Who Is In Charge

Hick: No new money for education

School funding will remain tight, Democrat John Hickenlooper warned Monday as he unveiled his plans for education if he’s elected governor.

John Hickenlooper
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper spoke about education on Aug. 30, 2010, at Arapahoe Community College.

“We’re not going to throw money at the problem,” the Denver mayor said during a news conference at Arapahoe Community College in Littleton with running mate Joe Garcia, president of Colorado State University-Pueblo. “There is no appetite” among the public for new taxes, Hickenlooper said.

Still, the pair presented a seven-page education policy brief that ranges from testing to teacher improvement to better coordination of the higher education system.

In several places the brief promises to continue and complete education initiatives started by Gov. Bill Ritter and the legislature in the last three years. As befits a campaign document, the brief covers a lot of ground but doesn’t offer detailed specifics.

The language of the brief seems to set up Hickenlooper as the governor who actually will implement what others have started.

Scroll to bottom to see videos of Hickenlooper and Garcia at Monday’s press event.

“While we will set ambitious education goals like each of Colorado’s previous governors, our administration will focus on the implementation of practical strategies to improve student achievement, high school graduation rates, and success in higher education.

Full details
Read John Hickenlooper’s education policy brief

“The next governor will also need to work to ensure that implementation of new legislation is done in collaboration with local school districts, teachers and principals to support a fair, credible evaluation system based on reliable data and accompanied by meaningful mentoring and professional development.

“Given budget constraints, improving education in Colorado is not an easy task and there are no easy solutions.”

Despite that support for education reform work that has been done to date, Hickenlooper expressed a note of frustration when he noted there’s “so little to show for it.”

Criticizing the CSAP tests, whose demise was called for in 2008 legislation but which probably won’t be replaced until 2014, Hickenlooper said, “We will do everything we can to give it [the changeover] greater urgency.”

He also called for greater use of online education and expansion of school broadband services; more public-private partnerships in education, and better coordination and integration of higher education in particular and the whole system in general.

“We have to continue blurring those lines.”

Joe Garcia and John Hickenlooper
Democratic lieutenant governor hopeful Joe Garcia (left) and gubernatorial candidate John Hickenlooper presented their education proposals Aug. 30, 2010.

Asked if Garcia would play the same role in education as Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien has played for Ritter, Hickenlooper said, “It’s premature to think about specific roles,” but quickly added, “I’d be a fool not to give him tremendous responsibility and authority.”

Garcia also has been president of Pikes Peak Community College and active in some Ritter-era education reforms, including serving as co-chair of the governor’s P-20 Education Coordinating Council.

“Education is going to be at the core of everything we do,” Hickenlooper said, noting that education consumes more than half the state’s general fund budget.

“I want to be a leader in making sure we provide the best education system for students. The fiscal situation of the state makes it harder to do so, but it is important for our kids and our economy to make sure that Colorado is leading the way in education,” Hickenlooper said.

Details of Hickenlooper-Garcia education policy brief

The document lists four key priorities:

  • Build on the work that is currently underway involving the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) to develop a more strategic assessment tool to inform and impact student outcomes and respond accordingly.
  • Improve transparency in our school districts and hold leaders responsible while giving them the authority and tools to effectuate change.
  • Develop and support better teachers and better principals using more integrated technologies across the state.
  • Create and expand career-oriented partnerships with community-based organizations and businesses.

The document also stresses use of technology in educational improvement, including:

  • Expand broadband access statewide to allow greater access to the web and share best practices about innovative and effective ways to integrate mobile learning with classroom-based instruction.
  • Provide more resources to teachers through high-tech, on-line venues and 21st Century learning tools.
  • Build a high quality and accessible on-line course content library at a secondary level using the best teachers and classrooms in the state. Content is shared at little to no added cost to districts and schools.
  • Provide high quality dual-enrollment and remedial online courses for high school students and adults reentering college. Courses should have assessments that measure college readiness and quality.

On the issue of developing more effective teachers and principals, the document urges improved parent involvement, support of both college and alternative teacher preparation programs, rewarding leadership programs that show results, encouraging businesses to provide financial incentives for educators and promises to “work closely with our teachers, principals, state legislature and local school districts to build on the work that has begun on ‘teacher effectiveness’ and ensure that implementation of new legislation [Senate Bill 10-191] is successful.”

