From the Statehouse

Stimulus cash bails out CDE programs

More than $7 million in federal stimulus funds will be used to pay for an assortment of state education support programs that had lost their state funding to budget cuts or were never funded in the first place.

StockARRALogo92909The allocations were announced formally Tuesday by Gov. Bill Ritter’s office, but they had been expected for some time.

While the use of stimulus funds saves the programs for now, the money basically provides a one-time fix, and the long-term survival of the programs will depend on future state or other funding. The state’s revenue picture is grim for at least a couple more years, so continued funding of these efforts could be in doubt.

But, keeping the programs alive also is seen as a way to enhance Colorado’s standing in the competition for federal Race to the Top funds, another part of the federal stimulus program. (Ritter is using a different pot of stimulus money to shore up the CDE support programs.)

“These strategic investments will allow us to continue leading Colorado forward, and they’ll pay untold dividends down the road,” said Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, who is coordinating the state’s R2T application. That bid is being prepared and will be submitted later this fall.

Here’s a rundown of the programs and the amounts they’re receiving:

  • $1 million for a grant program that school districts can tap to develop alternative teacher compensation programs. (State funding for this was cut earlier.)
  • $500,000 to develop the new educator identifier system, which was authorized by a 2009 law but not funded. (This will be matched by $400,000 in private funds.
  • $1.5 million to expand use of the Teach for America program in Colorado.
  • $2.5 million for further work on the Colorado Growth Model data system.
  • $1.3 million to reinstate a system of stipends for teachers who hold national board certifications. There are higher stipends for such teachers who work in low-performing schools. There’s also $200,000 to reinstate a stipend program for national board assessments, which helps teachers with the costs of the exams.
  • $53,000 to help implement the state new high-school/college dual enrollment program, also created by a 2009 law.
  • $300,000 to help launch a new CDE dropout prevention office, yet another program created by the 2009 legislature but not funded.
  • $25,000 for a principal leadership program created by the 2008 legislature but also hampered by funding problems.

States will be scored in the R2T competition partly on the strength of their applications in four broad areas – standards and assessments, data systems, turning around low-performing schools and teacher and school leader effectiveness.

State education leaders freely acknowledge that Colorado is weakest in teacher and leader effectiveness, so some of the programs being funded seem intended to bolster the state’s case in that area.

Volunteer committees are preparing proposals in those four areas, and another round of panel meetings is set for next week.

Further background on Colorado’s R2T bid

power players

Who’s who in Indiana education: Sen. Dennis Kruse

PHOTO: Shaina Cavazos and Sarah Glen

Find more entries on education power players as they publish here.

Vitals: Republican representing District 14 and parts of Allen and Dekalb counties. So far, has served 13 years in the Senate (current) and 15 years in the House. Kruse began his career as a teacher in 1970, spending five years in the classroom. Once he left education, he became an auctioneer and got involved in real estate.

What he’s known for: Kruse has served as Senate Education Committee chairman for eight years. While he is a less vocal advocate for choice-based education reform measures than his House counterpart, Kruse is a staunch conservative who has pushed — with varying levels of success — for incorporating more religion in public schools.

Career highlights: In 2011, Kruse was the author of Senate Bill 1, a massive bill that established the state’s formal teacher evaluation system. He has also consistently supported bills seeking to improve school discipline, before- and after-school programs and teacher preparation. This year, Kruse has authored bills dealing with school start dates, contracts for district superintendents, school employee background checks and testing.

On religion in schools: Kruse and fellow Sen. Jeff Raatz introduced a resolution this year that, according to the National Center for Science Education, has the “teaching of evolution” as “the specific target of the bill.” Previously, Kruse has put forward other legislation that would encourage the teaching of creationism and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer at the start of the school day, but none of the bills passed. In 2015, Kruse was also a co-author of the controversial religious freedom bill.

On toeing the party line: Despite his conservative politics, Kruse doesn’t always line up with the will of his party. Republican leaders this year are calling for making the state superintendent an appointed, rather than elected, position, but Kruse won’t back the switch. Instead, Kruse has said he believes in elections and that people should get to make choices about their representation.

For that reason, some have speculated that’s why the senate’s version of the bill bypassed his education committee and instead was heard through the elections committee.

Who supports him: Kruse has received campaign contributions from Hoosiers for Quality Education, an advocacy group that supports school choice, charter schools and vouchers; K12, one of the largest online school providers in the country; and Education Networks of America, a private education technology company.

Legislative highlights via Chalkbeat:

Bills in past years: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017

Also check out our list of bills to watch this year.


Tennessee required more recess, but teachers now say it’s too much

PHOTO: Jon Zlock, LEAD Public Schools
Nashville students play during recess at a charter school operated by LEAD Public Schools.

For years, Jamie Petty’s sixth-grade students didn’t have recess — a problem, he thought, since research shows that recess keeps children healthy and focused.

Then Tennessee’s legislature passed a requirement last year that students through the sixth grade get a minimum of two 20-minute periods of non-structured physical activity at least four days a week.

Now play time is overtaking valuable class time, says Petty, a world history teacher at Normal Park Magnet Middle School in Chattanooga. He said one daily period of recess should suffice.

“Physical activity is so important for the kids, and we definitely want that,” he said. “But at the same time, we have to protect instructional time, too.”

Lawmakers have heard similar concerns from educators across Tennessee since the school year started.

“We passed a bill, and it was a fiasco,” said Rep. Bill Dunn.

The Knoxville Republican wants to rein in recess in Tennessee schools. On Wednesday, his bill to do so was approved by a House education subcommittee. Instead of daily mandates of three 15-minute periods for kindergarten and two 20-minute periods for grades 2-6, the bill would institute weekly requirements of 130 minutes of physical activity for elementary schools and 90 minutes for middle and high schools.

Lawmakers hope the change will give schools more flexibility to fit recess into their schedules.

Dunn’s bill also would allow recess to include “structured play.” Last year’s legislation said students must have “non-structured” play, meaning teachers can’t organize sports or games.

Teachers argue that both kinds of play have value.

Kennisha Cann, a literacy coach with Hamilton County Schools, occasionally leads students in games to get the wiggles out. “Kids need to learn how to follow directions, take turns, how to socialize with other children,” she said.

Either way, many educators are happy that the legislature is recognizing the importance of recess.

“Standards are so much harder now,” said Pat Goldsmith, a school psychologist at Chattanooga’s Red Bank Elementary Schools. “Students really need that break.”