The State Board of Education got a lot done Thursday, especially considering that members (and many others in the board room), were in on a secret they couldn’t talk about until after 4 p.m.
That was when education Commissioner Dwight Jones announced he’s one of three finalists for superintendent of schools in Las Vegas (see story).
Before that secret was out, board members managed to handle a complex and tense charter school case, pass resolutions opposing three budget-busting ballot measures, approve another resolution on violent video games and OK application for federal funds to support abstinence-only sex education.
Here are the details:
The board voted 4-3 to deny a request by the Community Leadership Academy charter school in Commerce City, which wanted the board to revoke the exclusive chartering authority of the Adams 14 school district.
If the school’s request had been granted, it would have cleared the way for it to seek supervision by the state Charter School Institute. It was the first time that a charter school has challenged a district’s exclusive chartering authority, which in essence gives a district first right of review of charter applications.
In legal papers filed with board and in the arguments of its lawyers Thursday afternoon, the school alleged the district had shortchanged it in various financial matters and therefore had violated state charter school law and should be stripped of its chartering authority.
Lawyer Eric Hall, representing the school, said moving to institute supervision would be “a critical step in taking the school from good to great.”
Among the school’s claims were that the district didn’t provide the administrative services it should have, changed formulas to prevent the school from receiving federal Title I funds, mishandled funds for English language learners, didn’t give the school funds it was due from federal impact reimbursement related to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal site, refused to allow the school to participate in the Colorado Preschool Program and didn’t provide promised food and transportation services to the school.
“Adams 14 has consistently shown hostility toward this charter school,” dating back to 2004, the school’s filing read, and shown “a pattern of violations of the charter schools act.”
The district’s formal answer was equally pugnacious, reading, “CLA has struggled to achieve its stated academic mission” and detailing past problems at the school with nepotism, violations of the open meetings law, parent complaints about discrimination and failure to follow the terms of its charter.
The brief denied that the district had done anything wrong in most financial matters. It said a mistake in allocation of federal summer school money had been corrected, and the Department of Education had made a mistake in allocation of funds for English language learners.
The school also requested that CDE finance experts do an audit of the financial issues. In most cases, the department found for the school district, a fact district lawyer David Olson mentioned repeatedly in his arguments.
Four members voted for the motion to uphold the school district’s chartering authority, including Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District; Angelika Schroeder, D-2nd District; Jane Goff, D-7th District, and Vice Chair Randy DeHoff, R-6th District. Peggy Littleton, R-5th District; Marcia Neal, R-3rd District, and Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, voted no.
Thumbs down on ballot measures
DeHoff proposed three resolutions putting the board on record as opposing amendments 60 and 61 and Proposition 101. All board members supported opposition to 60 and 61. Schaffer voted no on the resolution opposing Proposition 101, saying he supports the part of the proposal that would roll back the specific ownership tax.
Sex ed a bit divisive
The board voted 4-3 to instruct Jones to apply for some $700,000 in federal grants from the Abstinence Education Program. Jones had sought board guidance on the issue partly because, he said, Gov. Bill Ritter has decided the state shouldn’t apply for the funds. (As a separately elected body, the board can act on its own.
After a bit of carefully worded discussion around the board table, Gantz Berman, Goff and Schroeder voted no.
Video games resolution passed
The board voted 5-2 in favor of a resolution supporting a federal court case filed by some states that seeks to establish the right of states of regulate kids’ access to violent video games. Littleton pushed for the resolution.
Gantz Berman, who voted no, said, “I don’t think it’s within the jurisdiction of the state board.”
At the request of Schaffer, Littleton agreed to delete some of the “whereas” clauses that made sweeping statements about the danger of video games. Schroeder was the only other no vote.
Who cares about R2T rejection?
Jones, in a morning briefing to the board, repeated his belief that Colorado is on the right path to education reform despite rejection of its Race to the Top application. He said the department is exploring ways to proceed with and fund a variety of yet-to-be-implemented legislation. He also said CDE is planning a statewide “listening tour” this fall to re-enlist districts in reform efforts.