Who Is In Charge

K-12 cut now looks like $431 million

Thursday roundup
Tax sniping
New bills
For the record

Projected cuts in state aid to K-12 education next school year keep rising, and school administrators fear they will get even bigger.

Todd Herreid, a legislative staff analyst, told members of the House Education Committee Thursday that recent calculations indicate “a decrease in total program spending of at least $431 million compared to current law. This represents a decrease of 7.5 percent.”

Herreid made his comments as he presented the committee with a required annual report on the condition of the State Education Fund, kind of a piggy bank that is one of the sources of state aid to school districts. The report estimates that the SEF will be down to only about $6 million in 2010-11.

The estimated $431 million cut is more precise but is in the same ballpark as a rough estimate Herreid made in late December, when quarterly state revenue forecasts were issued.

In November, Gov. Bill Ritter’s proposed cutting K-12 support by 4.56 percent, or $260 million, from the dollar amount of school aid in the current 2009-10 budget. The Department of Education calculated that cut actually would amount to $374.1 million, or 6.12 percent, when calculated against the full amount school districts would otherwise expect to receive in 2010-11 under full application of the Amendment 23 funding formula.

Herreid’s figure of $431 million represents an increase in CDE’s original $374.1 million estimate.

The Ritter administration has taken the position that Amendment 23 applies only to “base” state funding of schools, about 75 percent of total support. The other 25 percent, nearly $1 billion, is distributed to districts through what are called the “factors,” pots of money designed to compensate districts for cost of living, at-risk students and small size. So, K-12 cuts would be taken in some form from the factors.

Most legislators have at least grudgingly agreed with Ritter’s interpretation of A23. Some interest groups, especially the Colorado Education Association, believe that interpretation is unconstitutional.

Some district administrators fear the effective cut in school instructional budgets could be 10 to 12 percent in 2010-11, given that districts will face increased costs for things like pensions and health insurance at the same time state aid is cut.

So something will have to give, most likely class sizes, teacher jobs and teacher salaries.

The legislature recently passed, and Ritter signed a law, cutting $110 million of state school aid in the current budget year, about 2 percent. The state also isn’t compensating districts for higher-than-projected enrollment and numbers of at-risk students.

Background and EdNews stories

Education in cross fire of tax debate

Program cuts are one side of budget balancing; raising revenue is the other.

For the past two days, the Senate Finance Committee has been working its way through a package of eight bills that propose to eliminate various tax exemptions and use the revenue for both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 budgets.

The debate has been partisan, with Republicans opposing and majority Democrats supporting – and passing – the bills.

Supporters argue that failure to pass the tax bills will force even deeper education cuts, a contention that was challenged by Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, during a Wednesday evening hearing.

According to a GOP news release, King “blasted the lobbyists for two liberal education groups that were falsely claiming the revenue generated from the Democrats tax increase plan would go towards K-12 education.” The release identified the groups as the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives, groups that teachers’ unions – or education reformers for that matter – might not think of as “liberal.”

GOP staffers also cranked out a news release promoting a Republican proposal to cut state payroll rather than eliminate the tax exemptions.

By early Thursday evening, Senate Finance has passed all but two of the tax bills. The package will go to the Senate floor Friday afternoon.

Ed bills continue to stack up

A large number of new bills were introduced in the Senate Thursday, including three related to education:

• Senate Bill 10-150 – This measure would allow additional revenues from state lands to flow to the Public School Fund rather than the permanent fund for 2010-11 only. This is a way to raise a little more cash for K-12 schools. Most school aid comes from the tax-supported general fund, which lawmakers frantically are trying to balance, with a lesser amount coming from the State Education Fund and the smallest amount from the Public School Fund. Sponsored by Joint Budget Committee members.

• Senate Bill 10-154 – The bill would expand the definition of “at-risk student” as it applies to alternative schools, which have separate accreditation standards because of their high percentages of at-risk students. At-risk usually is defined as eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches. The bill would expand that to “include children with disabilities, migrant children, homeless children, children with a documented history of serious psychiatric or behavioral disorders, and children who are 2 or more years behind grade level as determined by statewide assessments or by other assessments,” in the words of the summary. Sole sponsor for now is Sen. Paula Sandoval, D-Denver.

• Senate Bill 10-161 – The proposal would allow charter schools to contract with boards of cooperative education services and other charters for buildings and services. Sponsors are Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, and Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs.

For the record

The House Thursday gave preliminary voice approval to House Bill 10-1064, which would require high school athletes to use the standard Colorado High School Acivities Association appeals process for eligibility disputes before taking a case to outside arbitration or to court.

