Who Is In Charge

New bills: Literacy, gaming and more

House members return to work Wednesday facing more than 50 new bills in their file folders, including some key and interesting education measures.

IllustrationThe expected third-grade literacy measure was introduced as House Bill 12-1238. This year’s attempt to expand electronic gambling for help fund higher education came in as House Bill 12-1280.

Many lawmakers took most of the day off Tuesday to return to their districts for precinct caucuses, so the avalanche of new bills moved across the House front desk largely unnoticed by members.

The literacy bill, in the works for months, is expected to be the focus of one of the key education policy debates of 2012. An alliance of education reform and business groups are pushing the measure, and early literacy also is a priority for the Hickenlooper administration.

The proposal already has been the focus of extensive negotiations, partly because early versions proposed mandatory retention for third graders who didn’t meet specified test scores. That prompted lots of push back from wide segments of the education community.

The bill as introduced would rewrite the existing Colorado Basic Literacy Act and, starting in 2013-14, would create a detailed system for testing third-graders and determining their reading skills. Students who fell below a certain level would be recommended for retention, subject to discussions among parents, teachers and administrators. Superintendents would have the final say.

The measure would take money from the existing Read-to-Achieve program (and abolish that effort) to create a grant fund the Department of Education would use to help school districts pay for programs to help struggling students.

Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs
Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs
The 44-page bill has some powerhouse bipartisan sponsors, including Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and chair of the House Education Committee and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the author of 2010’s landmark teacher evaluation bill.

Bills have yet to be introduced on such key issues as regulation of online schools, school finance reform, revenue adjustments for the BEST program and modernizing regulation of for-profit colleges.

House Bill 12-1280 is sure to revive old debates about expansion of gambling and the needs of the higher education system. The bill has bipartisan sponsorship in both houses and proposes a complicated formula for distributing revenue from video gaming terminals to a college scholarship fund and a variety of other programs. The bill also includes geographic limits on where the new games could be offered.

The distribution formula and the limits appear to be efforts to defuse interest-group opposition that doomed similar efforts in past sessions.

Two other new education bills raise interesting ideas but may have a hard time advancing.

House Bill 12-1252 would require state colleges and universities to post various kinds of financial information online, much as other state agencies are required to do. In recent years higher education institutions, pointing out continually decreasing state support, have won large amounts of financial autonomy from the state and may well be resistant to a new mandate. The bill is sponsored by Rep. BJ Nikkel, R-Loveland, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, both of who are lame ducks.

Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, along with Massey and Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, is sponsoring House Bill 12-1261, which would given certain teachers, based on their effectiveness ratings, preference in applying for jobs at high-needs schools. The measure also would establish a fund, seeded with gifts, grants and donations that would be used to help recruit and retain such teachers.

House Bill 12-1240 is a CDE cleanup bill that, among other things, would delay development of statewide graduation guidelines and development of specialized kinds of high school diplomas.

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

names are in

Ten apply for vacant seat on the Memphis school board, but six live outside of seat’s district

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Former Shelby County Board of Education Chairwoman Teresa Jones confers with then Superintendent Dorsey Hopson during a 2015 school board meeting. Jones' seat is now up for an interim appointment.

Ten people have put their name in to become the next board member of Tennessee’s largest school district.

The appointee will fill the seat Teresa Jones vacated following her recent appointment as a municipal court judge, and would serve until the term expires in August 2020, not October as previously reported.

The interim member will join the school board at a crucial time, amid the search for a new superintendent to replace Dorsey Hopson, who left the district in December. Currently, Joris Ray is serving as interim superintendent.

Jones’ district 2 serves neighborhoods including North Memphis, Binghampton, and Berclair. Chalkbeat found that six applicants live outside of the district. Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley said this would likely prevent them from an appointment, but the commission is seeking clarity from the state and election commission.

Whaley also said the interim appointment was extended to August 2020 because Tennessee law doesn’t specify that special elections are necessary for the school board, so the interim will finish out Jones’ term.

The county commission is scheduled to name a successor on Monday Feb. 25, a day before the school board’s meeting that month. The commission is slated to interview candidates Wednesday at 10 a.m., but Whaley said more names could be added by commissioners prior to the vote on Monday We’ve linked to their full applications below.

Applicants are:

Althea Greene

  • She is a retired teacher from Memphis City Schools and childcare supervisor with Shelby County Schools. She is currently Pastor of Real Life Ministries.

Arvelia Chambers

  • She is a senior certified pharmacy technician with Walgreens. She said she’s a “passionate aunt” of three children in Shelby County Schools.
  • Her listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Aubrey Howard

  • He works as the executive director of governmental and legislative affairs in the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. He formerly worked for the City of Memphis, and said in his application that he previously ran for school board and lost.

Charles McKinney

  • He is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and associate professor of history at Rhodes College. He is on the board of Crosstown High Charter School, and is the father of two Shelby County Schools students.

David Brown

  • He is the executive director of digital ministry at Brown Missionary Baptist Church and graduated from  Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly east of District 2.

Erskine Gillespie

  • Gillespie previously ran for City Council district 7 but lost. He is an account manager at the Lifeblood Mid-South Regional Blood Bank. He said in his application that he was one of the first students to enter the optional schools program in the Memphis district.

Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

  • He is a pastor at The New Olivet Worship Center and previously served as a school board member for the former Memphis City Schools; he was first elected in 2006. He has vocally opposed the process behind the 2013 merger of the city school system with legacy Shelby County Schools.
  • Whalum ran against school board member Kevin Woods in 2012 and lost.
  • His listed address is near the University of Memphis, not in District 2.

Makeda Porter-Carr

  • She is a research administrator at St. Jude Research Hospital.
  • Her listed address is in southeast Memphis, not in District 2.

Michael Hoffmeyer Sr.

  • He is the director of the University of Memphis’ Crews Center for Entrepreneurship in which he works with college and high school students. He graduated from Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Tyree Daniels

  • He helped found Memphis College Prep charter school. He lost to Jones in a school board race in 2012. Daniels is now a part of Duncan-Williams Inc. — the firm handling public financing for the project Union Row.
  • His listed address is in east Memphis, not in District 2.

Raise your voice

Memphis, what do you want in your next school superintendent?

PHOTO: Kyle Kurlick for Chalkbeat

Tennessee’s largest school district needs a permanent leader. What kind of superintendent do you think Shelby County Schools should be looking for?

Now is the chance to raise your voice. The school board is in the thick of finalizing a national search and is taking bids from search firms. Board members say they want a leader to replace former superintendent Dorsey Hopson in place within 18 months. They have also said they want community input in the process, though board members haven’t specified what that will look like. In the interim, career Memphis educator Joris Ray is at the helm.

Let us know what you think is most important in the next superintendent.  Select responses will be published.