Who Is In Charge

Session goes down to the wire

Nearly two-dozen education bills remain short of the finish line as the Colorado General Assembly races to meet a Wednesday adjournment deadline. Passage of most of those bills is expected amid the last-minute confusion, but there are some key issues to watch. Here’s a look:

Colorado CapitolSchool finance – The $5.3 billion school funding bill for 2012-13 has a Senate committee hearing Monday morning, meaning preliminary floor debate could come later in the day, with final passage Tuesday. House Bill 12-1345 will then return to the House for consideration of Senate amendments. While the funding plan at the center of the bill isn’t in dispute, the measure could be a vehicle for “statement” amendments intended to spark floor debate over the Lobato v. State school funding case.

Literacy – The much-amended, much-compromised House Bill 12-1238 is intended to improve outcomes for K-3 students who struggle with reading. It’s awaiting House approval of Senate amendments.

Testing – Senate Bill 12-172 would require the State Board of Education to commit Colorado to one of two multi-state testing programs. It’s the only major education bill that still faces its first House committee hearing. This is one that could go down to the wire on Wednesday.

Discipline – The first House floor consideration of Senate Bill 12-046 is scheduled for Monday, meaning that if all goes smoothly final passage could come on Tuesday. There’s little disagreement over the bill’s policy goal of eliminating most school zero-tolerance policies, and it appears that concerns have been eased about the bill’s data-reporting requirements.

Sales tax holiday – House Bill 12-1069 also needs Senate Committee review and then two floor votes. There’s a bit of uncertainty lingering over the holiday for back-to-school purchases, but the bill does have strong bipartisan sponsorship in the Senate.

Trans fats – Senate Bill 12-068, which would ban added trans fats in some school foods, is to have its first House floor debate Monday. There’s not a lot of lawmaker enthusiasm for this measure, but it’s been significantly watered down in order to reduce opposition.

Catching up

Here’s an update on the fate of some other education bills considered late last week.

House Bill 12-1333 – This Republican bill, which would have allowed teachers to withdraw from unions at any time, rather than only during specified periods, was killed on a 3-2 party-line vote early Thursday morning in the Senate State Affairs Committee.

House Bill 12-1306 – This proposal would have allowed school districts that gained students after the Oct. 1 count date to seek extra per-pupil funding from the Department of Education at the end of the school year. Republicans Sen. Keith King of Colorado Springs and Rep. Chris Holbert of Parker introduced the bill in response to criticisms that large numbers of online school dropouts were returning to regular schools that weren’t receiving funding for them.

During the draining Senate Education Committee meeting Thursday night, King again mentioned legislative staff research that indicated the problem was a small one and then asked that the bill be killed, saying he’d made his point. (King also had concerns that Democrats might try to amend provisions onto the bill that he didn’t want.)

House Bill 12-179 – This measure was an attempt by Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass, to deflect criticism from the Building Excellent Schools Today program. Some BEST projects have had construction deficiencies linked to a Fort Collins engineering firm. It would have changed review of construction plans and also altered the BEST board. Education lobbyists didn’t like the bill, the Senate Education Committee wrestled with it twice and the Senate Appropriations Committee killed it during a brief late-afternoon meeting on Friday.

The calendar

Here’s the schedule of education bills as issued by legislative staff on Friday. Consider it an approximation, because things can be fluid during the last days. Check here for links to the full calendars of all bills, resolutions and other business.

MONDAY

10 a.m. – House final consideration

  • Senate Bill 12-160 – Membership of state parent advisory council

House preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-1109 – Budget cuts elsewhere in state government to fund education
  • Senate Bill 12-051 – Suggested contracting procedures for school districts
  • Senate Bill 12-068 – Ban on added trans fats in some school foods
  • Senate Bill 12-046 – Reform of school discipline policies

House consideration of resolutions

  • HJR 12-1023 – Legislative legal intervention in Lobato v. State

10 a.m. – Senate preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-1240 – Education law cleanup bill, including some CAP4K delays

Upon floor adjournment – House Appropriations Committee, room TBA

  • Consideration of bills as assigned, such as late-moving Senate measures

Upon floor adjournment – Senate Appropriations Committee, room 356

  • House Bill 12-1345 – School finance act
  • House Bill 12-1261 – Stipends for board-certified teachers in high-needs schools
  • House Bill 12-1069 – Back-to-school sales tax holiday

1:30 p.m. – House Education Committee, room 0112

  • Senate Bill 12-172 – Multistate testing

TUESDAY

9 a.m. – House preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-1252 – Online financial transparency requirements for some universities
  • Senate Bill 12-164 – Regulation of for-profit colleges

9 a.m. – Senate preliminary consideration

  • House Bill 12-14 – Technical measure on dental hygienist degrees
  • House Bill 12-1155 – Reform of higher education remediation methods

WEDNESDAY

Whatever’s left over

Both chambers, particularly the House, have amendments to consider before final re-passage of bills. The most important measure on this list is the literacy bill, and none are expected to be contentious. Here’s the lineup:

House consideration of Senate amendments

  • House Bill 12-1081 – Financial flexibility powers of Auraria Higher Education Center
  • House Bill 12-1324 – Admissions standards of Colorado Mesa University
  • House Bill 12-1124 – Commissioning of digital learning study
  • House Bill 12-1043 – Concurrent enrollment modifications
  • House Bill 12-1086 – Ratification of state agency regulations, including SB 10-191 appeals rules
  • House Bill 12-1238 – Early literacy

Senate consideration of House amendments

  • Senate Bill 12-036 – Requirement of parent consent for most school surveys

The Senate also still has to vote on numerous gubernatorial appointments, including positions on the Metro State and Western State trustees and the boards of the community college system, CollegeInvest and the Charter School Institute Board.

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.”