Who Is In Charge

Supreme Court strikes down A54

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday threw out Amendment 54, the campaign contributions limit passed by voters in 2008.

The amendment was challenged by public employee and civic groups, including teachers’ unions, because they believe it unconstitutionally limited their rights to contribution to political campaigns. The amendment banned holders of “sole source” contracts from contributing to any political campaigns. Teachers’ union contracts with school districts were considered sole source contracts.

In a 4-1 opinion, the court said, “After striking the unconstitutional portions of Amendment 54, the Supreme Court holds that the remaining provisions do not constitute a meaningful legislative enactment, and therefore the entire Amendment must be purged from the Colorado Constitution.”

A majority of the court found the amendment vague and overbroad, and said it would have had disproportionate effects on different classes of people.

A Denver District Court last summer issued a preliminary injunction against the amendment, and the case was appealed to the state Supreme Court.

The main spokesman for the amendment last year was conservative CU Regent Tom Lucero, who’s now running for Congress in the 4th District. He argued it was necessary to stop “pay-to-play” abuses between contractors and government bodies. Its other backers were somewhat shadowy, although people connected to the Independence Institute were involved. The institute has long criticized public employee union involvement in campaigns.

Amendment 54 was part of a tangle of proposed union and labor amendments last fall, some of which were pulled from the ballot and several others of which failed. Because of ballot clutter, there were ad campaigns that supported or opposed groups of amendments, likely intensifying the usual voter confusion about ballot measures.

Among teacher groups challenging the amendment in court are the District 14 Classroom Teachers Association and the Douglas County Federation of Teachers and Classified Employees, plus Kerrie Dallman, president of the Jefferson County Education Association.

Text of Supreme Court ruling


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.”