Who Is In Charge

Tax campaigns’ spending nears $1 million

Some $926,860 has been raised by campaign committees that support passage of bond issues and operating tax increases in 22 districts around Colorado.

Election 2012 LogoThe total is nearing three times the amount raised for district tax campaigns in 2011, but the two elections aren’t directly comparable.

Last year, 36 districts proposed a total of 43 bond issues and operating increases or mill levy overrides. Only one large district – Douglas County – was on the ballot.

This year, 30 districts are proposing 37 bonds and overrides, but four of the state’s largest districts have measures before their voters.

Proposals by the Aurora, Cherry Creek, Denver and Jefferson County districts account for $664 million of the $1.03 billion being requested by districts statewide. In a similar vein, campaign committees in those four districts have raised $736,523 of the $926,860 total, which is based on campaign finance reports filed with the secretary of state’s office as of Oct. 16. Aurora is seeking a property tax rate override for operating expenses; the other three districts all are proposing bond issues and overrides.

Only $7,775 has been raised by the three opposition committees registered this year, two in Jefferson County and one in Denver.

This year’s fundraising totals will grow, of course, because the campaigns aren’t over.

About $325,000 was raised in district campaigns for the entire 2011 election cycle. Roughly a third of that, about $105,000, was contributed in a failed Douglas County bond campaign.

The last time Aurora, Cherry Creek, Denver and Jeffco were all on the ballot was in 2008. Fundraising in Denver is running well ahead of 2008 totals, while less money is being raised in the other three districts than four years ago. (See box for details.)

Outside the metro area, the largest amounts have been raised by committees in St. Vrain – $83,794, Greeley – $17,186 and Pueblo County 70 – $14,380.

In the 2,400-student Montezuma-Cortez district, the Cortez 21C High School Committee has raised $21,750 for the campaign urging voters to approve a $21 million bond issue, part of which would be used to match a state Building Excellent Schools Today grant of $23 million.

The smallest war chest – $620 – was raised by the Best for Hi-Plains Students Committee, which is backing a $2.8 million bond issue in the 129-student Hi-Plains district of Kit Carson County. The bond would match a $14 million BEST grant to build a new PK-12 school.

Where the money comes from

Campaign committees have been tapping familiar donors this year – municipal bond firms, construction companies and architects. Community foundations also are significant contributors in some districts, and campaign committees in larger districts report substantial numbers of corporate and individual donors.

Committees in small districts generally have tapped a few local businesses and individuals for contributions. Citizens for Otis School District reported raising $2,188 of its $2,690 total from the proceeds of a pancake supper.

Individual teachers and unions also are contributors.

The Colorado Education Association has given $35,000 to campaign committees in 13 districts, including contributions of $7,000 each in Denver and Jeffco, $6,000 in Cherry Creek and $3,000 in Aurora. The Jefferson County Education Association has given $30,000 to the campaign in that district, and the Pueblo Education Association gave $3,000 to the Pueblo 70 campaign committee.

Tony Salazar, CEA executive director, said union donations are given only when members in a district request them and given proportionate to the number of members in a district. He added this year’s donations are about the same as in past years.

State law bans active campaigning by school districts, so independent citizen committees are formed to raise money and run campaigns. There are no campaign committees in eight districts, based on a review of state filings. One of those is Aspen, which isn’t proposing a bond or override but which would share a sales tax increase being proposed by the city. One committee, Yes on 3A in the Plateau Valley district of Mesa County, hasn’t filed a report.

Spending comparisons

This list shows fundraising to date in 2012 and total fundraising in 2008 in the four major districts with tax proposals in both years.

Aurora

  • 2012 – $121,587
  • 2008 – $235,380 – voters passed a $215 million bond

Cherry Creek

  • 2012 – $157,414
  • 2008 – $181,704 – voters approved a $203 million bond

Denver

  • 2012 – $312,420
  • 2008 – $270,000 (Denver Post, Nov. 5, 2008) – a $454 million bond passed

Jeffco

  • 2012 – $142,102
  • 2008 – $268,288 – the $350 million bond was defeated

Three other major districts held bond elections in 2008, including:

  • Adams 12-Five Star – An $80 million bond lost; $120,831 was raised in support
  • Douglas County – The $395 million bond lost; $94,532.69 raised
  • St. Vrain – The $189 million bond passed; $93,657.89 raised

Unless otherwise noted, totals are based on state records.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”