Who Is In Charge

BEST board approves $127.4 million

The state Public School Capital Construction Assistance Board has recommended $127.4 million in lease-purchase financing and cash grants in the first large round of funding under the Build Excellent Schools Today program.

Projects receiving funding a swimming pool building in Deer Trail, an historic school in Silverton where the heat doesn’t work, the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind in Colorado Springs, a school with large propane tanks next to the playground, a new PRE-12 campus in Fairplay, a Cedaredge elementary school that’s bisected by a street and a Routt County charter school that now uses a yurt.

The most successful large districts in getting projects approved were Mapleton and Westminster, while Douglas County, Buena Vista and Salida didn’t fare so well.

Mapleton had the largest single project approved, a $53.1 million renovation of its Skyview campus, which would include $31.3 million in state BEST funds and $21.7 million in local funds, for which the district hopes to winner voter approval in November. The district lost a bond election last fall. The Park County project in Fairplay was the second largest at $30.1 million state and local.

The largest project not funded as a proposed $44.8 million plan of renovations and new high school construction in Monte Vista.

In general, money for large projects is used to pay off multi-year lease-purchase agreements. Smaller projects get direct cash grants. Applicants are expected to provide local matches, but state law provides various formulas for different kinds of matches and allows the board to waive matches in some instances. (The total above does not include local matches.)

The board recommended funding 51 of the 91 applications submitted. In a few cases, applicants didn’t receive the full amounts.

Five charter school applications were accepted; five others get no funding.

A system used to rank projects gives priority to health and safety needs, and the board funded all projects that had received such a ranking. Projects that didn’t have a strong health and safety element made up the bulk of those that didn’t get funded.

The board’s recommendations now go to the State Board of Education, which will make the final decision on grants at its August meeting. Lease-purchase funds won’t be available until next year, after the state treasurer completes financing arrangements.

Applications for the next big round of grants are expected to open next January and be considered by the construction board in June 2010. That round will be the first after completion of a statewide assessment and ranking of the needs of all school buildings in the state.

Modifications to the original BEST law allowed the construction board to make grants before the assessment was done. But, several members said repeatedly that it was difficult to make awards without knowing where projects might ultimately rank on the statewide list. Some applications considered this week didn’t make it because the board wants to see where they ranked on the assessment.

The board has made some smaller grants, but the ones recommended during two days of meetings Wednesday and Thursday were the first large group since the BEST program went into effect last year.

The BEST program is funded by a portion of revenues from state lands and not by general tax revenues. Several of the projects recommended this week are expected to use special federal stimulus bonds, which have no interest costs for the state.

Most interesting awards

Deer Trail: $247,000 in state cash and a $165,000 local match will be used to renovate the unsafe wing of the school that contains a swimming pool used by students and community members for miles around. Some board members were skeptical, but the panel still approved the money. The main school building is expected to be recommended for replacement in a future round of grants.

Silverton: $9.5 million in state funds and a $2.4 million local match will fund a lease-purchase plan to renovate the historic school that serves about 60 students. The building’s furnace failed last winter, forcing the use of space heaters. The town is isolated, particularly in winter, leaving no other options for the town children.

Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind: The historic campus will get a $10.6 million makeover. (There’s no match because the school is a state agency and can’t raise funds on its own, as a school district can.)

Woodlin: $88,593 in state cash and $37,968 in local money will be used two 8,000 gallon propane tanks away from the school playground.

Cedaredge: A lease-purchase deal funded with $8.7 million from the state and a $2.6 million local match will fund major renovations at the elementary school, including unification of the campus on one side of the street that now runs through it.

North Routt Charter: This 63-student PRE-8 charter will be able to replace its yurt (a Mongolian-style tent) thanks to a lease-purchase funded with $3.1 million in state funds and $1.6 million in local money.

Winners and also rans

Mapleton scored big with approval of three projects totaling nearly $54 million in state and local funds

Two roof repair projects in Westminster total about $2 million from state and local money.

Large proposals from Buena Vista and Salida weren’t funded.

Douglas County submitted five proposals and was granted only one, for about $4.5 million in upgrades to the high school in Castle Rock. The district lost a big bond issue last year and is considering another attempt this fall. The district is challenged by growth and crowding, not as high a priority for the board as health and safety.

The Park County project in Fairplay got $30.1 million, split evenly between the state and the district.

The Alta Vista charter school in Prowers County got $6.1 million for a lease-purchase, almost all from the state. The Twin Peaks Academy in Boulder got nothing for a similar-sized project.
The rejected Monte Vista plan would have cost $44.8 million.

List of applicants, proposal details and program rules (514-page PDF)

student activism

Five Chicago student activists on why they will be in your face this summer

PHOTO: Courtesy of Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia outside Trump Tower earlier this week

Trevon Bosley’s brother was murdered while attending band rehearsal at church. Shot from the street while helping a friend with drums in 2006, he was just one of the 471 people killed by gun violence that year in Chicago.

