Colorado

Monday Churn: Looking for cash

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

It’s that time again. If you’re at all active in education policy, politics or civic affairs in general, you’re probably on somebody’s list for political contributions. For instance, circulating recently was an email from the Democrats for Education Reform Small Donor Committee, inviting potential donors to a Tuesday event with Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia as the featured guest.

That made EdNews curious about the size of various committees’ war chests on the eve of the main 2012 campaign season. (This isn’t an election year for school boards, but legislative races will be hot as Democrats and Republicans vie for control of the Capitol.)

Here’s what a quick run through the Department of State’s database told us about the bank accounts of some education-related political committees, as of reporting deadlines earlier this month:

  • Democrats for Education Reform, $7,831.45
  • Democrats for Education Reform Small Donor Committee, $1,235.39 (Looks like that Garcia fundraiser could be helpful.)
  • Stand for Children Political Committee, $37,761
  • Stand for Children Small Donor Committee, $428.67
  • Public Education Committee, $589,759.04 (This is one of the main campaign committees affiliated with the Colorado Education Association.)
  • Educators for Public Education, $87,093.76 (This is another CEA affiliate.)
  • Jefferson County Education Association Small Donor Committee, $100,308.93
  • AFT of Colorado Small Donor Committee, $52,143.20

Union affiliated campaign committees are expected to be significant backers of Democratic legislative candidates this year – they always are. Partisan control of the legislature could be up for grabs this year. Republicans currently have a one-seat majority in the House, and Democrats control the Senate by a margin of five.

Because of term limits, redistricting and retirements, more than a third of the 100 lawmakers could be new when the gavel falls to open the 2013 session in January.

Several districts around the state are expected to seek voter approval for bond issues and/or tax overrides for additional operating dollars this fall. We won’t know the full list until July 27, the deadline for districts to decide.

But two major districts already have made the call. Cherry Creek is seeking voter approval for a $125 million bond and a $25 million override, and Jefferson County is asking for a $99 million bond and a $39 million override.

Citizens for Cherry Creek Schools, which is backing that district’s effort, has $44,868.03 in the bank. Citizens for Jeffco Schools, main supporter of the campaign in the state’s largest district, reported $12,263.81 on hand.

In case you hadn’t noticed (and you probably didn’t), the primary election is Tuesday, June 26.

There’s really nothing on the ballot of interest to education, except the Republican contest for an at-large seat on the CU Board of Regents. Judicial accountability activist Matt Arnold is facing off against Brian Davidson, a doctor at CU’s Anschutz Medical Center.

The campaign has been characterized by various missteps on Arnold’s part. The Colorado Statesman has a detailed look at the race. The contest also has been chronicled by veteran Denver Post political reporter Lynn Bartels (read her most recent article here).

The winner will face incumbent Democratic Regent Stephen Ludwig, who narrowly defeated Davidson in 2006 in a race that had three minor-party candidates. Regent contests in districts 3, 5 and 7 also will be on the November ballot.

There are no primaries this year for State Board of Education. In November Democratic incumbent Angelika Schroeder faces Republican Ann Fattor of Black Hawk in the newly mapped 2nd District. Republican Pamela Mazanec of Larkspur is unopposed the significantly redrawn 4th District.

What’s on tap:

School districts face a June 30 deadline to adopt their budgets for the 2012-13 school year, so budget votes are on the agenda for many school boards this week and next. See this story for details on the budget situation for next year.

TODAY

The Denver school board has a work session scheduled for 4:30 and district headquarters, 900 Grant St.

The Cherry Creek school board meets at 7 p.m. at Liberty Middle School, 21500 E. Dry Creek Road in Aurora. The budget is on the agenda.

TUESDAY

The Boulder Valley board has a 4:30 p.m. special executive session scheduled to discuss personnel matters. The meeting’s at district offices at 6500 Arapahoe in Boulder.

The Douglas County board meets at 5 p.m. at 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock.

The budget is on the agenda for the 6 p.m. Aurora board meeting at the Professional Learning and 
Conference Center,
15771 E. 1st Ave.

WEDNESDAY

Executive branch and legislative economists present their quarterly revenue forecasts to the Joint Budget Committee and other lawmakers at 9:30 a.m. The meeting will be in either the JBC hearing room or room LSB-A. Both are in the Legislative Services Building at 200 E. 14th Ave.

The University of Colorado Regents open two days of meetings starting at 11 a.m. at the University Center on the Colorado Springs campus. Among the agenda items are President Bruce Benson’s salary for next year and presentation on the higher education master plan process by Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia. Agenda

Metro State’s controversial new tuition rate for undocumented students will be on the agenda at a 2:30 p.m. meeting of the JBC, college officials and members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The session is set for the JBC hearing room.

The Adams 12-Five Start board meets at 7 p.m. in the Educational Support Center, 1500 E. 128th Ave. in Thornton. The budget’s on the agenda.

THURSDAY

The Denver board has a 5 p.m. regular meeting scheduled at district offices. (The board already has adopted its 2012-13 budget.)

The Colorado State University Board of Governors opens two days of meetings that will include decisions on 2012-13 tuition and fees. The location has not been announced. The board often holds its June meetings at the Pingree Park campus in the mountains west of Fort Collins, but that facility has been evacuated because of the High Park fire.

FRIDAY

The State Council for Educator Effectiveness will have an all-day meeting starting at 9 a.m. in the boardroom at the Colorado Education Association, 1500 Grant St.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Charter oversight: The St. Vrain Valley school board is trying to get its charter schools to do a better job of filing audit information with the district, according to this story from TimesCall.com.

Early literacy bandwagon: The Ohio legislative has passed a bill requiring improved student literacy assessments in the early grades, individualized help for lagging students and, in some cases retention for 3rd graders who are behind in reading, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Several legislatures this year considered similar bills, most of which were based on a Florida law. The effort is pushed by an advocacy group, the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Colorado’s new READ Act incorporates some elements of the concept but has lots of guardrails around student retention (see story for details).

The EdNews’ Churn is a roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education, published during the summer as news warrants. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at [email protected]

defensor escolar

Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.