Who Is In Charge

Bill would give colleges greater freedom

A bill introduced in the House Tuesday would give state colleges and universities greater autonomy in use of student fees, personnel matters and construction projects, plus additional flexibility in other administrative areas.

House Bill 11-1301 has bipartisan sponsorship and is being pushed by the University of Colorado, according to several higher education lobbyists. The House prime sponsor is Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs and assistant majority leader. The Senate sponsor is Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass and a former CU regent.

The bill has been assigned to the House State Affairs Committee, not to House Education.

The overall thrust of the bill appears to reduce the number of Colorado Commission on Higher Education and other state agency requirements that institutions now have to meet.

CU-Boulder campus view
PHOTO: J. Zubrzycki
Campus of University of Colorado at Boulder

Provisions of the 43-page measure would:

  • Specify that guaranteed tuition contracts cover tuition, not fees.
  • Give governing boards greater control over student fees and reduce the role of the CCHE in that area.
  • Remove the requirement that the commission approve institution plans to set up non-profit arms.
  • Give governing boards the power to indemnify their contractors.
  • Give institutions greater autonomy in their information security programs.
  • Allow institutions greater freedom to dispose of surplus property and discretion in making purchases from correctional industries.
  • Allow college presidents greater freedom to create positions not covered the state personnel system, hire contractors, rehire retired employees for longer periods of time, offer employee incentive programs and authorize administrative leave for classified employees.
  • Provide colleges greater freedom in handling construction projects, including removal of the current requirement that colleges get student input if they want to use tuition revenue as security for auxiliary facilities.

A 2009 law gave state colleges additional flexibility in handling their construction projects, and a 2010 law gave them significantly expanded power to set tuition rates – but with the oversight of CCHE.

The 2010 higher education plan developed by a citizen panel recommended a stronger regulatory role for CCHE, an idea that’s been resisted both publicly and privately by some college presidents.

Some presidents, especially Bruce Benson of CU, also repeatedly have cited steadily declining tax support for higher education as an important reason for giving colleges more freedom to manage their own finances

Counselor Corps gets its funding back

Proposed 2011-12 funding for the Colorado Counselor Corps has been on a roller coaster ever since budget deliberations starts months ago.

The Joint Budget Committee proposed cutting it to about $2.5 million, the Senate bumped it back to $5 million and the House took the number back down to $2.5 million.

Tuesday, meeting as a conference committee to reconcile the different House and Senate versions of Senate Bill 11-209, the long appropriations bill, the JBC voted 4-2 to restore $5 million for the corps.

The final version of the budget still has to be approved by both houses. But by this time of the session, the other 94 lawmakers are so sick of the budget they usually agree to the JBC’s compromise version.

The committee deadlocked 3-3 on a motion to restore $30,000 in funding for family literacy centers, another Department of Education program.

Two studies advance, two die

The Legislative Council gathered first thing Tuesday morning for a new job – prioritizing and then voting on bills and resolutions that propose various legislative studies to be done after the session ends.

Three related to education were on the list of 12.

Approved was Senate Bill 11-111, which proposes a study of how to help students negotiate school transitions (like middle to high school) and how to reduce college remediation rates. Also approved was Senate Bill 11-133, which proposes a study of school discipline methods and which methods are inappropriately used.

The panel defeated House Bill 11-1184, which proposed studying of new ways to fund higher education. Also defeated was Senate Joint Resolution 11-033, which proposed a panel to review a University of Denver tax study that a previous legislature requested. That study isn’t finished.

While Legislature Council long had had a role in deciding which interim studies are supported with legislative funds and staff, a recent law has given it expanded power to prioritize projects and vote them up or down, just like a regular committee in either house.

So, members were feeling their way through the sometimes-cumbersome process, punctuated by jokes and laughter during the more confused portions of the 90-minute session.

The measures that survived Tuesday’s review still have to be passed by the full House and Senate to go into effect.

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.”