The brief also proposes ensuring “a fair level of support for all public schools, including charters” and to “support the work of new and existing education entrepreneurs to respond to district and school-level needs and/or to start new innovative programs and initiatives.” It also urges expansion of “online content and instruction in order to give all students, regardless of address, access to high quality public school/program options.”

The briefing paper offers general, sometime-in-the-future support for better education funding.

“We should assess Colorado’s education funding and the direct ties it has to economic development. We should also develop long-term strategies to build a 21st Century school system that keep pace with comparable states while also competing for new federal grant funds. … One of the biggest challenges we face is that other states are spending more on education than we are.”

The document’s section on higher education also acknowledges the financial issues also facing state colleges and universities.

“Colorado is at a crossroads in higher education. If we don’t find a way to appropriately reform, fund and support higher education in Colorado, we will fall behind other states and cripple our ability to attract high-paying jobs in the future. It’s that simple and that stark. Nobody in Colorado wants to see our schools close down at the expense of our students and communities. … Colorado ranks 48th in the nation in local support of higher education – this has to change.”

When and if more funding becomes available, the document hints that new dollars won’t go just to institutions. “We will balance these new resources between the institutions that provide education and the students who need financial aid to attend college.”

Efficiency, flexibility stressed for higher ed

There’s also a heavy stress on innovation and further efficiencies and creation of “more flexibility across our higher education systems,” including better credit transfer systems and incentives for quicker college completion.

“We will ask our two-year and four-year colleges and universities to share resources in providing relevant degrees. We should look at ways to rationalize curriculums by program and location, and we will take advantage of technology to provide courses across institutions. … Through public-private partnerships we can provide financial incentives for institutions to collaborate on curriculum and degrees.”

Those sorts of ideas are much discussed in higher ed circles these days, but individual institutions, particularly the state’s larger ones, remain cautious about the details of such sharing.

The education brief also notes, “We need to strengthen the role of the higher education coordinating board (the Colorado Commission on Higher Education) and its policies to focus on improving access and student success in our public institutions.”

The idea of strengthening CCHE, a big topic in the current higher ed strategic planning process, also is not universally supported by institution leaders.

Seen in the crowd

In addition to campaign workers, reporters and curious students, Hickenlooper’s audience included a group of Colorado Education Association officials, including executive director Tony Salazar, and representatives of the business-based reform group Colorado Succeeds, including President Tim Taylor and board chair Zack Neumeyer. Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and author of the new educator effectiveness law, and Van Schoales of Education Reform Now also were in the audience.

The CEA-affiliated Public Education Committee gave Hickenlooper’s campaign $5,300 in the reporting period ending July 6.

Hickenlooper’s opponents haven’t yet offered major statements on education.

Republican Don Maes has five paragraphs about the subject on his website, saying, “Reform is an ongoing process and the school leadership must recognize the need for constant improvement. … More competition between schools and transparency in educational funding and results will produce more productive teachers, better students and administrations.”

Maes testified against adoption of the Common Core Standards at a recent State Board of Education meeting.

Renegade Republican Tom Tancredo, now flying the flag of the fringe American Constitution Party, doesn’t mention education on his website. Tancredo was a middle school civics teacher when elected to the legislature in 1976, and he later became regional representative of the U.S. Department of Education under the Reagan and first Bush administrations. Tancredo significantly downsized that office and then went on to be president of the Independence Institute and a congressman.

Speaking Up

Letters to J.B.: Here’s what 10 Illinois educators said governor-elect Pritzker should prioritize

PHOTO: Keri Wiginton/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images

As governor-elect and national early childhood education advocate J.B. Pritzker assembles his transition team and builds out his early agenda, we asked educators to weigh in with items he should consider.

Here are 10 of their responses, which range from pleas for more staffing to more counseling and mental health services. Letters have been edited only for clarity and length. Got something to add? Use the comment section below or tell us on Twitter using #PritzkerEdu.

From: A non-profit employee who works with schools in the city and suburbs

Letter to J.B.: I work with a number of students from the City of Chicago and sadly most of them lack basic skills. Most of the students lack the ability to read and write properly, and perform below grade level. It is alarming how many students don’t have critical-thinking and analytical skills. The lack of education in low-income and minority population will hurt our city and state in years to come.


From: A youth organizer at Morrill Elementary, a K-8 school on Chicago’s Southwest Side

Letter to J.B.: Morrill School has suffered from constant turnover due to an unstable Chicago Public Schools environment that cares more about upholding its own self-interest than the people it should be serving. We need representatives that will advocate for what communities say they need!


