Who Is In Charge

Study: College stipends a failure

The state’s five-year-old system of stipends for residents who attend state colleges has met only one of its original goals, according to a study by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

The study was released Tuesday to the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, which had the study done under terms of the law that created the stipend system, formally known as the College Opportunity Fund.

“In two of its three objectives it failed,” David Longanecker, president of WICHE.

Or, in the words of the report: “The evidence suggests that COF has not succeeded in reaching these aims, other than providing for higher education to be exempted from TABOR’s revenue and spending limitations.”

The program, implemented for the 2005-06 academic year, had three goals, according to the report:

  • Exemption of colleges and universities from the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights
  • Making colleges more entrepreneurial
  • Improving college access for disadvantaged groups, particularly for low-income and minority students and for men

“What was achieved was an exemption from TABOR,” Longanecker said, but the program didn’t make colleges more entrepreneurial nor did it improve college access.

Brian Prescott, WICHE director of policy and research, presented statistics that show postsecondary enrollment by Colorado students actually has declined since the stipends were instituted, that almost all of the decline has come at community colleges and that declines have been steepest among disadvantaged students.

Why did the stipend system fail to meet its goals? Longanecker offered these reasons:

  • The program didn’t provide adequate incentives for colleges because enrollment growth wasn’t funded.
  • Fee for service payments, designed to “pay” colleges for their particular programs, weren’t well defined and didn’t have specified outcomes.
  • The legislative budgeting practice of shifting funds between stipends and fees for service meant neither program had any chance of influencing institutional behavior.
  • The system of performance contracts for individual institutions has no meaningful rewards or penalties.

What should be done?

Longanecker said maintaining the current system “is a fine idea if you are comfortable with what you have today.”

Returning to the old system of direct legislative appropriation also would merely maintain the status quo in higher education, he said, and it would create TABOR problems.

The report suggests increasing the amount of the stipends and financial aid, eliminating the requirement that individual students sign up for the stipend, eliminating the ceiling of 145 credit hours and better marketing of the stipend’s availability.

The study also recommends the fee for service system should have specific outcomes (like certain graduation rates for disadvantaged groups), and that the fee and stipend revenue streams should be kept separate.

College performance contracts should contain specific outcomes, the report suggested.

Disclosure: The study was funded by the Donnell-Kay Foundation, which also is a sponsor of Education News Colorado.


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.”