CEA won’t sign on for round 2 of R2T

CEA President Beverly Ingle

This article was updated Thursday with reaction from education Commissioner Dwight Jones and this link to the CEA radio ad against the proposed bill.

The Colorado Education Association is withholding support from the state’s application to win up to $175 million in round two of the national Race to the Top competition.

Tony Salazar, the CEA’s executive director, told the state’s education commissioner in a letter Tuesday that the 40,000-member union was angry over remarks that appeared in the Denver Post on Monday.

In a commentary, Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones expressed support for a bill introduced by state Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, that would overhaul the state’s teacher evaluation system and tie student achievement to decisions about pay, retention and dismissal.

Jones wrote that he believed passing Johnston’s bill “might boost our chances in the second round” of the Race grant competition.

Jones alluded to the CEA’s letter during a briefing to the State Board of Education Thursday morning.

“We may have our work cut out for us [with] our unions across the state,” Jones said. “I don’t know if that decision [to not participate in R2T] is final. I’ll continue to have discussions.”

The commissioner said he hopes the CEA will see that the R2T bid is more important than its differences with him over the column he wrote supporting Senate Bill 191.

“I was surprised to see how closely you link the legislation to the pending success of Colorado’s Phase 2 Race to the Top application,” Salazar wrote to Jones. “As long as you are tying Colorado’s Race to the Top success to Senator Johnston’s legislation, we are unable to remain partners in the Phase 2 effort.”

The CEA wrote a letter of support for the state’s application in the first round of the Race competition, seeking millions of dollars to jump-start education reform efforts across the state. Colorado was one of 16 finalists in round 1 but only Delaware and Tennessee were named winners.

But even with the statewide union’s support, only 41 percent of local unions agreed to participate in initiatives outlined in the application should Colorado be successful.

Deborah Fallin, CEA spokeswoman, said the statewide group is telling local affiliates “don’t commit” to anything for round 2, which has a June 1 deadline.

Fallin said the CEA might be willing to support the state’s application if it is no longer linked to Johnston’s bill, Senate Bill 191, or if the bill fails to pass into law.

“As long as these two things are linked, we can’t be on it because we are adamantly opposed to Senate Bill 191 and we are not going to participate if that is going to be everybody’s basis for what we’re going to do with Race to the Top,” she said.

“If those two become unlinked, or the bill doesn’t pass, we would certainly be willing to look at that process again. But right now, where things are, we can’t play.”

Salazar, in his letter to Jones, pointed out that teachers believe they have been unfairly scapegoated for the state’s placing 14 out of 16 finalists in the first round of Race to the Top.

Some observers initially criticized Colorado’s application as weak because it featured an appointed Governor’s Council on Educator Effectiveness to decide how to boost teacher and principal quality. Other states had more concrete plans, such as Tennessee, which passed a law requiring student achievement be used in teacher and principal evaluations.

But Colorado did not lose an inordinate number of points for its council, according to first-round scores. Its application received 47.6 points out of a possible 58 – or 82 percent of points possible – in the category of “Improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance,” while the two winning states had scores of 50.4 and 53 in that category.

One of the five reviewers who scored Colorado’s application did note, “This plan relies on future recommendations, not yet specified, being made to the Governor and to the legislature regarding modifications to current state law.”

Colorado lost a higher percentage of points in categories such “Ensuring equitable distribution of effective teachers and principals,” achieving 17.4 out of 25 points or 70 percent, and “Providing high-quality pathways for aspiring teachers and principals,” with 13.8 out of 21 points or 66 prcent. See a chart comparing the state’s points in every category with those of the winning states.

Still, the fact that fewer than half the state’s unions were willing to participate in Race reforms was cited several times at different points in the application.

“Successful state reform efforts must have the strong support of the local unions,” wrote another reviewer, citing the low participation rate.

Johnston’s bill keeps the Governor’s Council but shortens its timeline and includes provisions such as requiring teachers to have three years of demonstrated results improving student achievement before they receive tenure.

“The CEA stands firm in our support for the Governor’s Council,” Salazar wrote to Jones. “Shortcutting this process with political motivations to strip teachers of their rights does nothing to help build a better education system focused on teaching and learning.”

Salazar also said Jones should focus on “all areas of the state application that need improvement” in the Race second round.

The state’s current teacher evaluation system requires teachers be labeled either satisfactory or unsatisfactory and, in most large districts, nearly 100 percent are labeled satisfactory.

“The evaluation system we have now is, teachers call it a joke,” Fallin said. “We want a new credible, objective evaluation system.”

The CEA is vigorously fighting Johnston’s bill, which was introduced Monday. CEA President Beverly Ingle issued a press release calling it “too much, too fast.” See her comments here.

In the first round of the Race contest, “you stated that you were not willing to throw teachers under the bus,” Salazar said in his letter to Jones. “Your support of the Johnston bill and its linkage to Race to the Top does exactly that!”

Click on these links to see recent EdNews’ coverage of Johnston’s bill and of Colorado’s Race to the Top application. And click here to read the entry in Westword breaking this story.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at or 303-478-4573.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.