Colorado

Thursday Churn: Late checks for teachers?

Daily Churn logoEducation insiders are buzzing about a Joint Budget Committee staff suggestion that the panel might think about delaying the last payment of state school aid to districts in June 2011 as a way to help balance the budget.

School finance is generally not a topic that shows up in JBC briefing papers for the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which has the unenviable assignment of running Medicaid and other state medical programs. But school aid did come up in a briefing presented to the committee last week by analyst Melodie Buck. (See pages 77-82 of the document for details.)

The department has proposed delaying payments to some medical providers to the month after services are delivered. Because the state budget year ends June 30, that means some payments for 2010-11 services wouldn’t be made until the new 2011-12 budget year, which starts July 1. (The executive branch wants to do that to help cover a revenue shortfall in the 2010-11 budget. The state has done this sort of thing before in tight times – it balances the books by pushing some expenses to the next fiscal year.)

Buck’s analysis said, “Delaying Medicaid payments in not the most efficient payment delay” because they are a mix of state and federal funds and aren’t predictable. The document suggests that “the committee should consider more efficient payment delays” – like school finance payments.

“Delaying all or a portion of the June state aid payment to school districts would be much more efficient,” the briefing paper suggests, because only state funds are involved and because the amount is predictable. “The payment is made on the 25th of June so the school districts would only delay payroll by 6 days (i.e. teachers would be like state employees and get two pay checks in July instead of their June pay).”

Budget committee analysts periodically plant such little bombs in the briefings prepared every autumn before the legislative session. They’re meant to spark discussion or provide options committee members might not have considered.

As this briefing paper made clear, “Providing the Committee with the school district option does not mean staff is recommending this option. Staff is just trying to give the Committee a point to consider.”

Meanwhile, Denver Public Schools board members are considering guidelines to ensure schools granted innovation status under the state’s Innovation Schools Act  have flexibility of district funding and services. A new policy is up for first reading at tonight’s school board meeting, with a vote expected in January.

Innovation schools are supposed to have greater autonomy over areas such as staffing and budgeting, including deciding whether to use district services or contract their own. But three innovation school principals obtained a legal opinion last May saying the district was violating the law.

DPS board member Mary Seawell, with input from board member Jeanne Kaplan, drafted the new policy, which requires the superintendent to report to the board twice a year on innovation school autonomy requests and the basis for any denials. It also allows the board to reverse the superintendent’s decision.

“I believe there is an inherent bias within any institution to protect and keep those services in-house, as opposed to letting schools have this flexibility,” Seawell said, “and it needs another set of eyes looking at it that are a little more removed from right inside 900 Grant.”

Tonight’s board meeting starts at 5 p.m. at 900 Grant St., which is district headquarters, followed by the monthly public comment session at 6:30 p.m. Here’s the full agenda, which also includes updates on the district’s strategic plan goals and its financial status.

In other news, DPS announced on Wednesday that it has received a $495,455 grant from the Colorado Health Foundation to add four more fitness centers in city high schools that will open at little cost to staff and community after the school day. See EdNews’ story about the existing centers. We’ll let you know when DPS identifies the locations of the new centers.

What’s on tap:

The Quality Teachers Commission meets from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the offices of the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Lincoln St. at East 16th Avenue.

The Concurrent Enrollment Advisory Board convenes at 2:30 p.m. in the conference center at the Community College System Lowry campus, 1061 Akron Way, Building 697 (agenda).

The Jefferson County school board meets at 6 p.m. in the board room of the Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, Building 27, in Golden (agenda).

Good reads from elsewhere:

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.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede