 3 percent from 2.9 percent
  • New rates are same as those in effect in 1999
  • Higher rates would end in 2017

Revenue use

  • Proposition would raise an estimated $3 billion over five years
  • Additional revenue could be spent only on preschool programs, K-12 schools and state colleges and universities
  • Legislature would decide how to split revenues
  • Spending would have to be in addition to levels of 2011-12


Who Is In Charge

CPS to enforce nine training sessions for local school council members

PHOTO: Elaine Chen
Local school council members at a training session on Tuesday

In a classroom at Bogan High School Tuesday, trainer Jose Ortiz quizzed four local school council members on why they have to hold public meetings before approving their school improvement plan, a key document outlining school priorities and direction. The room fell silent.

“Because,” he answered himself, “the worst thing that the local school council could do is not consult the community.”

Ortiz’s training session illustrated the challenges that Chicago Public Schools faces in ensuring that all members of the powerful councils understand their roles and responsibilities.

The district requires those who help govern its 646 schools each attend around 18 hours of in-person training, or nine online modules. But not everyone complies: Ortiz said that last week, around 10 people attended each module he taught, and on Tuesday, only four people sat through his class. Most council members take the training online, but the effectiveness of those modules is questionable, council members said.

In a district whose school board is appointed by the mayor instead of elected by city residents, the councils, as Ortiz pointed out, serve as important channels enabling residents to drive the direction of their children’s education. Normally consisting of 12 members, including the principal, teachers, parents, and community members, the councils hire and evaluate the principal, approve the budget, and help craft two-year school improvement plans for their schools.

Chicago schools have another problem with the councils: 47 percent of schools have failed to field enough candidates to fill seats, which then allows sitting council members to fill the vacancies. That means less electoral control for residents. It’s unclear if the training requirement deters people from seeking council seats.

Nevertheless, district officials said that this year they will enforce the training requirement and will contact members who fail to finish it.

“We are going to start removing people this year, but it will be after contacting them by email, through phone and then giving them an opportunity before we schedule a hearing, and then we will consider removing them,” said Guillermo Montes de Oca, director of the Office of Local School Council Relations.

As Ortiz continued with his training, he asked if members remember approving their school improvement plan in the past school year. The attendees looked at him with puzzled faces.

“Oh yes, I remember now,” said Andrea Sanchez, a council member at Richard J. Daley Elementary Academy. But, she added, “it’s just overwhelming because you’re looking at numbers and pages, especially when you’re not used to seeing it.” Sanchez has been a council member since December, but she had attended only one out of the nine mandatory training modules before Tuesday, because most of the two-hour sessions were held in various locations throughout the city far from her home.

According to the Illinois School Code, council members must finish all modules within six months of taking office, so newly elected members who take office on July 1 have until Dec. 31 to complete the modules. CPS has never removed a council member for not finishing the training, said Guillermo Montes de Oca. However, that’s changing.

This year, CPS has also been encouraging council members to finish the modules by July 31, he said, because “if you’re going to be seated, discussing the budget and everything, you need to be informed.”

Sanchez said she didn’t know know about the six-month deadline until Tuesday. She wishes the nine modules would be held all at once at her school. “The information in the modules should be given to us right away [upon joining the council],” she said.

Montes de Oca said that the Office of Local School Council Relations encourages council members to take the training online. Especially because the office only offers a few modules per month, to meet the July 31 deadline, council members would have to take most of their training online.

But the attendees Tuesday seemed to prefer the in-person trainings . Denishia Perkins, a council member at Shields Middle School for almost two years, said that she had taken all the training modules online, but they “didn’t do much for me.” The online training consists of clicking through slides of bullet-pointed information and then taking a short quiz at the end of each module.

“It’s so possible to get elected and not know about this stuff,” Perkins said. So she decided to attend the in-person training on Tuesday.

Sanchez said of Ortiz’s class, “It felt one-on-one, and he’s really explaining it to you.”

The trainings are not the only impediment to filling local school council seats.

A representative from the parent group Raise Your Hand told the Sun-Times that people may not want to run for a council position because “people are a little frustrated at the weakening of the local school council.” Currently, 50 percent of principals’ evaluations rely on CPS’ data and metrics, when previously the evaluations relied solely on the council members’ judgment.

Sanchez said that the work of councils are just not advertised enough, and many parents like  her already are involved with jobs or other organizations.

“I don’t think the parents know that we’re that important,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t know either.”

performance based

Aurora superintendent is getting a bonus following the district’s improved state ratings

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

Aurora’s school superintendent will receive a 5 percent bonus amounting to $11,820, in a move the board did not announce.

Instead, the one-time bonus was slipped into a routine document on staff transitions.

Tuesday, the school board voted on the routine document approving all the staff changes, and the superintendent bonus, without discussion.

The document, which usually lists staff transfers, resignations, and new hires, included a brief note at the end that explained the additional compensation by stating it was being provided because of the district’s rise in state ratings.

“Pursuant to the superintendent’s contract, the superintendent is entitled to a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of his base salary as the result of the Colorado Department of Education raising APS’ district performance framework rating,” the note states.

The superintendent’s contract, which was renewed earlier this year, states the superintendent can receive up to a 10 percent bonus per year for improvements in state ratings. The same bonus offer was in Munn’s previous contract with the district.

The most recent state ratings, which were released in the fall, showed the state had noted improvements in Aurora Public Schools — enough for the district to be off the state’s watchlist for low performance. Aurora would have been close to the five years of low-performance ratings that would have triggered possible state action.

“I am appreciative of the Board’s recognition of APS’ overall improvement,” Superintendent Munn said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important to recognize that this improvement has been thanks to a team effort and as such I am donating the bonus to the APS Foundation and to support various classroom projects throughout APS.”

This is the only bonus that Munn has received in Aurora, according to a district spokesman.

In addition to the bonus, and consistent with his contract and the raises other district employees will receive, Munn will also get a 2.93 percent salary increase on July 1. This will bring his annual salary to $243,317.25.

At the end of the board meeting, Bruce Wilcox, president of the teachers union questioned the way the vote was handled, asking why the compensation changes for teachers and compensation changes for other staff were placed as separate items on the meeting’s agenda, but the bonus was simply included at the bottom of a routine report, without its own notice.

“It is clear that the association will unfortunately have to become a greater, louder voice,” Wilcox said. “It is not where we want to be.”