Through a peer youth council at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, Bosley, 20, became an outspoken student activist, and tonight he will join hundreds of students converging for an annual peace march that starts at the church. Chicago’s tradition of youth activism will be on full display, but the local students are getting a high-powered boost. Joining them are Chicago musicians Chance the Rapper and Jennifer Hudson and former Arizona House Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in 2011 at a public meeting with constituents. There will also be another set of special guests: the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., where a February shooter killed 17 students and teachers.

All week long, local student activists have been rallying and some Parkland students have lended an assist. Several staged a sit-in in City Hall on Monday to protest the proposed construction of a $95 million police academy on the West side and call for an elected school board. Others staged a die-in on in front of Trump Tower on Tuesday to commemorate the second anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Chalkbeat sat down with five Chicago student activists to hear why they take action and what they hope to achieve.

"Gun violence isn’t mainly just about mass shootings. These kinds of things happen in Chicago, Baltimore 24/7."Alycia Moaton

East Woodlawn resident Alycia Moaton, 17, attends Kenwood Academy. She’s part of Good Kids Mad City, a new advocacy organization formed by Chicago and Baltimore students. This past Monday, Good Kids Mad City members were central figures in the City Hall sit-in this past Monday.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Alycia Moaton
Alycia Moaton outside City Hall earlier this week

On becoming an activist: I grew up in Oak Park for about 10 years of my life. Then I moved into Chicago. Going to public schools on the South Side, it was like a completely different world. A lot of the students—their first thought is whether or not they’ll be able to go to school that day because they’re worrying about getting shot on the way there. When I got to experience both sides, experience what it’s like to not fear going to school, I could see just how messed up it is.

Starting off around three years ago, I went to a lot of protests and youth summits, and that turned me into wanting to be part of an organization. That’s how I got in touch with Good Kids Mad City. Good Kids Mad City came to be after the Parkland shooting, from the idea that gun violence isn’t mainly just about mass shootings. These kinds of things happen in Chicago, Baltimore, 24/7, and it’s as national as a mass shooting.

What she hopes to achieve: One of my main goals is that [the rally tonight] gets a lot of national coverage. The Parkland students are allowing us to make the narrative about Chicago. I hope people leave with the idea of not treating gun violence as just a local issue, with the idea that this isn’t normal. This shouldn’t be viewed as “Oh, this is just how Chicago is, Chicago is just a violent city.”

The big goal is to have people change their narrative about what gun violence in Chicago is, that it has to be taken way more seriously than just a local issue.

"When people think of Chicago, they think of the most violent city. I hope that they think of it as the home of the young leaders."Diego Garcia

Brighton Park resident Diego Garcia, 16, led 15 local teenagers to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. in March. Earlier this week, he participated in the die-in outside Trump Tower. He is also a member of Chicago Strong, the citywide youth group organizing tonight’s rally.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia outside Trump Tower earlier this week

On becoming an activist: The parents in my community are immigrants, and so are my teachers and my friends. After Trump became president, they felt like, if they speak up for what they believe in, they’re putting themselves in danger of being targeted by the government.

I decided that if I really had nothing to lose, then I would be the voice for them. I’m a citizen of the U.S., and just being a citizen, I have many rights that a lot of other people feel like they don’t have—the right to voice my opinion, to vote about my future.

After the Parkland shooting, my priest said that he would support me in taking 15 teenagers to Washington, D.C., for March for Our Lives. It was one of the best times that I’ve had in my life, because not only were my peers standing up for what they believe in, but also I knew that I wasn’t alone. There was, visually, all around you, people who cared about you.

What he hopes to achieve: I hope that, after the rally, people realize that we young people in Chicago, we want something to change. A lot of the adults like normalizing the violence. The 14-year-old that got shot, or the adult that was going to the store and got shot for no good reason—no one talks about these small things because it happens so often.

I hope that people’s perspective of Chicago changes, because when people think of Chicago, they think of the most violent city. I hope that they think of it as the home of the young leaders.

"It takes everybody. We need people from every region to contribute so we can get total change."Alex King

Austin resident Alex King, 17, just graduated from North Lawndale College Prep. At North Lawndale, he was a Peace Warrior, a youth ambassador for violence prevention. After the Parkland shooting, he traveled to Parkland to visit student survivors. Alex is also part of Chicago Strong.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Alex King
Alex King on a radio interview

On becoming an activist: It started with me wanting a shirt. At North Lawndale College Prep, we have to wear these button-up shirts with collars, and it’s hot. One Thursday, I was seeing these different shirts, regular long-sleeve shirts. It had “Peace Warriors” going down the sleeve, a peace sign on the back, and I was like, “I want one of those.” Then I also heard that Peace Warriors get pulled out of class sometimes, and I’m like “Yeah, if we can get out of class, for sure!”

After joining Peace Warriors, it got to a point where I felt that family connection—these were some of the people I went to when I couldn’t even go to my own family. I’ve been shot at multiple times and I didn’t go to my family, because I didn’t want to put that burden on their shoulders. I went to the Peace Warriors because I knew some of them experienced the same thing, and it’s also easier to connect with people in your age range.

