Who Is In Charge

Ideas emerging from TBD Colorado

PUEBLO – Education and state constitutional issues are emerging as the top two areas of concern for those participating in the TBD Colorado initiative launched earlier this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Word cloud
Word cloud of discussion topics at a recent TBD Colorado meeting.

The first wave of multi-regional citizen summits for TBD Colorado – TBD stands for To Be Determined – was held in three locations around the state late last week, and some issues are rising to the top.

”For anybody who has been paying attention, those two (education and the constitution) have been intertwined for some time,” said participant Dave Dill of Pueblo.

He noted, “The amount of funds that the state has, that it can allocate to something, was greatly reduced by” such provisions as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits state and local revenues, and the Gallagher Amendment, which lays out rules for property taxes. The two are widely considered to create conflicts that restrict state government in budgeting.

People who participated in recent TBD meetings across the state were offered a menu of six broad issues and were asked to select which two Colorado should focus on in the next two years. Those issues are education, health, state budget, state workforce, transportation and the constitution.

The priorities identified by nearly 1,400 respondents were:

  • Education – 28.5 percent
  • Constitutional issues – 23.3 percent
  • State budget – 22.2 percent
  • Health – 13.7 percent
  • Transportation – 8.4 percent
  • State workforce – 1.6 percent

Another 2.24 percent said all six topics were “roughly equal” in importance.

“I think to me the most imperative thing to come out of this is to change, not just to repeal TABOR. I don’t know that that would be successful,” said Lee Merkel of Pueblo, a regional manager for the state Department of Local Affairs and TBD participant.

Participants also were polled on 10 other specific policy proposals. Here’s how opinion on some of those sorted out:

  • Creation of a uniform statewide property tax for schools. – 16.5 percent
  • Make preschool and full-day kindergarten universally available – 15.5 percent
  • Maintaining the transportation system and restoring the state income tax to pre-1999 levels – both at 11.52 percent
  • Providing healthy food choices for students – 6.96 percent
  • Ensuring rural road safety and reliability – 6.16 percent
  • Providing physical education in schools – 6.01 percent

At the Pueblo session last Saturday, participants were asked whether they strongly agreed, agreed, were neutral, disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “I support a constitutional convention.”

Two thirds said they strongly agreed, and another 17 percent said they agreed.

One feature of the June regional summits is use of a computer program that called “Backseat Budgeter,” which included the TBD policy options in an interactive simulation of the state budget.

Using laptops at circular tables where they sat in small groups, participants were asked to make choices using TBD policy options in the context of their potential impact on the state budget.

The program makes it possible for participants to instantaneously see what effects each choice would have on the overall budget and its implications for the constitution.

Summits were held last weekend in Pueblo, Durango and Greeley, drawing about 130 people total.

Learn more
  • TBD website, including background information, videos and word clouds
  • Backseat Budgeter, an interactive service that allows you to run scenarios for changing the state budget

A second wave of summits is slated for June 23 in Denver, Colorado Springs and Greeley. Registration remains open for the Colorado Springs and Greeley sessions, but the Denver regional meeting is already at capacity.

“At the end of June, we will have held over 60 regional meetings, six multi-region summits, and from that we will have a list of priority options people think are really important to move forward on,” said TBD executive director Kae Rader

“And we’ll have six different state budgets, one for each summit, created by those participants,” he added

Many TBD participants appear to be enjoying the role of citizen policy maker, albeit with some reservations.

“I’m very much in favor of the process, but I’m just real curious about how it might be utilized‚” said Dill.

Following TBD advisory committee reviews set for July 24 and Nov. 17, a final report based on the June summits will go to Hickenlooper, the General Assembly and other state officials in December.

Although initiated by Hickenlooper, the TBD effort is privately funded. The effort is similar to smaller-scale community input processes the administration used to develop economic development and early children policy proposals.

Reporter Charlie Brennan wrote this story for EdNews’ partner, the I-News Network.

names are in

Ten apply for vacant seat on the Memphis school board, but six live outside of seat’s district

PHOTO: Kayleigh Skinner
Former Shelby County Board of Education Chairwoman Teresa Jones confers with then Superintendent Dorsey Hopson during a 2015 school board meeting. Jones' seat is now up for an interim appointment.

Ten people have put their name in to become the next board member of Tennessee’s largest school district.

The appointee will fill the seat Teresa Jones vacated following her recent appointment as a municipal court judge, and would serve until the term expires in August 2020, not October as previously reported.

The interim member will join the school board at a crucial time, amid the search for a new superintendent to replace Dorsey Hopson, who left the district in December. Currently, Joris Ray is serving as interim superintendent.

Jones’ district 2 serves neighborhoods including North Memphis, Binghampton, and Berclair. Chalkbeat found that six applicants live outside of the district. Shelby County Commissioner Michael Whaley said this would likely prevent them from an appointment, but the commission is seeking clarity from the state and election commission.

Whaley also said the interim appointment was extended to August 2020 because Tennessee law doesn’t specify that special elections are necessary for the school board, so the interim will finish out Jones’ term.

The county commission is scheduled to name a successor on Monday Feb. 25, a day before the school board’s meeting that month. The commission is slated to interview candidates Wednesday at 10 a.m., but Whaley said more names could be added by commissioners prior to the vote on Monday We’ve linked to their full applications below.

Applicants are:

Althea Greene

  • She is a retired teacher from Memphis City Schools and childcare supervisor with Shelby County Schools. She is currently Pastor of Real Life Ministries.

Arvelia Chambers

  • She is a senior certified pharmacy technician with Walgreens. She said she’s a “passionate aunt” of three children in Shelby County Schools.
  • Her listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Aubrey Howard

  • He works as the executive director of governmental and legislative affairs in the Shelby County Trustee’s Office. He formerly worked for the City of Memphis, and said in his application that he previously ran for school board and lost.

Charles McKinney

  • He is the Neville Frierson Bryan Chair of Africana Studies and associate professor of history at Rhodes College. He is on the board of Crosstown High Charter School, and is the father of two Shelby County Schools students.

David Brown

  • He is the executive director of digital ministry at Brown Missionary Baptist Church and graduated from  Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly east of District 2.

Erskine Gillespie

  • Gillespie previously ran for City Council district 7 but lost. He is an account manager at the Lifeblood Mid-South Regional Blood Bank. He said in his application that he was one of the first students to enter the optional schools program in the Memphis district.

Kenneth Whalum, Jr.

  • He is a pastor at The New Olivet Worship Center and previously served as a school board member for the former Memphis City Schools; he was first elected in 2006. He has vocally opposed the process behind the 2013 merger of the city school system with legacy Shelby County Schools.
  • Whalum ran against school board member Kevin Woods in 2012 and lost.
  • His listed address is near the University of Memphis, not in District 2.

Makeda Porter-Carr

  • She is a research administrator at St. Jude Research Hospital.
  • Her listed address is in southeast Memphis, not in District 2.

Michael Hoffmeyer Sr.

  • He is the director of the University of Memphis’ Crews Center for Entrepreneurship in which he works with college and high school students. He graduated from Craigmont High School.
  • His listed address is slightly north of District 2.

Tyree Daniels

  • He helped found Memphis College Prep charter school. He lost to Jones in a school board race in 2012. Daniels is now a part of Duncan-Williams Inc. — the firm handling public financing for the project Union Row.
  • His listed address is in east Memphis, not in District 2.

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.