Who Is In Charge

Tight budget bill now law

Gov. John Hickenlooper Friday signed Senate Bill 11-209, the $7 billion 2011-12 state budget bill that got started with Gov. Bill Ritter submitting a plan to the Joint Budget Committee last November.

Hickenlooper issued a modified proposal in February, followed by weeks of wrangling as legislative leaders tried to figure out how to handle the budget in a General Assembly with split partisan control.

For education, the net result of the eventual budget compromise is a $227.5 million cut in K-12 total program funding for next year, down from the $332 million originally proposed by Hickenlooper. Some school districts may share an additional $67.5 million next January, but only if the 2010-11 budget year ends with a larger surplus than previously forecast. (Get more details in this story.)

The state’s higher education system is taking a cut of about $125 million in state funding, which now is only about a quarter of college and university revenue. Higher ed now relies primarily on student tuition and fees. The University of Colorado recently set its rates for next year (see story), and other boards of trustees will follow suit his month and next.

Hickenlooper Friday signed several other budget-package bills, including Senate Bill 11-218, which sweeps money from several small and inactive special funds in the Department of Education into the State Education Fund.

And, the House gave preliminary approval Friday to Senate Bill 11-076, yet another budget-related measure. That bill will produce savings by continuing a plan under which the state and universities reduce their contributions to employee pensions, with that loss offset by higher deductions from workers’ paychecks.

That bill, and a resolution allowing the transfer of some tobacco lawsuit settlement money, has to pass in order for the overall 2011-12 budget to be balanced, as required by the state constitution. If that pair isn’t approved (it’s expected the two bills will be), Hickenlooper said he’ll have to restrict spending elsewhere in the budget, including $20 million in school funding for next year.

The governor also vetoed eight footnotes in the budget bill, including three that put specific requirements on three areas of Department of Education spending. Hickenlooper said he was instructing the department to follow the intent of the three footnotes but that the legislature violated the constitutional separation of powers by being too specific in how money could be spent. (Read the governor’s letter for details on the footnote vetoes.)

Elsewhere at the statehouse

Colorado lawmakers did manage to evacuate the Capitol by late afternoon Friday, leaving a pile of work for the last three days of the 2011 session next week.

Although other issues are sparking the high-profile debates as the sessions nears its end, several bills relating to education moved on the floor and in committee on Friday.

On the floor

The House gave final approval to these education bills:

  • Senate Bill 11-111 – Authorizing study of student transitions and remediation, 63-0
  • Senate Bill 11-133 – Approving a study of school discipline measures, 63-0
  • Senate Bill 11-204 – Updating the role and mission of Colorado State University-Pueblo and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 63-0
  • Senate Bill 11-265 – Mesa State name change to Colorado Mesa University, 60-3

All but SB 11-111, which was amended in the House, go to Hickenlooper for signature.

The House also rejected Senate amendments to House Bill 11-1254, the bullying bill, sending it to conference committee and adding a small note of suspense to the session’s final days.

The Senate voted 34-0 to pass Senate Bill 11-266, which requires background checks for employees of contractors who work for schools. Criminal background checks, of course, already are required for teachers, other licensed professionals and other employees of schools.

In committee

The clock may be ticking on the 2011 legislation session, but that didn’t stop panel members from giving the full Senate Education Committee treatment – multiple amendments, lengthy questioning and nitpicking of details – to House Bill 11-1301 Friday afternoon.

Sponsor Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, looked increasingly exasperated as the hearing dragged on.

The measure, pushed primarily by CU, would give colleges and universities increased flexibility on a variety of financial and administrative matters, including student fees, employee benefits, hiring, construction and others.

A sensitive part of the bill is the proposal to free colleges from the requirement to buy office furniture from the state’s prison industries. Some lawmakers fear that would cripple the industries program. The House added some protections, and Senate Ed approved an amendment that would delay for a year lifting of that requirement.

The committee also passed an amendment requiring a college to give 12 months’ notice to the Department of Personnel and Administration if it wants to opt out of state health insurance for classified employees and offer its own plan. That’s intended to give the state time to figure out if withdrawal of college employees would hurt the state plan financially. The governor would be the ultimate arbiter of disputes.

The House Education Committee voted 12-0 to pass Senate Bill 11-245, which updates state law on Department of Higher Education oversight of some teacher preparation programs, and 11-1 to pass Senate Bill 11-240, which would put the private occupational schools board under the state’s sunset law.

At the request of sponsor Rep. Jim Kerr, R-Lakewood, the House State Affairs Committee killed House Bill 11-1248, which would have reduced worker and retiree membership on the Public Employee’s Retirement Association Board and added gubernatorial appointees.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.