Who Is In Charge

Budget plan gives K-12 a bit more

Schools would receive a slight increase in state support under Gov. Bill Ritter’s proposed 2011-12 budget, but not enough to cover projected enrollment growth and inflation, and the total would be far short of the full Amendment 23 formula.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter
Gov. Bill Ritter presented his 2011-12 budget at the Capitol on Nov. 2, 2010.

The governor also proposed hold-the-line spending for state colleges and universities, leaving them with a cut of $89 million because of federal stimulus funds that will no longer be available.

Ritter publicly unveiled his proposed budget Tuesday afternoon after having delivered it to the legislative Joint Budget Committee late Monday.

“This proposal increases classroom spending, [and] we’re doing everything we can to protect higher education, “ Ritter told reporters.

The budget totals about $19.1 billion, including about $7.6 billion from the tax-supported general fund. The current, 2010-11 budget originally was about $19.6 billion, and the general fund totaled about $7 billion.

The governor’s office said the general fund budget contains about $714 million in balancing measures, including spending cuts and transfers from other state funds into the general fund. Another $379 million in programs simple weren’t funded, including $365 million that would have gone to schools if the full A23 formula were applied. During budget setting last spring the legislature, based on legal advice, narrowed the base of school spending to which the formula is applied.

Todd Saliman, Ritter’s budget director, said that if the official revenue forecasts issued in September hold up, the governor’s plan would produce a balanced budget without the need for further major adjustments.

The proposal is Ritter’s last budget, since he’ll be leaving office in January. Saliman said he doesn’t expect the new governor will make major adjustments, predicting, “The core components of this budget won’t change.” Saliman noted that when Ritter took office in early 2007, “The core components of the budget that Gov. Owens wrote did not change.”

The legislature, of course, has the final say on the budget, and the JBC starts its hearings later this month. Budget deliberations and directions could change if Republicans take majority control of one or both houses in Tuesday’s election. If the GOP gains only one house, the six-member JBC would have an even 3-3 partisan split.

K-12 support

The plan proposes a $43 million increase in total program funding, which is the combined state-local effort to pay classroom operating costs. Current total program funding is a little under $5.4 billion. The state contribution next year would increase $91.2 million while the local share would drop $48.2 million because of declines in local property tax revenues.

The base per-pupil funding would rise to $5,585 from $5,530, but the average per-pupil funding (the amount calculated after special forms of aid to districts are factored in) would drop by $39.57 from the current $6,822.

The funding is estimated to be $92 million short of what would be needed to fully cover the costs of inflation and enrollment increases. And, it’s another $365 million short of full A23 funding.

Higher education

The budget maintains base state tax support of $555 million, the amount colleges and universities received this year along with $89 million in federal stimulus funds.

Colleges now have the authority to raise resident tuition up to 9 percent a year without legislative review. The budget assumes campus trustees will do that plus raise non-resident tuition and average of 5 percent. That would yield $1.68 billion in tuition revenue, up from this year’s $1.6 billion and continuing the shift of higher ed costs from taxpayers to students and families.

Ritter said the proposed spending “allows us to continue the conversation about higher education funding.” That conversation will kick off next week with the formal announcement of a new higher education strategic plan, which does call for increased taxpayer support of colleges and universities (background story).

Links to Ritter budget documents and details

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”