Who Is In Charge

SBE underwhelmed with interim panel

Some State Board of Education members Thursday expressed disappointment with the limited recommendations that seem likely to emerge from the Interim Committee on School Finance.

The board was briefed on that panel’s most recent meeting by Anne Barkis, board and Department of Education lobbyist. (See this EdNews story about that meeting.)

“It sounds like they didn’t touch the school finance act … that list [of possible bills] sounds like really, really tinkering around the edges,” said board member Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District.

Although interim committee members are discussing bills that would affect funding for small school districts and at-risk students, among other things, no proposals address any of the key formulas or structures of state school funding formulas.

“I really was disappointed. I had much higher hopes for the committee,” said board member Randy DeHoff, R-6th District. He noted that the state’s severe budget crunch has been cited as a reason for not suggesting major steps in school finance. “I can’t think of a better reason [than a crisis] for radical restructuring of the school finance act,” DeHoff added.

Barkis cautioned that the interim committee won’t necessarily have the last word on school finance next year. “This is very early in the process, and certainly not all of the folks [interested in the issue] were at the table. … I don’t think this is the be all and end all of what we’re going to see on school finance during the legislative session.”

Berman suggested that Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, and Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, be invited to the board’s November meeting to explain their thinking. Middleton and Romer are chair and vice-chair respectively of the interim committee.

“I think it would be good to have a face to face,” agreed DeHoff.

Bob Schaffer, R-4th Districit, chair of the State Board of Education
Bob Schaffer, R-4th Districit, chair of the State Board of Education

SBE Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, said, “I’m inclined to broaden the invitation” to include education committee chairs and legislative leaders. “If we invite 10 we’ll get two to show up,” he joked.

(For more information about the board’s legislative priorities for 2010, see this draft list. The board will formally adopt its priorities in November.)

The board Thursday also heard public testimony about proposed revisions in the regulations that cover the touchy issue of restraining schoolchildren.

Ed Steinberg, CDE special education director, said the proposed rules are a “tightening” and a “reorganization.” A task force has been working on the proposed rules since 2007.

Several witnesses (including task force members) supported the rules while others raised questions, particularly about the lack of enforcement mechanism on school districts.

Steinberg said that since the underlying law doesn’t include enforcement, the rules can’t require it.

DeHoff noted that while there have been abuses of restraint in schools, it’s “fairly impossible” to write rules that will prevent all abuse.

The board will vote on the rules in November.

Before adjourning until next month, the board honored the eight Colorado students who had perfect scores on last spring’s ACT test, which all state 11th graders have to take. The students are Daniel Bragg (Fairview High School, Boulder Valley Schools); Catherine Chen (also Fairview); Joshua Burns (Liberty High School, Academy School District 20); Hannah McGehee (George Washington High School, Denver Public Schools); Thomas Rueter (Thornton High School, Adams 12 Five Star Schools); Richard Shulte (Fort Collins High School, Poudre School District R-1); Amani Moin (Loveland High School, Thompson School District R-2 J), and Margaret Koehler (Lewis-Palmer High School, Lewis-Palmer School District 38).


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.”