From: A music teacher at a Chicago charter school

Letter to J.B.: I work at a charter school and I don’t think we are doing the best we can for our kids. Our school’s policies are too harsh and dehumanizing.


From: A Chicago charter school social worker

Letter to J.B.: We’ve cut mental health services throughout the city and that has crippled us. Parents have a hard time getting jobs and having enough money to supply basic needs.


From: A Chicago principal

Letter to J.B.: My school is 100 percent free- and reduced-price lunch-eligible, or low-income population. We are a middle years International Baccalaureate school. Our children were once were the lowest performing in the area and now we are a Level 1-plus school. Our school was on the closing list back in 2005 when I took over.

But now we are an investment school. Teachers are dedicated and work hard. We need funding for a new teacher to keep classes small and additional funds to purchase multiple resources to continue and strengthen overall academics. We have a vested interest in educating all of our children!


From: A teacher at A.N. Pritzker Elementary in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood

Letter to J.B.: Great kids. Great staff. No librarian. Extremely poor special education services. No substitute teachers. No time for planning. No time for anyone to provide mental health services for those in need.


From: A teacher at Whitney Young High School on Chicago’s Near West Side

Letter to J.B.: Every teacher knows that well over 90 percent of the students with academic problems have serious problems at home and in their neighborhoods. In the suburbs, social worker and psychologist staffing levels are often five to 10 times what they are here in the city, where kids are dealing with way more challenges, not less. If you’re looking for bang for your buck, fund psychologists and social workers!


From: A teacher in the Galesburg CUSD 205

Letter to J.B.: Our school is diverse in all definitions of the word. We have a diverse population in terms of race, money, and ability. We currently don’t have the money to keep all of the schools in our district open and are in the process of closing some of the buildings in order to get the others up to code and comfortable; many of our schools don’t even have air conditioning.


From: A teacher at Kiefer School, a Peoria school that educates children with severe behavioral and learning challenges

Letter to J.B.: We work with students with behavioral and mental challenges who need more help getting mental health services. We’ve had children deflected from being hospitalized due to no beds being available.


From: A teacher at Unity Junior High School in Cicero

Letter to J.B.: People often think that our school is “bad,” but the truth is, we have so many staff and students that work hard every day to bring positive change.

Who's In Charge

Who’s in charge of rethinking Manual High School’s ‘offensive’ mascot?

PHOTO: Scott Elliott/Chalkbeat
Manual High School is one of three Indianapolis schools managed by Charter Schools USA.

As other schools in Indiana and across the nation have renounced controversial team names and mascots in recent years, Emmerich Manual High School in Indianapolis has held onto the Redskins.

One of the reasons why the school hasn’t given it up, officials said during a state board of education meeting this week, is because it’s unclear whose responsibility it would be to change the disparaging name.

Is it the obligation of the district, Indianapolis Public Schools, which owns the building and granted the nickname more than 100 years ago?

Is it the duty of the charter operator, Charter Schools USA, which currently runs the school?

Or is it the responsibility of the state, which took Manual out of the district’s hands in 2011, assuming control after years of failing grades?

“I don’t care who’s responsible for it,” said Indiana State Board of Education member Gordon Hendry, as he acknowledged the uncertainty. “I think it’s high time that that mascot be retired.”

The mascot debate resurfaced Wednesday as state officials considered the future of Manual and Howe high schools, which are approaching the end of their state takeover. Charter School USA’s contracts to run the schools, in addition to Emma Donnan Middle School, are slated to expire in 2020, so the schools could return to IPS, become charter schools, or close.

Manual is only one of two Indiana schools still holding onto the Redskins name, a slur against Native Americans. In recent years, Goshen High School and North Side High School in Fort Wayne have changed their mascots in painful processes in which some people pushed back against getting rid of a name that they felt was integral to the identity of their communities.

Knox Community High School in northern Indiana also still bears the Redskins name and logo.

“The term Redskins can be absolutely offensive,” said Jon Hage, president and CEO of Charter Schools USA. “We’ve had no power or authority to do anything about that.”

He suggested that the state board needs to start the process, and that the community should have input on the decision.

An Indianapolis Public Schools official told Chalkbeat the district didn’t have clear answers yet on its role in addressing the issue.

Even if the state board initiates conversations, however, member Steve Yager emphasized that he does not want the state to make the decision on the mascot.

“We don’t have to weigh in on that,” Yager said. “I feel like that’s a local decision.”