Who Is In Charge

Open bargaining bill killed

IllustrationThe five members of the Senate State Affairs Committee listened politely to witnesses and then voted 3-2 Wednesday to kill House Bill 12-1118, which would have required that school district collective bargaining sessions be open to the public.

Also Wednesday, a House committee significantly downsized a bill that would allow expansion of gambling, with part of the proceeds going to community colleges and to scholarships.

Bargaining bill was expected to fall

The panel’s three Democrats provided the majority necessary to kill the measure, which had only Republican sponsors and which was opposed by such traditional Democratic allies as the Colorado Education Association. The bill had passed the House, where Republicans hold a one-vote majority, on a 33-31 vote.

Hearing testimony mirrored much of what was said last month during a House State Affairs Committee session.

Sponsor Sen. Ted Harvey, R-Highlands Ranch, said open negotiations are needed “to make sure that the taxpayers have the ability to come in and see what’s happening with their tax dollars.” He said the bill would help restore public trust in government.

Walt Cooper, Cheyenne Mountain district superintendent and a representative of the Colorado Association of School Executives, opposed the bill, saying the decision to open bargaining sessions should be up to local school boards and unions. Greg Romberg, lobbyist for the Colorado Press Association and Colorado Broadcasters Association, urged passage, saying the bill was a logical extension of the state open meetings law.

Perhaps the most interesting witness was Tiffany Vaughn, who identified herself as a Douglas County teacher and parent. Although she said she’s a member of the Douglas County Federation of Teachers, she was critical of the union. She argued that because negotiations are closed, “We cannot be assured that the AFT union leadership is actually representing us. … Teachers should be able to see if their unions are truly representing them.”

The bill was formally opposed by CASE and CEA. The Colorado Association of School Boards listed itself as “monitoring” the bill, but lobbyists for the Cherry Creek and Littleton districts were registered as opposing the bill.

Districts and unions currently can choose open negotiations, and three districts have that system.

Gaming bill gets pared down

Statehouse observers have been wondering about the prospects for House Bill 12-1280, which originally proposed to allow creation of three locations with video gambling devices, two along the Front Range and one on the Western Slope, with part of the revenues going to community colleges and to college scholarships.

Under terms of the original bill, community colleges would get an annual cut of up to $29 million from potential revenues, and a state scholarship fund theoretically would receive as much as $43 million. The Building Excellent Schools Today school construction program also would get a cut of the revenue

The bill was the subject of a lively House Agriculture Committee hearing on Feb. 22, but no vote was taken, apparently because there wasn’t a majority for passage of the bill. (See story about that hearing.)

Cripple Creek
Cripple Creek

Debate over the bill is the latest skirmish in the long-running feud between horse racing interests, primarily a company named Mile High Racing and Entertainment, and casinos in Black Hawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. Casinos fear that allowing video gaming devices in population centers along the Front Range would decimate their business.

The casinos seem to have won a round Wednesday, when the bill came back up in House Agriculture.

Rep. Don Corum, R-Montrose, moved a successful amendment that would limit the bill to one gambling establishment on the Western Slope, erasing any chances that gaming halls would be located in Arapahoe County and Pueblo, as some supporters had hoped. The amendment also requires the casino be located at least 100 miles away from any of the three gambling towns. (Possible locations are thought to be near the fairgrounds in Montrose or Grand Junction.) Corum is one of the prime sponsors of the bipartisan bill.

Reducing the number of potential locations would reduce the expected net revenue from the project to $34 million in 2013-14, raising questions about whether community colleges would get their full $29 million and about how much would be left for a scholarship fund. A successful amendment by Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Grand County, would take $4 million a year off the top for state tourism promotion efforts.

“It feels like we’re doing less for colleges now,” said Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora.

The bill passed the committee 7-6, with Republicans and Democrats on both sides of the roll call.

The measure is expected to have a rough road ahead. Casino interests argue the whole idea is an unconstitutional expansion of gambling. The bill proposes to put the new gambling hall under the Colorado Lottery Commission – the gaming devices are described in the bill as “video lottery terminals.” But opponents argue it should be approved by voters and be regulated by the Limited Gaming Control Commission.

One more step for Adams State

After a brief but cordial session with President David Svaldi and two trustees, the Senate Education Committee Wednesday voted 6-0 for House Bill 12-1080, which would turn Adams State College into Adams State University.

A bill upgrading Metro State to university status already has passed both houses, and a measure to change Western State College to Western State Colorado University is pending in the House.

During a Senate Ed confirmation hearing last week, two prospective Fort Lewis College trustees were asked if their college also is contemplating a name change. They said no.

For the record

The House Wednesday voted 61-3 for House Bill 12-1043, which would require districts to do a better job of informing students about dual high school-college enrollment options. The measure started out proposing creation of a new concurrent enrollment program, but school district lobbyists, their clients concerned about the potential costs, worked out a compromise with sponsor Rep. Kathleen Conti, R-Littleton.

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

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.”