Who Is In Charge

Reverse transfer bill passes Senate

Updated 9:45 a.m. – The Senate Thursday voted 33-0 to pass Senate Bill, 12-045, the measure that would allow students to combine credits from both community and four-year colleges to qualify for an associate’s degree. The measure now goes to the House.

The Senate also gave unanimous final approval to two measures intended to improve the operations and authorization of charter schools, Senate Bills 12-061 and 12067.

Text of Wednesday story follows.

The Senate gave preliminary approval Wednesday to Senate Bill, 12-045, the measure that would allow students to combine credits from both community and four-year colleges to qualify for an associate’s degree.

The bill, developed by a study committee that met last summer, is touted as a way to increase the number of state residents with college degrees and create a more educated workforce.

“This bill is going to be really good for jobs and the economy,” argued prime sponsor Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster.

Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, also came to the microphone to chime in that “This is a jobs bill.” Shaffer and Senate Democrats are pushing a variety of bills this year they believe will encourage creation of more jobs.

The bill was significantly amended last week by the Senate Education Committee to require students to initiate the process of assembling credits for an associate’s degree. The original version of the bill would have required colleges to do the work of determining which students were eligible. That was opposed by higher education lobbyists because of the potential cost.

Hudak alluded to that compromise, saying, “We had to figure out a way to make this process work … in a financially feasible manner.”

Senate Ed waters down another bill

Later in the day, Senate Education took up Senate Bill 12-047, the proposal by Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, to require all high school students take a skills assessment like the Accuplacer, with the state paying districts for the costs of the tests.

Legislature 2012 logoThe idea is that giving such tests in high school would provide early warning of student deficiencies and give high schools the chance to catch students up before they get to college – and need remediation.

The committee approved an amendment that would make use of the tests voluntary for school districts. But the bill still contains language that would allow spending of up to $1 million from the State Education Fund to pay for tests. The panel approved the amended bill 5-0, and it now moves to the Senate Appropriations Committee because of its price tag.

The committee also unanimously approved Senate Bill 12-057, originally intended to exempt teachers of Native American languages from state teacher licensing requirements. That attracted the interest of various education interest groups, and the totally rewritten version of the bill passed by the committee includes various special requirements for such teachers.

Interesting enrollment count bill surfaces

House Bill 12-1306, a suggested solution to the issue of school districts having to take new students after the Oct. 1 enrollment count date and thereby not receiving funds for those students, was introduced Wednesday.

The bill would create a mechanism by which school districts and Charter School Institute schools that gained pupils after the Oct. 1 count could claim reimbursement from the state for the extra pupils. According to the bill text, this is directed at the issue of online students returning to traditional schools after the count date, so schools would be compensated at the online per-pupil rate. Additional enrollment would be measured by the number of students who took state math tests and the 11th grade ACT test in the spring compared to the Oct. 1 count.

The bill is sponsored by King and Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker. The lack of a Democratic cosponsor in a divided legislature could be an impediment.

Charter bills advance in Senate

The Senate Wednesday also gave preliminary approval to two charter school bills.

Senate Bill 12-061 would add to the current requirements for charter school applications, change application filing and decision deadlines, impose new requirements on charter school authorizers and create new standards for revoking the charters of struggling schools.

Senate Bill 12-067 would require all charter schools to be incorporated as non-profits and would prohibit school boards and the Charter School Institute from approving charter applications submitted by for-profit entities. Supporters say the bill wouldn’t affect any current charters.

Both bills stemmed from proposals developed by a study commission that was formed in 2010 in the wake of the management and financial problems of the Cesar Chavez Charter School Network. The bills have sparked little debate so far in the 2012 session.

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

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.”

Civil action

Detroit school board to protesters: Please remain civil. Protesters to school board: You’re naive

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore speaks with her supporters from the stage at Mumford High School. Her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to the meeting's abrupt ending.

A day after the Detroit school board abruptly ended a meeting that was disrupted by protesters, the meeting is being rescheduled, while the board president is making an appeal for civility.

“The board is extremely disappointed that the regularly scheduled meeting tonight was adjourned early due to extreme disruptive behavior from several audience members,” school board president Iris Taylor wrote in a statement issued late Tuesday, several hours after the meeting’s chaotic end.

“It is our hope moving forward that the community will remain civil and respectful of the elected Board and the process to conduct public meetings. We must be allowed to conduct the business the community elected us to do.”

The drama Tuesday night came from a large group of parents and community members, led by activist Helen Moore, who packed the board meeting to raise concerns about a number of issues.

Moore had sent the school board an email requesting an opportunity to address the meeting Tuesday on issues including her strong objection to the news that Taylor and Superintendent Nikolai Vitti had attended a meeting with Mayor Mike Duggan and leaders of city charter schools to discuss the possibility of working together.

The mayor, in his state of the city address last week, discussed the meeting, calling it “almost historic,” and said district and charter school leaders had agreed to collaborate on a student transportation effort, and on a school rating system that would assign letter grades to Detroit district and charter schools.

When Taylor told Moore during the meeting that she would not be allowed to give her presentation Tuesday night, saying she had not gotten Moore’s request in time to put it on Tuesday’s agenda, Moore and her supporters angrily shouted at the board and proceeded to heckle and object to statements during the meeting.

The meeting was ultimately ended during a discussion about the Palmer Park Preparatory Academy, a school whose classes are being relocated to other district buildings for the rest of the year because of urgent roof repairs and the possibility of mold in the building.

As Moore shouted over Vitti’s discussion about the school, Taylor ordered that the 81-year-old activist be escorted from the Mumford High School auditorium where the meeting was being held. That triggered an angry response from her supporters and ultimately brought the meeting to a close.

The current Detroit school board came into existence a little over a year ago when the state returned city schools to Detroiters after years of control by state-appointed emergency managers.

The board’s swearing-in last January was heralded as a fresh start for a new district — now called the Detroit Public Schools Community District — that had been freed from years of debts encumbered by the old Detroit Public Schools.

Since then, meetings have been interrupted by the occasional heckler or protester, but they’ve largely remained orderly, without a lot of the noise and drama that had been typical of school board meetings in the past.

In her statement Tuesday night, Taylor lamented that the new school board wasn’t able to get to most of the items on its agenda.

“Detroiters have fought long and hard to have a locally elected board to govern our schools,” Taylor wrote. “It would be shameful to have our rights revoked again for impediments. It sets a poor example for the students we all represent, and it will not be tolerated by this Board.”

Wednesday morning, Moore said she plans to continue her vocal advocacy, even if it’s disruptive.

“If that’s the only avenue we have to get our point across, when they don’t allow us to speak, then we must take every avenue,” Moore said. “Time is of the essence with our children. And they spend too much time with distractions, listening to the mayor, listening to the corporations, and not listening to people who have children in the public schools.”

Moore, who is active with an organization called Keep the Vote/No Takeover Coalition and with the National Action Network, said she fought for years for Detroiters to again have a locally elected school board. City residents did not have control of their schools for most of the last two decades.

“We worked like crazy,” Moore said, but she asserts that most school board members are “naive.”

“They don’t know the history,” she said. “They need to be educated and that goes for Dr. Vitti too. We need to educate them and that was a first start.”

The board has scheduled a special meeting for 12:30 p.m. Thursday at its Fisher Building headquarters where it can return to its unfinished business from Tuesday.

PHOTO: Erin Einhorn
Detroit activist Helen Moore waved to her fellow activisits from the stage at Mumford High School. She returned to the room after her removal from the auditorium prompted loud objections that led to a school board meeting’s abrupt ending on March 13, 2018.