Who Is In Charge

Prop 103 donations nearing $175,000

Support Schools for a Bright Colorado – the primary group backing Proposition 103, a measure to temporarily raise state income and sales taxes to fund schools – has now raised almost $175,000, including $22,000 in the past six weeks, campaign finance reports filed with the Secretary of State this week show.

Voting check imageThe largest single contribution by far is a $100,000 donation in mid-June from the Gary-Williams Company, the primary funder of the Piton Foundation, a private foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children in Colorado. An earlier $100,000 gift to the Bright Colorado campaign was made by the Piton Investment Fund. That check was returned at the donor’s request, and a new check was issued from the Gary-Williams business account, the filings show.

The second-largest donation comes from the Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers, which contributed $12,000 at the end of July. Other large contributions during this reporting period include $5,000 from Colorado WINS, which represents 31,000 state employees; $1,200 from Impact on Education, a Boulder County-based education advocacy group; $1,000 from civic leader Caz Matthews, the former president of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield; and $1,000 from investment firm Stifel Nicolaus.

Other earlier large donations include $5,000 from the Arc of Colorado, which advocates for people with development disabilities; and $10,000 from Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder, who has been the driving force behind this initiative all along.

“This is not going to be a glitzy campaign,” Heath said Wednesday. “We don’t think it will be a huge-dollar campaign. The ballots come out on Oct. 12, so there’s not a lot of time to spend a lot of money.”

Heath said he hopes the campaign can, nevertheless, raise another $200,000 or so.

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Under Heath’s leadership, the initiative backers obtained enough signatures on petitions to get it placed on the November ballot.

If passed, the measure would raise the state income tax to 5 percent from its current 4.63 percent and the state sales tax to 3 percent from 2.9 percent, their levels in 1999. The increases would be in effect for five years, generating an estimated $550 million per year to be earmarked for increased funding of school districts and state colleges.

The latest round of contributions brings the group’s total amount raised to $173,765. Expenditures, meanwhile, have totaled $167,829, with the bulk of that – just over $131,000 – going to political consultant Samuel F. Lopez.

One other group, Great Education Colorado Action Fund, has thus far reported a single $1,000 donation from its parent group, Great Education Colorado, in support of the initiative, and reports receiving an additional $6,800 worth of non-monetary contributions.

A group organized to defeat the initiative, Too Taxing for Colorado, has so far raised $677, and has spent $306, most of it going to create a website.

“We’re talking pennies compared to what has happened for some of these big spenders,” said Penn Pfiffner, chairman of Too Taxing for Colorado.

He compared the current campaign to the 2008 Amendment 59 campaign, which would have created a savings account for education in Colorado using money that otherwise would have been refunded to taxpayers under the state’s TABOR Amendment. Despite heavy spending by proponents and minimal spending by opposition, the initiative was defeated by voters 54 to 46 percent.

“If anything, we’ll see a repeat of that this year,” Pfiffner said.

Disclosure: The Piton Foundation is a funder of Education News Colorado.

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.”