Funding fight

Trump’s voucher plan would strip funding from over 1,200 schools in New York City, union analysis shows

PHOTO: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post

Just two days before the U.S. Senate begins its confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos — Donald Trump’s pick to lead the country’s education department — New York City’s teachers union took a swipe at Trump’s central education policy proposal.

The United Federation of Teachers said Monday that Trump’s plan to create a sweeping and publicly funded voucher system would sap funding from 1,265 schools in New York City, resulting in larger class sizes, fewer teachers, and cuts to after-school programs.

Trump has endorsed the idea of shifting $20 billion in federal funds toward vouchers, a plan that is widely assumed to involve reallocating Title I funding currently designated for schools based on the proportion of low-income students they serve.

If that happens, “The damage would spread through the system, raising class sizes even in non-Title I schools, threatening academic enrichment programs, guidance, art and music and other services our children depend on,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a press release.

“We need to hear in detail from Ms. DeVos — a fervent advocate of vouchers and charter schools — what the administration’s plan is for Title I.”

In all, the union said, traditional public schools in New York City stand to lose at least $500 million, which could directly affect 700,000 students. That funding stream represents nearly 40 percent of the federal money directed to the city’s education department, and almost 3 percent of its $23 billion operating budget.

During the campaign, Trump said he would use federal money to finance vouchers for low-income students to attend parochial or private schools. DeVos is a natural pick to advance that policy: She has zealously supported such programs at the state level, and created a successful political action committee to support pro-voucher candidates nationally.

But whether such a program would ever get off the ground in New York is a whole other question. As it stands, Trump’s voucher proposal assumes that state legislatures will pick up most of the tab — in New York state, that is likely a political non-starter. And even if the legislature did kick in support, the state constitution bars public financing of religious schools, which comprise the vast majority of the city’s private schools.

Still, it’s not hard to imagine DeVos will continue to support policies that shift resources away from traditional public schools, generating pushback from the country’s largest teacher unions. (Randi Weingarten, the head of the national American Federation of Teachers, is scheduled to deliver a speech Monday that will likely outline objections to DeVos’ education record.)

The UFT’s analysis includes a list of New York City schools that stand to lose the most funding, which you can find here.

state of the union

Challengers claim victories in Denver teachers union elections, race for president heading for recount

Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association

A slate of progressive, social justice-oriented candidates won a majority of seats up for grabs in the Denver teachers union election, and the race for president is headed for a recount, according to results released to union members Friday.

Denver Classroom Teachers Association president Henry Roman edged challenger Tommie Shimrock, the leader of the slate, 906 to 857, according to an email from the union obtained by Chalkbeat.

The margin is within the 3 percent threshold for an automatic recount, which will be held after Denver Public Schools returns from spring break April 3, the email said.

Christina Medina, a northwest Denver elementary school teacher, defeated incumbent vice president Lynne Valencia-Hernández, 922 to 809.

In all, members of the progressive slate — part of a new caucus within the union — took four of the seven seats in play. Along with the top two posts, the elections were for board of director seats representing southwest, northwest and northeast Denver.

Union representatives and the candidates did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

While mixed, the results are a boost for members of the caucus, who view their efforts as part of a national movement to reinvigorate teachers unions, many of which have experienced flat or declining membership.

Roman, Valencia-Hernández and their allies ran on a platform that the union has been making progress in better engaging members, challenging Denver Public Schools in court and turning out large numbers for contract bargaining.

Shimrock, Medina and their peers portrayed the status quo as ineffective in battling a “corporatist” district agenda, unsuccessful in influencing school board elections and inadequate in addressing broader social justice issues facing the community.

Here are the full results, according to the union email. Members of the progressive slate are designated with an “s.”

PRESIDENT

Henry Roman: 906
Tommie Shimrock (s): 857

VICE PRESIDENT

Christina Medina (s): 922
Lynne Valencia-Hernandez: 809

SW BOARD OF DIRECTORS (one opening)
Jocelyn Palomino: 192
Marguerite Finnegan (s): 174
Janell Martinez: 66

NW BOARD OF DIRECTORS (three openings)

Hipolito (Polo) Garcia (s): 246
Kris Bethscheider: 177
Kate Tynan-Ridgeway (s): 170
Brianna Myers: 152
Terrilyn Hagerty: 135

NE BOARD OF DIRECTORS (one opening)

Tiffany Choi (s): 271
Bill Weisberger: 203

2018

Salazar won’t run in governor’s race featuring strong education storylines

PHOTO: Denver Post File
Former U.S. Senator and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Ken Salazar’s decision not to run for Colorado governor takes one prominent Democrat out of a still-developing campaign that promises to prominently feature public education as an issue.

The former U.S. senator and interior secretary cited family reasons for his decision to sit out the 2018 Democratic primary. Salazar, who is closely involved in raising a granddaughter who has autism, could have been a voice on public education for children with disabilities.

In a Denver Post commentary explaining why isn’t running, Salazar took a broad view of the challenges in education.

“Colorado’s education crisis needs to be solved from pre-kindergarten to college,” Salazar wrote. “It is sad that Colorado has defunded higher education and abandoned the great tradition of leading the nation with our great colleges and universities.”

Salazar’s announcement could set other plans in motion quickly in the Democratic field.

Former state Sen. Michael Johnston, a prominent education reformer, and entrepreneur Noel Ginsburg, CEO of Intertech Plastics, have already announced they are running.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter of Arvada told the Denver Post on Thursday the “chances are very good” he will run, and could declare his candidacy soon.

Former state treasurer Cary Kennedy said she is seriously considering running, and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder said he has not ruled it out, according to the Post.

Among the Republicans mulling a run: District Attorney George Brauchler, state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman and state Treasurer Walker Stapleton.