Who Is In Charge

Hick cool to Heath plan

Gov. John Hickenlooper was doing his best to be diplomatic, but it sure sounded like he doesn’t necessarily support Sen. Rollie Heath’s proposal to raise income and sales taxes to support education.

“It’s hard for me to imagine supporting a tax increase until we get our arms around all the complexities of the budget,” the governor said Tuesday.

Gov. John Hickenlooper
Gov. John Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper discussed the issue with reporters following his first bill-signing ceremony (no education measures were involved).

Heath, a Boulder Democrat, on Monday proposed modest increases in state income and sales taxes for three years, with the additional revenue devoted to K-12 and higher education (see story).

“Sen. Heath’s proposal is the beginning of a discussion,” Hickenlooper said, adding he hopes it sparks a statewide debate.

Asked if he thought voters would approve such a plan, the governor said, “I’m not a good enough prognosticator” to say. He repeated the comment he’s made many times since his campaign last year – that voters have “no appetite” for increased taxes right now.

“Certainly we’re all concerned about the cuts,” adding his 2011-12 budget proposal was designed to “cause as little disruption as humanly possible” and was intended to “start the conversation” about next year’s budget. He has proposed a $332 million cut in school support and a $36 million reduction for higher education. (See our database for information about districts of interest to you.)

He repeated his support for a 4 percent general fund reserve, instead of the 2 percent often used in tight years. The governor noted 2 percent covers just one week of state expenses. Some legislative Democrats want a 2 percent reserve because it would free up about $100 million for education.

Campus threat info sharing bill moves ahead

A bill intended to make it easier for campus police to share threat information with administrators and threat-assessment teams got easy preliminary approval in the House Tuesday, but not without a lively little debate about civil liberties.

In some cases campus police forces can’t now share information with deans, student life offices or threat assessment teams about people who may pose threats to others on campus or to themselves. (Threat assessment teams have become common on many campuses since the shootings at Virginia Tech.) House Bill 11-1169 would give authorization for such sharing and set rules for it, such as victim confidentiality and immunity for some people who make reports.

Freshman Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, argued that the bill should cover only information about people who have committed crimes and that the measure could impinge on the free speech rights of people who express strong or unpopular political views and who are perceived as threatening by others. A couple of other Republicans sounded the same theme.

Sponsor Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, said the bill didn’t do that, commenting, “We’re really getting off track about what this bill is.”

The bill passed on a voice vote, as did House Bill 11-1205, the controversial proposal to allow legal gun owners to carry concealed handguns even they don’t have the specific permit for concealed weapons. (There’s been some confusion about how the bill might apply to schools, but current prohibitions on carrying weapons at schools would remain.)

The House and Senate delayed scheduled debate on two high-profile education bills, the charter schools facilities measure (House Bill 11-1055) and resident tuition for undocumented students (Senate Bill 11-126).


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

cooling off

New York City charter leader Eva Moskowitz says Betsy DeVos is not ‘ready for prime time’

PHOTO: Chalkbeat
Success Academy CEO and founder Eva Moskowitz seemed to be cooling her support for U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

In New York City, Eva Moskowitz has been a lone voice of support for the controversial U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. But even Moskowitz appears to be cooling on the secretary following an embarrassing interview.

“I believe her heart is in the right place,” Moskowitz, founder and CEO of Success Academy, said of DeVos at an unrelated press conference. “But as the recent interviews indicate, I don’t believe she’s ready for primetime in terms of answering all of the complex questions that need to be answered on the topic of public education and choice.”

That is an apparent reference to DeVos’s roundly criticized appearance on 60 Minutes, which recently aired a 30-minute segment in which the secretary admits she hasn’t visited struggling schools in her tenure. Even advocates of school choice, DeVos’s signature issue, called her performance an “embarrassment,” and “Saturday Night Live” poked fun at her.  

Moskowitz’s comments are an about-face from when the education secretary was first appointed. While the rest of the New York City charter school community was mostly quiet after DeVos was tapped for the position, Moskowitz was the exception, tweeting that she was “thrilled.” She doubled-down on her support months later in an interview with Chalkbeat.

“I believe that education reform has to be a bipartisan issue,” she said.

During Monday’s press conference, which Success Academy officials called to push the city for more space for its growing network, Moskowitz also denied rumors, fueled by a tweet from AFT President Randi Weingarten, that Success officials had recently met with members of the Trump administration.

Shortly after the election, Moskowitz met with Trump amid speculation she was being considered for the education secretary position. This time around, she said it was “untrue” that any visits had taken place.

“You all know that a while back, I was asked to meet with the president-elect. I thought it was important to take his call,” she said. “I was troubled at the time by the Trump administration. I’m even more troubled now. And so, there has been no such meeting.”