Who Is In Charge

Education bills sideswiped

Four important 2012 education bills have died because of the Colorado House’s late-night impasse over Senate Bill 12-002, the civil unions bill.

Rumors were rife at the Capitol this morning that Senate Democrats might try to graft dead bills onto other measures that are still alive. Possible maneuvers include attaching the school discipline bill onto an education laws cleanup measure. The school finance act also could be target of otherwise-unlikely amendments.

Legislature 2012 logoThe dead bills include:

Senate Bill 12-172, which would have required the State Board of Education to commit Colorado to one of two groups developing multi-state achievement tests in language arts and math.

Senate Bill 12-046, which would have eliminated most zero-tolerance school discipline requirements, given school districts more flexibility in discipline and encouraged schools to reduce use of expulsions, suspensions and referrals to police.

Senate Bill 12-047, which would have provided state funding to districts that chose to administer basic skills testing such as the Accuplacer to high school students.

Senate Bill 12-164, which would have modernized state regulation of for-profit colleges that offer bachelors and graduate degrees and added some consumer protections for students.

The discipline and higher education bills were the products of extensive negotiations and development by lawmakers, state officials and interest group, so months of work have been wasted. Failure to pass the bills isn’t necessarily disruptive for state schools or colleges, but it does delay reforms sought by a wide variety of policymakers and groups.

The state constitution requires that bills receive preliminary and final floor consideration on different days. All of these bills were scheduled for preliminary consideration Tuesday, meaning they had to pass by midnight in order to receive final votes today, the last day of the 2012 session. A total of 31 bills suffered the same fate, according to our partners at State Bill Colorado.

Senate Bil 12-068, the proposed ban on added trans fats in school foods, did get preliminary House approval Tuesday evening. The two biggest education bills of the session, the 2012-13 school finance act and the early childhood literacy bill, were not affected by the impasse.

House Republican leaders didn’t want to bring the civil unions bill to the floor, where it was expected to pass. The game of political chicken with Democrats kept representatives off the floor for much of Tuesday evening, running out the clock for civil unions and the other bills.

Some lawmakers are urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to call a special session for consideration of the civil unions bill. It’s unknown if he will do that, or if he will include other issues if he does.

Historically, special sessions are limited to consideration of one issue, or to very few. The governor’s formal written “call” for a special session limits the subjects to be covered, so crafting a call that includes multiple topics but excludes other issues could be tricky.


Aurora’s superintendent will get a contract extension

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

The Aurora school board is offering superintendent Rico Munn a contract extension.

Marques Ivey, the school board president, made the announcement during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

“The board of education believes we are headed in the right direction,” Ivey said. Munn can keep the district going in the right direction, he added.

The contract extension has not been approved yet. Munn said Tuesday night that it had been sent to his lawyer, but he had not had time to review it.

Munn took the leadership position in Aurora Public Schools in 2013. His current contract is set to expire at the end of June.

Munn indicated he intends to sign the new contract after he has time to review it. If he does so, district leaders expect the contract to be on the agenda of the board’s next meeting, April 3, for a first review, and then for a vote at the following meeting.

Details about the new offer, including the length of the extension or any salary increases, have not been made public.

Four of the seven members currently on the board were elected in November as part of a union-supported slate. Many voiced disapproval of some of the superintendent’s reform strategies such as his invitation to charter school network DSST to open in Aurora.

In their first major vote as a new board, the board also voted against the superintendent’s recommendation for the turnaround of an elementary school, signaling a disagreement with the district’s turnaround strategies.

But while several Aurora schools remain low performing, last year the district earned a high enough rating from the state to avoid a path toward state action.

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.”