Who Is In Charge

A little dustup in Senate Ed

The proposal to provide state stipends for nationally board certified teachers was laid over abruptly in the Senate Education Committee Thursday after a sharp disagreement between the Democratic vice-chair and a Republican member over an amendment.

Colorado CapitolHouse Bill 12-1261 would provide $1,600 annual stipends to teachers who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and $4,800 payments to such teachers who work in schools that are accredited with turnaround or priority improvement status. (The bill would continue an existing but unfunded law that’s due to expire.)

Colorado has 641 certified teachers out of about 95,000 nationwide, according to testimony Thursday.

The bill started in the House with an entirely different proposal for encouraging experienced teachers to work in low-performing schools. But sponsor Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, had it amended to focus on stipends for certified teachers.

But the bill’s title doesn’t say anything about board certified teachers, and Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, questioned whether the measure could go forward because of that. (Colorado legislative rules are fairly tight about what a bill can contain under the wording of its title.)

“It came from the House this way, and the chair of the House Education Committee thought it fit just fine,” said sponsor Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.

“How can we pass a bill that doesn’t do what the title says?” asked Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial.

Bacon is committee chair but wasn’t presiding because he was presenting the bill. Vice Chair Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, wasn’t in the room for part of the discussion but returned before King started to offer amendments that would add professional development funding for teachers at low-performing schools and bonuses when such schools improve.

She abruptly ruled that his first amendment didn’t fit under the title, prompting a sharp reaction from King: “This has been a very collegial education committee this year, [but] this is disgusting.”

Bacon told Hudak to lay the bill over and adjourn the meeting. After the gavel fell, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, worked his way around the committee table, trying to cool down tempers.

(Get more details on the bill in this legislative staff analysis.)

For the record

The House Thursday gave final 64-1 approval to House Bill 12-1335, the main state budget bill for 2012-13. Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker and a member of House Education, was the only no vote. House Bill 12-1338 passed on a 65-0 vote. It requires that any surplus state revenues be transferred to the State Education Fund at the end of this fiscal year and at the end of 2012-13. (A minimum $59 million would be transferred at the end of this year.)

The Senate Finance Committee voted 4-3 (Democrats yes, Republicans no) to kill House Bill 12-1150, which would have required that Public Employees’ Retirement Association benefits be calculated on the highest seven years of salary, not on the three years used now. It would have applied only to new employees. It was the sixth of seven GOP-backed PERA bills killed so far this session.

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

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.

Asking the candidates

How to win over Northwest Side voters: Chicago aldermen candidates hone in on high school plans

PHOTO: Cassie Walker Burke / Chalkbeat Chicago
An audience member holds up a green sign showing support at a forum for Northwest side aldermanic candidates. The forum was sponsored by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

The residents filing into the auditorium of Sharon Christa McAuliffe Elementary School Friday wanted to know a few key things from the eager aldermanic candidates who were trying to win their vote.

People wanted to know which candidates would build up their shrinking open-enrollment high schools and attract more students to them.

They also wanted specifics on how the aldermen, if elected, would coax developers to build affordable housing units big enough for families, since in neighborhoods such as Logan Square and Hermosa, single young adults have moved in, rents have gone up, and some families have been pushed out.

As a result, some school enrollments have dropped.

Organized by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Friday’s event brought together candidates from six of the city’s most competitive aldermanic races. Thirteen candidates filled the stage, including some incumbents, such as Aldermen Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st  Ward), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward), and Milly Santiago (31st Ward).

They faced tough questions — drafted by community members and drawn at random from a hat — about bolstering high school enrollment, recruiting more small businesses, and paving the way for more affordable housing.

When the audience members agreed with their positions, they waved green cards, with pictures of meaty tacos. When they heard something they didn’t like, they held up red cards, with pictures of fake tacos.

Red cards weren’t raised much. But the green cards filled the air when candidates shared ideas for increasing the pull of area open-enrollment high schools by expanding dual-language programs and the rigorous International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Related: Can a program designed for British diplomats fix Chicago schools? 

“We want our schools to be dual language so people of color can keep their roots alive and keep their connections with their families,” said Rossana Rodriguez, a mother of a Chicago Public Schools’ preschooler and one of challengers to incumbent Deb Mell in the city’s 33rd Ward.  

Mell didn’t appear at the forum, but another candidate vying for that seat did: Katie Sieracki, who helps run a small business. Sieracki said she’d improve schools by building a stronger feeder system between the area’s elementary schools, which are mostly K-8, and the high schools.

“We need to build bridges between our local elementary schools and our high schools, getting buy-in from new parents in kindergarten to third grade, when parents are most engaged in their children’s education,” she said.

Sieracki said she’d also work to design an apprenticeship program that connects area high schools with small businesses.

Green cards also filled the air when candidates pledged to reroute tax dollars that are typically used for developer incentives for school improvement instead.

At the end of the forum, organizers asked the 13 candidates to pledge to vote against new tax increment financing plans unless that money went to schools. All 13 candidates verbally agreed.

Aldermen have limited authority over schools, but each of Chicago’s 50 ward representatives receives a $1.32 million annual slush fund that be used for ward improvements, such as playgrounds, and also can be directed to education needs. And “aldermanic privilege,” a longtime concept in Chicago, lets representatives give the thumbs up or down to developments like new charters or affordable housing units, which can affect school enrollment.

Related: 7 questions to ask your aldermanic candidates about schools

Aldermen can use their position to forge partnerships with organizations and companies that can provide extra support and investment to local schools.

A January poll showed that education was among the top three concerns of voters in Chicago’s municipal election. Several candidates for mayor have recently tried to position themselves as the best candidate for schools in TV ads.