Who Is In Charge

Budget picture could brighten further

Gov. John Hickenlooper is considering raising his requests for K-12 and higher education spending in 2013-14 because of improved state revenues, state budget director Henry Sobanet said Thursday.

Colorado Capitol“We will probably add to our K-12 and higher education budget requests,” Sobanet told reporters after he presented his quarterly revenue forecast to members of the Joint Budget Committee and other lawmakers.

He said no specific amounts have been determined and that revised budget numbers for education and some other state programs will be released in early January.

Sobanet stressed that his Office of State Planning and Budgeting will have to decide what levels of education increases are “sustainable” before finalizing a revised budget plan.

While state revenue forecasts have been positive for several quarters, Sobanet and other state economists are concerned that the revenue improvements are transitory and based on such factors as one-time increases in capital gains tax payments. He’s cautious about adding too much spending to the state budget base in case revenues decline later.

Hickenlooper’s suggested 2013-14 budget, released on Nov. 1, currently proposes an increase of $201.6 million for K-12, while higher education support would increase $30 million. (See this story for details on the budget plan.)

The current 2012-13 state budget includes $5.3 billion in state and local funding for K-12, with a state share of about $3 billion. State support of colleges and universities is about $513 million this year, plus an additional $100 million earmarked for financial aid. The governor is proposing a $5 million increase for financial aid in 2013-14.

The revenue forecasts presented by Sobanet and legislative chief economist Natalie Mullis both projected higher revenues than were predicted in their September estimates. Both said the Colorado economy is performing better than the nation’s but that there are significant uncertainties about the future, especially about whether federal policymakers will avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

Failure to reach a budget agreement in Washington could force both cuts in federal funds that the state receives and changes in tax laws that could affect state income tax collections.

Because of that, Sobanet said, “The March forecast could be a little more important than normal.” The next sets of revenue forecasts will be issued in late March, just before the legislature begins finalizing the 2013-14 budget bill.


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.”