Who Is In Charge

No go for bill to bar felons from school jobs

A proposal that would have banned some people with felony convictions from non-teaching jobs at schools was killed Monday by the House Judiciary Committee.

It was the second year in a row that such a measure was proposed and defeated. On Monday seven committee Democrats outvoted four Republicans to defeat House Bill 10-1082, sponsored by Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.

The list of felonies in the bill included child abuse, crimes of violence, sex crimes including indecent exposure and drug crimes. In some cases a person’s juvenile record could have been a bar to non-licensed school jobs.

The bill also would have added drug crimes to the list of felonies that bar a person from a teaching job – and applied that retroactively to current teachers.

Witnesses opposed to the bill argued that it could unfairly deny jobs to rehabilitated applicants, that it was overreaching to include drug offenses that could include mere possession and was too rigid.

Karen Wick, lobbyist for the Colorado Education, said, “We see this bill as unnecessary,” given current law.

State law already requires applicants for non-teaching jobs to disclose felony convictions and submit to fingerprinting and background checks. School districts have wide latitude to reject or fire applicants with criminal backgrounds.

“One-size-fits-all mandates often create unintended consequences,” warned Bruce Caughey of the Colorado Association of School Executives, noting the zero-tolerance weapons law that the legislature had to modify last year.

But, Lisle Gates, principal of Castle View High School in Castle Rock, spoke in favor of the bill, saying student safety is paramount.

Committee member Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, later called opposition witnesses “members of our educational system advocating for having felons in our schools.”

McNulty said, the “second chance [for felons] should not come at the expense of the safety of our children.”

The committee passed amendments to soften the bill, including one eliminating the retroactive provision for current teachers and another specifying the bill would apply only to workers with direct student contact.

But that wasn’t enough for committee Democrats, and the bill was defeated and then postponed indefinitely.

“I think our school districts have all the authority they need,” said chair Sen. Claire Levy, D-Boulder.

In other action

The House Education Committee Monday approved three bills, including:

  • House Bill 10-1232, which broadens the legal definition of school bus to include other kinds of vehicles used by schools, such as vans. A majority of the committee, citing safety and cost concerns, stripped language from the bill that would have allowed 45-foot-long buses in Colorado, big enough to hold 91 elementary students. The current limit is 40 feet.
  • House Bill 10-1262, which would tap into a CollegeInvest scholarship fund to provide job-training scholarships in green technologies and medical services. This one may not go much further, given that it has only one sponsor (Rep. Jerry Frangas, D-Denver) and would use money that the Ritter administration wants to transfer to the general fund to help balance the budget.
  • House Bill 10-1035, which would require recipients of the Child Care Assistance Program to verify eligibility every year rather than every six months, as is required now.

The full House gave final approval to House Bill 10-1178, which would set standard reporting requirements for gift, grant and donations programs, and House Bill 10-1054, which requires state colleges to distribute safety information to students and staff.

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


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.”