My nephew was shot and killed on May 28, 2017. Shot twice: once in the back of the head and once in the back. I feel like I would have done something that would have put me in a way worse spot than I’m in now if I didn’t have Peace Warriors. They came to me every day, and were like “We are here for you no matter what.” I was known as the one with all the energy. When those people saw me down, they told me,”‘You were always the one to cheer everybody up, so we have to be here for you, to get you back like that.”

What he hopes to achieve: I want people to walk away [tonight] and believe that change can happen. We might be different in a lot of ways, but we are alike in more ways than we are different. I want people to see the fact that we can’t be independent, if we want to make change across the world, we all have to come together to make this work.

We can’t try change the world with only Chicago, we can’t try to change the world with only Florida. It takes everybody. We need people from every region to put their input on so we can get total change.

"Be smart with campaigns. If you’re gonna march, make sure you’re doing it in a community that can really change something."Trevon Bosley

Roseland native Trevon Bosley is a rising junior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He joined Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere, or B.R.A.V.E., a peer youth council run through the St. Sabina youth program, in 2010. He is also a member of Chicago Strong.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Trevon Bosley
Trevon Bosley at March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. earlier this year

On becoming an activist: On April 4, 2006, my brother was murdered while attending band rehearsal at church. He was outside helping a friend with drums. Someone fired shots at them and he was shot in the shoulder. After that, my parents got in contact with (the Rev.) Michael Pfleger at St. Sabina, and he introduced me to B.R.A.V.E.

The main things that the older B.R.A.V.E. members told me was to be smart with campaigns. If you’re gonna march, make sure you’re doing it in a community that can really change something. They told me to just be effective when you’re planning and strategizing your movement.

A while back [around three years ago], we did a voter registration campaign. The strategic thing was how we planned to tackle violence. We know that we have a lot of gun violence in Chicago, but we have to understand why. We noticed that the elected officials at the time weren’t allocating resources to anti-violence initiatives, and the only way you can get politicians to listen to you is to vote. We identified what the problem was and how to go about addressing it.

What he hopes to achieve: We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve been fighting for change in the community for a very long time. Tonight’s rally is going to be bigger because of the Parkland influence. We’ve been fighting in Chicago for a very long time for peace, but only recently has the national media really wanted to cover our everyday shootings. The Parkland influence is giving us the platform, it’s led to our voices finally being heard about everyday shootings.

"I want to make sure that we tell our stories ourselves, and not have social media or the news tell our stories because they always twist it around, and then you’re like: That’s not me."RieOnna Holmon

RieOnna Holmon, 15, attends Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep in Rosewood, and she lives in Woodlawn. She joined B.R.A.V.E in 2017, where she received mentorship from older members such as Trevon. Most recently, RieOnna became the president of B.R.A.V.E.

PHOTO: Courtesy of RieOnna Holman
RieOnna Holman speaking at St. Sabina in March

On becoming an activist: I joined B.R.A.V.E. last summer when I did an internship at the ARK of St. Sabina. I just started going to the meetings and taking part in all of the rallies. I see myself in these children [that I mentor], how I was naïve and didn’t really know anything. Being able to teach them about what is really happening out there really shows me that the youth need to be educated about what’s going on.

What she hopes to achieve: [Tonight,] I want to make sure that we tell our stories ourselves, and not have social media or the news tell our stories for them because they always twist it around and you’re always like, “That’s not me.”

It happens a lot. People will talk about someone they lost, and [media outlets] will turn it around being like, this “x” gang member. But we didn’t tell you that. I know now that I have to actually get out there and tell it for myself, because otherwise what’s out there could not be true or another side of the story.

Colorado Votes 2018

Where candidates in the Colorado Democratic primary stand on education issues

The Democratic candidates for governor of Colorado have been sniping at each other over education policy. (Courtesy Colorado Public Television)

Four candidates are vying for the chance to be the Democratic nominee for governor of Colorado. Education has emerged as a key issue on the campaign trail, a point of debate and even a subject of negative campaign ads. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will face the victor of an equally competitive Republican primary.

They’ll be trying to hold on to an office that Democrats have controlled since 2007. Gov. John Hickenlooper cannot run again after serving two terms.

The primary is June 26. Ballots have already been mailed, and they must be received by your local county clerk no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. For the first time, unaffiliated voters, who make up a third of Colorado’s electorate, can participate in the primary. Unaffiliated voters must pick ONE ballot. If you vote both a Democratic and a Republican ballot, neither will count.

Find voter registration information here.

Colorado’s next governor will have an important role to play in shaping education policy. To better understand their positions, we asked the candidates about their own educational experiences and choices, how they would close the achievement gap, whether Colorado should fund full-day kindergarten, and more.

Find their answers below. You can sort by candidate. They have been lightly edited for grammar, style, and length.

You can read the Republican candidates’ responses here.