Who Is In Charge

ECE scholarship bill bets on fed funds

Preschool workers have notoriously low-paying jobs, a fact that makes it tough for them to get the kind of further education that improves their skills, and maybe their salaries.

The sponsors of House Bill 10-1030, approved 12-1 Monday by the House Education Committee, hope to make a dent in that problem with their proposal to create a scholarship program for early childhood education workers who are trying to get associate’s degrees in the field.

ep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster
Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster

“Getting this education is more than difficult,” given hourly salaries of $8 to $10 an hour, said Rep. Cherilyn Peniston, D-Westminster, prime House sponsor. The bill came out of the Early Childhood and School Readiness Commission, a legislative study group.

The trouble is, there’s no hope of getting state funding for the scholarships, so supporters hope federal Race to the Top or Early Childhood Challenge Grants. The scholarship program would start “if and when” federal grants are landed, Peniston said.

The grants are envisioned as $1,500 a year and would have to be applied for annually. Recipients would have to be working in early childhood education, demonstrate financial need and agree to continue doing so for two years after receiving their associate’s degrees. (The program is intended for people working in the state’s Colorado Preschool Program.)

There was some back and forth in the committee on how much the Department of Education should be reimbursed for administering the scholarships. The original bill draft specified 1 percent of the program, an amendment discussed Monday proposed 8 percent but Peniston suggested 4 percent. (A few committee members seemed uncomfortable about a higher reimbursement.)

CDE lobbyist Anne Barkis told the committee she’d agreed on the 8 percent with Peniston but couldn’t agree to 4 percent without checking with education Commissioner Dwight Jones. The committee stuck with 8 percent, but the issue likely will be revisited. Next stop for the bill is the House Appropriations Committee.

Reimbursement for administrative costs is a touchy subject for CDE. Barkis told the committee that too many programs with low reimbursements “have accumulated to the point that quite frankly now we’re being audited by the feds.”

A substantial part of CDE’s budget is provided by the federal government to administer federal programs. The feds are auditing CDE because of concerns federally paid employees have done state work.

Bill proposes study of alternative school financing methods

A newly introduced measure, House Bill 10-1183, proposes to set up a five-year pilot program “to encourage school districts and charter schools to collect data that will be used to compare the effects of alternative school funding models with those of the actual school funding method,” in the words of the bill summary.

The goal is to develop information about possible funding systems for more flexible forms of education, such as proficiency-based promotion.

Participating districts would continue to receive funding under the current state system, and pilot data-gathering projects would have to be paid for by, yes, “gifts, grants and donations.”

An advisory panel of lawmakers, State Board of Education members, educators and the commissioner of education would oversee the project.

Rep. Karen Middleton, D-Aurora, is the sole sponsor at this point.

Also new is House Bill 10-1171, which would repeal or modify various education data-reporting requirements now in state law.

And, a dozen bills that would repeal various state tax exemptions also have been introduced. The measures are proposed by the Ritter administration as part of the 2010-11 budget-balancing package. Failure to pass any of the bills – most of which are expected to be controversial – could force deeper budget cuts, including K-12 funding. (Those measures are House Bill 10-1189 through House Bill 10-1200.)

The bills will be discussed in a House committee Wednesday.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.