Colorado

A new twist on an old idea

A new bill introduced in the Colorado legislature would allow parents to take income tax credits of up to $500 a year to help compensate for the costs of school fees and supplies.

Picture of school suppliesThe bill is proposed by freshman Rep. Tim Dore, R-Elizabeth, whose day job is vice president for government affairs at the Mountain West Credit Union Association. Dore and his wife have four young children, according to his website.

The measure would allow a taxpayer to claim a credit for either 25 percent of school fees and supply costs or $500, whichever is less. Dore doesn’t yet have cosponsors for the bill, which will be heard in the House Finance Committee.

Last year lawmakers considered House Bill 12-1069, the original version of which would have created a three-day tax holiday during August when which state sales taxes on some school supply and clothing purchases would have been waived. That bill went through various versions and finally made it out of the House but died in a Senate committee during the closing days of the 2012 session.

Daily roundup

Also introduced Thursday was House Bill 13-1095, which seeks to guarantee that home-schooled students can participate in public school extracurricular activities. Specifically, “a school district, a public school, or an interscholastic organization cannot require a student who is enrolled in a nonpublic home-based educational program to enroll in or complete course credits as a condition of participating in an extracurricular activity,” according to the bill summary.

Bill sponsors are Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument, and freshman Sen. Vicki Marble, R-Fort Collins.

Getting to know you

Almost everyone has endured company training sessions and other awkward social events where participants have to pair off, gather personal details about each other and then introduce their partners to the larger group. Add members of the Senate Education Committee to that list.

“Don’t laugh, we’re going to do an icebreaker activity,” chair Sen. Evie Hudak told members of the Senate Education Committee at the start of their first formal 2013 meeting. (Five senators are new to the nine-member committee, but only two of those are brand-new to the legislature.)

Members proceeded to pair off and interview each other. Among snippets produced by the exercise were:

  • Sen. Scott Renfroe’s middle name is “Winston.”
  • Sen. Nancy Todd was Miss Kansas 1965.
  • Sen. Rollie Heath’s actual first name is “Stratton.”
  • Sen. Andy Kerr is a certified snowboarding instructor.

A briefing on education issues by Department of Education officials consumed most of the committee’s long afternoon. It was the third such session of the week for the panel and for House Education, meeting individually and together. Yet another such session is scheduled for next Wednesday.

If you want a taste of what the committees learned, breeze through this CDE slideshow.

But Senate Education will get down to real work next Thursday afternoon. On its calendar is Senate Bill 13-033, the ASSET bill that would make undocumented students eligible for resident tuition rates.

Hickenlooper, Garcia praise early childhood initiatives

Members of the two education committees (plus other lawmakers) got up early Thursday for a briefing on early childhood education from the Early Childhood Leadership Commission and Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia.

Early childhood is a policy priority for the administration, and there was a lot of upbeat talk about the importance of quality programs and $30 million Race to the Top grant the state won last year. Lawmakers were encouraged to pass legislation that would continue the commission and allow the administration to consolidate various early childhood agencies.

But some lawmakers had concerns and worries.

Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, said, “I have a great deal of concern about the state taking on [programs] that it won’t be able to sustain” after the R2T cash is spent.

Rep. Spencer Swalm, R-Centennial, mentioned the challenges faced by single mothers. “A lot of these problems are beyond the reach of legislation.”

Rep. Beth McCann, D-Denver, wondered if enough money is going directly to child-care centers to improve teacher salaries.

You can read the commission’s 2013 annual report here.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede