Who Is In Charge

Ritter inks top education bills

In what amounted to a graduation ceremony for education bills, Gov. Bill Ritter Thursday signed nine of the more important pieces of school legislation passed by the 2009 legislature.

Now part of state law are:

Education Accountability Act of 2009 (Senate Bill 09-163)
Educator Identifier System (Senate Bill 09-1065)
Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act (House Bill 09-1319)
Dropout Prevention and Student Re-engagement (House Bill 09-1243)
Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education (Senate Bill 09-090)
Alternative Teacher Licensing (Senate Bill 09-160)
School Finance Act for 2009-10 (Senate Bill 09-256)
DPS-PERA Pension Merger (Senate Bill 09-282)
Healthy Choices Dropout Prevention Pilot Program (Senate Bill 09-123)

The ceremony, at the Denver Public Schools’ Career Education Center in west Denver, drew top education officials and legislators, with the bills characterized as a “comprehensive education reform package.”

“The power of this package is that it’s extending opportunities,” said Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien.

However, being the products of a penny-pinching session, four of the measures carry no state funding and are to be paid for with “gifts, grants and donations.” And, other of the major bills will require years of implementation to have significant effects.

An enthusiastic and largely attentive audience of more than 200 students witnessed the signings, and Ritter focused on them in his opening remarks.

“In America education is the way people can change their status in life. Education can be everything to your future … this is about you and about your children.”

The crowd also was packed legislators, elected officials, education lobbyists, association executives and others. O’Brien and education Commissioner Dwight Jones spoke, and state Treasurer Cary Kennedy was in the audience.

The smoothly organized event was full of the mutual back patting, recognition by name and other compliments called for by political protocol and tradition. As he prepared to sign each bill, different groups of legislators and others stood behind Ritter. Camera strobes flashed, and the governor handed ceremonial pens to various individuals.

Ritter now has signed 58 of the 72 education and budget bills on the 2009 EdNews’ Bill Tracker.

Bills of interest still awaiting his decision include House Bill 09-1057, parent leave from work for school conferences; House Bill 09-1312, “green” loans for schools, and Senate Bill 09-291, reducing state aid for school districts that re-impose local tax caps.


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.”