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.

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.