Wednesday Churn: PERA brass upbeat

Updated 12:45 p.m. – Top execs of the Public Employees’ Retirement Association gave an optimistic report today to the Joint Budget Committee, saying the system’s financial prospects are improving because of investment gains and reforms passed by the legislature last year.

PERA had $36.9 billion in net assets as of last Nov. 30, compared to $35.7 billion at the end of 2009, said Meredith Williams, executive director.

He added that while assets are growing after a steep drop in 2008, the system’s future liabilities are declining because of Senate Bill 10-001, which changed overall benefit rules for new employees and reduced annual cost-of-living increases for retirees from 3.5 percent to 0 last year and 2 percent this year and into the future. (A class-action lawsuit challenging the COLA change is pending.)

“Senate Bill 1 is working; we would expect it will continue to work,” Williams said. The overall intent of the legislation is to restore the pension to system to full solvency over 30 years. PERA covers all teachers in Colorado and a substantial number of higher education employees.

Committee members had no substantive questions for the PERA execs. Some legislators, particularly conservative Republicans, remain skeptical about the future of the system and have suggested changes in the PERA board and a shift to a defined contribution system.

See slides from the presentation PERA made to the committee. (A chart about the school division is on page 7.) You also can read the 2009 annual report here. The 2010 report won’t be available until next spring.

Updated 10 a.m. – Gov. Bill Ritter announced today that he’ll be joining Colorado State University after he leaves office next week.

Effective Feb. 1, Ritter will become director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at CSU and also will assume the title of senior scholar in the university’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

Perhaps even more than education, helping build “a new energy economy” has been a top priority of Ritter’s one-term administration. He’ll be returning to the school where he earned his bachelor’s degree, an experience he’s referred to repeatedly during the last four years when discussing the value of higher education. Ritter has a law degree from the University of Colorado and was Denver district attorney before becoming governor.

Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, a leader in Ritter administration education initiatives, announced earlier that she’ll be joining the Piton Foundation after leaving office.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Despite bleak fiscal conditions that could thwart some of their priorities, governors and lawmakers in some states – bolstered in places by new Republican majorities – are expected to press forward this year with ambitious education proposals that could include changing teacher job protections and expanding school choice.

Legislative sessions are convening during a period of rapid change in education policy at the state level, pushed along by forces that defy easy political categorization.  Get the details from our partners at Education Week.

What’s on tap:

The legislative Joint Budget Committee meets from 9 a.m. to noon to noon on the 2010-11 budget for the state Department of Personnel and Administration, including the Public Employees’ Retirement Association.

Good reads from elsewhere:

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

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.