Who Is In Charge

Senate approves K-12 cuts

Friday roundup
– Higher ed budget shift
– New bills

The Senate voted 32-2 Tuesday morning to pass Senate Bill 10-065, which cuts $110 million from state K-12 support and specifies that the state won’t cover another $20 million for enrollment and at-risk student increases.

The measure is the second education bill that’s on the fast track to passage in the legislature’s opening weeks, but it’s not being greeted with the same enthusiasm as the Race to the Top-related proposal that took only three days from introduction to signing. (For instance, no senators signed on Monday as SB 10-065 cosponsors.)

The Senate Friday afternoon had given unanimous preliminary approval to SB 10-065. It was a grumpy vote for some lawmakers.

“I don’t think this is a great bill. I am very unhappy about it, but I think it’s a necessity,” said Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, speaking on the Senate floor.

Speaking during an earlier Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, said, “This is going to be very painful [but] there is no way around it.”

Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge
Sen. Moe Keller, D-Wheat Ridge, carried the K-12 budget cut on the Senate floor Jan. 15.

The $110 million cutback was an escape hatch created by lawmakers in 2009 when they approved some $3.7 billion in school aid. The legislature told districts not to budget or spend the money until after Jan. 29, the deadline set for 2010 legislature to pull the money back. (That deadline is why SB 10-065 is on the fast track.)

That “escrow” provision was a last-minute 2009 compromise between the Senate, which wanted to just cut $150 million, and the House, where members were heavily lobbied by the Colorado Education Association to not make such a cut.

Friday, Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry, R-Grand Junction, called the 2009 compromise “a cruel hoax” and said the $110 million escrow “shouldn’t have been in the bill in the first place.”

CEA lobbyist Karen Wick testified against the bill earlier in the day before the appropriations committee. Reminding members “We represent almost 40,000 members,” Wick continued, “We think our schools need to keep this money. [It] would help districts prepare for what’s to come.” (She was referring to 2010-11 cuts in state aid that could exceed $350 million.)

“I appreciate your advocacy, but we have the whole spectrum [of budget problems] to look at,” said Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins and chair of the Senate Education Committee.

The committee passed the bill to the floor on a 9-0 vote.

The bill also reduces state school aid by an additional $67 million, but that won’t be a cut to districts because they are expected to receive that amount in higher-than-projected local tax collections.

The bill now moves to the House. If the measure passes, the $110 million reverts to the State Education Fund, a separate pot of money that’s used partly for general school aid and partly for special programs. The fund is currently on track to go insolvent.

Do your homework

College funding shift gets JBC OK

The Joint Budget Committee Thursday approved a staff recommendation to cut state tax support of higher education by about $225 million this budget year. The money will be replaced with federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds, but the shift will help cover the overall problems in the general fund, the state’s main budget account.

The recommendation will be turned in to a budget-adjustment bill similar to SB 10-065.

New bills update

A few more new bills were introduced Friday before legislators scattered for the three-day weekend. Of interest is Senate Bill 10-069, which would require that the money saved by the pending expiration of Amendment 23’s 1 percent “bonus” provision for school aid be shifted to the state highway fund, starting in 2011-12 and running until 2020-21.

The bill is sponsored by two eastern plains Republicans, Sen. Greg Brophy of Wray and Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling. It likely has no chance in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.