Who Is In Charge

ASSET bill passes House Education

The House Education Committee voted 9-4 Wednesday to pass the bill that would make undocumented students eligible for resident tuition rates at state colleges and universities.

Former Rep. Val Vigil
Former Rep. Val Vigil

The low-key session probably was the last full-blown committee hearing on the tuition issue because the bill seems destined for passage this session after a decade of failed attempts.

Former Rep. Val Vigil sounded the historical note in his testimony near the end of the hearing.

“It was 10 years ago when I introduced the in-state tuition bill for the first time. … The atmosphere from that time to today is totally different,” he said. “Probably 40 or 50 people testified against my bill, so the atmosphere has changed drastically.”

For the first time in years, there were no opposition witnesses, but there still were four no votes from Republican members of the committee.

Freshman Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain expressed sympathy for the witnesses who supported the bill but said she couldn’t vote for the measure until Congress deals with larger immigration issues.

Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker, struck a similarly sympathetic note but said he was voting no because there are “residents of this state who will be disappointed” with the bill.

“They deserve a voice here today.”

GOP Reps. Carole Murray of Castle Rock and Justin Everett of Littleton also voted no but didn’t speak.

Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, voted yes, quoting Texas Gov. Rick Perry and President Reagan before saying, “This is the right policy for the state of Colorado.” Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Salida and a former superintendent, said he was “frustrated” about pieces of the bill because of federal inaction but was voting yes so the measure could have a full floor debate.

Committee Democrats, who all voted for the bill, noted the historic nature of the occasion.

“It’s a proud moment that I’m here today to vote yes for this bill,” said Rep. Dave Young, D-Greeley.

(Last year’s House Education Committee passed a similar bill with one Republican casting the deciding vote. But that measure died in another committee of the House, which was controlled by the GOP in 2012.)

The hearing, which lasted less than two hours, had the air of the final performance of a long-running play.

Sponsors made familiar arguments about fairness for students, increased tuition revenue for colleges and benefits for Colorado’s workforce and economy.

Old Supreme Court Chamber
Old Supreme Court Chamber, Feb. 27, 2013

Familiar witnesses, from Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia to students, to college presidents, gave familiar statements. In contrast to packed past hearings, there was a sparse crowd in the Old Supreme Court Chamber, the Capitol’s largest hearing room.

To be eligible for resident tuition students must have attended a Colorado high school for three years prior to graduation or finished a GED, be admitted to a state college or university and provide an affidavit stating they have applied for lawful residency in the U.S. or will apply as soon as they are eligible to do so.

Legislative fiscal analysts estimate the bill will raise $2 million in additional tuition revenue in 2013-14 and $3 million in 2014-15. The analysis projects 500 students would take advantage of the law next school year, with 250 more a year joining the program through 2016-17.

Technically the bill faces one more review in the House Appropriations Committee, but no public testimony is taken by that panel, and review generally is pro forma. The bill received final approval in the Senate last Monday and is expected to be debated on the House floor – and passed – next week.

Last union bill bites the dust

The Senate State Affairs Committee Wednesday voted 3-2 to kill Senate Bill 13-168, which would have given employees more flexibility to opt in or out of union membership and payment of dues and also required unions to report to members how dues are spent.

The measure was the last of six similar Republican-sponsored bills killed this year in the Democratic-majority legislature.

There was a heavily partisan flavor to this perennial discussion. Labor unions, such as the Colorado Education Association, are heavy supporters of Democratic candidates. Republicans think more union memberships would opt out of membership if it were easier to do so and would like to restrict unions’ ability to use part of dues for political contributions.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.