The House Education Committee approved House Bill 10-1044, which would require state licensing of neighborhood youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, and House Bill 10-1013, a technical cleanup of school finance laws.

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

performance based

Aurora superintendent is getting a bonus following the district’s improved state ratings

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Aurora’s school superintendent will receive a 5 percent bonus amounting to $11,820, in a move the board did not announce.

Instead, the one-time bonus was slipped into a routine document on staff transitions.

Tuesday, the school board voted on the routine document approving all the staff changes, and the superintendent bonus, without discussion.

The document, which usually lists staff transfers, resignations, and new hires, included a brief note at the end that explained the additional compensation by stating it was being provided because of the district’s rise in state ratings.

“Pursuant to the superintendent’s contract, the superintendent is entitled to a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of his base salary as the result of the Colorado Department of Education raising APS’ district performance framework rating,” the note states.

The superintendent’s contract, which was renewed earlier this year, states the superintendent can receive up to a 10 percent bonus per year for improvements in state ratings. The same bonus offer was in Munn’s previous contract with the district.

The most recent state ratings, which were released in the fall, showed the state had noted improvements in Aurora Public Schools — enough for the district to be off the state’s watchlist for low performance. Aurora would have been close to the five years of low-performance ratings that would have triggered possible state action.

“I am appreciative of the Board’s recognition of APS’ overall improvement,” Superintendent Munn said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important to recognize that this improvement has been thanks to a team effort and as such I am donating the bonus to the APS Foundation and to support various classroom projects throughout APS.”

This is the only bonus that Munn has received in Aurora, according to a district spokesman.

In addition to the bonus, and consistent with his contract and the raises other district employees will receive, Munn will also get a 2.93 percent salary increase on July 1. This will bring his annual salary to $243,317.25.

At the end of the board meeting, Bruce Wilcox, president of the teachers union questioned the way the vote was handled, asking why the compensation changes for teachers and compensation changes for other staff were placed as separate items on the meeting’s agenda, but the bonus was simply included at the bottom of a routine report, without its own notice.

“It is clear that the association will unfortunately have to become a greater, louder voice,” Wilcox said. “It is not where we want to be.”

Movers & shakers

Memphis native named superintendent of Aspire network’s local schools

PHOTO: Aspire Public Schools
Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job. Previously, Manning was a Memphis City Schools principal.

Aspire Public Schools has named Nickalous Manning to its top job.

Manning will replace Allison Leslie, the founding superintendent of the charter network’s Memphis schools. She is leaving for Instruction Partners, an education consulting firm that works with school districts in Tennessee, Florida, and Indiana.

“I look forward to serving children and families in my hometown,” said Manning, who was previously Aspire’s associate superintendent, director of curriculum and instruction, outreach coordinator, and principal of its Aspire Hanley Elementary.

Aspire runs three elementary schools and one middle school in Memphis.

Manning said he hopes to focus on Aspire’s role in supporting students outside the classroom and to launch a community advisory board, composed of parents and neighborhood residents, to “make sure that the community has a voice.”

“We know that we need to support our children in more than just academics,” he told Chalkbeat.

In Memphis, most students who attend Aspire schools come from low-income neighborhoods. At its four local schools, the charter group serves about 1,600 Memphis students.

Manning, who holds a doctorate in education, is a graduate of Memphis’ Melrose High School, which sits less than two miles from two Aspire schools. Before joining the network, he worked as a teacher and administrator in the Memphis City Schools and served as principal of Lanier Middle School, which closed in 2014 due to low enrollment.

In a statement, Leslie praised Manning’s commitment to the network’s students, saying,“I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Manning continue the great work we started together and make it even better.”

Aspire was founded in California in 1998 and runs 36 schools there. The charter network was recruited to Memphis to join the state-run district in 2013 — the organization’s only expansion outside of California.

In Memphis, Aspire opened two schools in 2013 and grew to three schools the following year. That’s when it opened Coleman Elementary under the state-run district, before switching course in 2016 and opening Aspire East Academy, a K-3 elementary school under the local Shelby County Schools.

This year, the charter network applied with Shelby County Schools to open its second a middle school, in Raleigh, in 2019. Though the application was initially rejected, Manning it would be resubmitted in the coming weeks, before the district’s final vote in August.

The proposed middle school harkens back to a dispute between Shelby County Schools and the state Department of Education over the charter’s legal ability to add grades to its state turnaround school. If approved, the state could create a new school that would be under local oversight.

“We are deeply committed to our children and families,”  Manning said. “We’ve heard from our families that they want continuity in K–8th-grade in their child’s time in schools. We’re committed to that end.”