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:

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.