Who Is In Charge

Continued student growth predicted

Familiar K-12 patterns of enrollment growth in Front Range districts – and stagnation or decline in other parts of the state – will continue over the next few years, according to a recent analysis by legislative researchers.

School desksDistrict enrollments are a key factor in the complicated formula that determines school funding, and administrators watch projections closely as they plan future budgets.

The issue of enrollment counts could be especially important during the upcoming legislative session, when major changes in the school funding system most likely will be up for consideration. (See this story for details.)

One idea up for debate is changing the current method of counting enrollment, currently based on actual attendance during a narrow window of a few days in early October. Many legislators want a system that more accurately reflects districts’ enrollment over an entire school year.

Some legislators also want to consider  whether consolidation of small and declining rural districts would be a more efficient way of using education dollars.

According to Legislative Council projections, statewide enrollment will increase 1.2 percent in the 2013-14 school year and 1.3 percent in 2014-15.

The study predicts full-time equivalent enrollment will increase from 793,703 this school year to 803,250 in 2013-14 and 813,639 the following school year.

But enrollment growth won’t be spread evenly across the state, according to the projections. Of the nine regions used in the study, only two – metro Denver and the northern Front Range – are expected to see growth of greater than 1 percent in the next two school years. Here are the percentage projections by region for 2013-14 and 2014-15:

  • Colorado Springs: .7 and .7
  • Eastern Plains: -.2 and -.2
  • Metro Denver: 1.6 and 1.6
  • Mountain: .4 and .4
  • Northern: 1.6 and 1.7
  • Pueblo: .2 and .3
  • San Luis Valley: -.3 and .2
  • Southwest Mountain: -.1 and 0
  • Western: .6 and .7

Enrollment growth and decline are closely tied to the economy, according to the report. Growing districts “are located in more metropolitan areas that offer greater and more diverse job opportunities, which is particularly attractive in the current economy. These regions will continue to dominate growth through the forecast period.

FTE & Headcount FTE– Legislative researchers calculate enrollment as “fulltime equivalent” students, yielding a lower number than actual individual students. Kindergarten students are counted as halftime, so two kids equal one FTE.
– The Department of Education’s annual enrollment reports list actual students. CDE records list 843,316 students for fall 2010 and 854,265 for fall 2011. Numbers for last fall will be released later this month.

“However, some regions continue to struggle and many families are leaving these areas in search of work elsewhere. In the 2012-13 school year, the Eastern Plains, Pueblo, San Luis Valley, Southwest Mountain, and Western regions experienced enrollment declines. Many of the school districts in these regions continue to struggle with slow economic activity and an aging population.”

The rate of growth in metro-area districts is expected to slow slightly from the pace of recent years “due to low housing availability for young families and aging communities within the region.”

Metro growth will be strongest in the Brighton, Denver and Douglas County districts, with declines expected in Jefferson County, Littleton, Sheridan and Westminster.

Summing up, the report notes, “To the degree employment exceeds the current outlook, some regions may experience stronger than expected growth. Conversely, if the state’s economy performs more poorly than anticipated, some school districts may see enrollment declines greater than projected.”

Map of school district enrollment trends

Enrollment trends by district

Legislative Council map shows projected enrollment changes by district in the 2013-14 school year. (Click to enlarge.)


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.”