Who Is In Charge

JBC goes with $30M boost for colleges

The legislative Joint Budget Committee Wednesday recommended an increase of about $30 million in state support of public colleges and universities, basically ratifying the proposal first made last November by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Colorado college campus montage
From left, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, the University of Colorado-Boulder and the Auraria Higher Education Center.

But panel members left the door open to possibly increasing that amount if the March 18 state economic forecasts show a jump in state revenues.

“I was hoping we could do more for higher education,” said Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder. “I was prepared to move that we add additional money” for state colleges and universities. But Levy added, “I’ll just wait” to see what the March revenue forecasts show.

The JBC is working its way through the long process known as “figure-setting,” during which the six committee members set 2013-14 spending for all state agencies. Those decisions then are rolled into the annual state budget bill, expected to be introduced toward the end of March.

It’s an open question whether the revenue forecasts will show there’s enough money to add to higher education spending. And there will be competition for extra money from other state programs.

The $30 million increase would be on top of the $513 million state colleges and universities are receiving in the current 2012-13 budget year. State funding provides only about a quarter of total higher education spending of just over $3 billion – the majority of revenue comes from tuition. The $30 million would provide only a 2.8 percent increase on a per-student basis.

The budget proposal also includes a $5.3 million addition to the current state financial aid pot of about $100 million.

Earlier this year, the JBC proposed – and the full legislature approved – a “bonus” of $9.3 million for colleges in the current budget year. Because of that, the net increase for next year is about $21 million.

The JBC also adjusted the staff recommendation to account for the expected $2.3 million increase in tuition revenue and a $900,000 projected cost for undocumented students entering college under the ASSET proposal, Senate Bill 13-033. Those costs were a major focus of House floor debate on that bill Tuesday (see story).

As has been the case in recent years, higher education figure-setting prompted committee member grousing about the future of higher education support.

Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, warned about the “defunding of higher education” and complained, as she often does, about the value of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. “It would be fun to see what happens” if the commission were eliminated, she said.

Gerou and Levy also opposed a Department of Higher Education request for two new data-analysis employees. “I don’t really want to see this department grow too much,” said Levy, who is a reliable supporter of University of Colorado Boulder interests.

But the two were outvoted, and the committee agreed to the two new positions.

Higher education has taken significant budget hits in recent years as the legislature balanced the state budget in years of declining state revenue. According to data in the JBC staff recommendations, direct state support of colleges dropped 25 percent from 2008-09 to 2012-13. Calculated on support per resident student, state funding dropped 3 percent.

Overall average per-student spending has increased – but only because of tuition increases.

Trigger/school grades bill dies

The House Education Committee on Wednesday finished what it started on Monday and killed House Bill 13-1172, the Republican-sponsored measure that would have created a modest parent-trigger process for failing schools and also converted the state school rating system to an A-F structure.

The panel devoted two hours of testimony and discussion to the measure on Monday but delayed a vote because one member was sick. As expected, the committee’s seven-member Democratic majority killed the bill at the end of a 10-minute meeting and after listening to a final comment from prime sponsor Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson. (See story about Monday hearing.)

“I really appreciate the fact that it received a fair hearing in the committee it was supposed to be in,” said Priola. He was referring to the fact that the bill originally was assigned to the House State Affairs Committee, which is used to kill bills regardless of their subject matter.

Some committee Democrats expressed polite support for the bill’s broad goal of empowering parents, and Republicans made arguments for the bill’s detailed provisions.

“I think it’s high time that we give a clear signal to parents on whether their schools are failing or succeeding,” said Rep. Carole Murray of Castle Rock, who’s the senior Republican on the committee. She was referring to the bill’s proposal to replace the state’s somewhat bureaucratic labels for district and school quality levels with A-F grades.

California has a working parent trigger law, and several states use A-F labeling systems. Neither idea has gained much traction in Colorado and both have been opposed by mainline education interest groups and most legislative Democrats while receiving modest or no support from reform groups.


Judge orders Nashville schools to turn over student information to state charters

A Nashville judge has sided with Tennessee’s Achievement School District in the tussle over whether local school districts must share student contact information with charter networks under a new state law.

Chancellor Bill Young this week ordered Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools to turn over information requested by LEAD Public Schools, which operates two state-run schools in the city. The district has until March 16 to comply or appeal.

The ruling is a blow to local district leaders in both Nashville and Memphis, who have argued that a federal privacy law gives them discretion over who gets that information. They also contend that the intent of Tennessee’s new charter law, which passed last year, was that such information should not be used for marketing purposes.

The State Department of Education has backed information requests by LEAD in Nashville and Green Dot Public Schools in Memphis, both of which operate charter schools under the state-run turnaround district known as the ASD. State officials say the information is needed to increase parental awareness about their school options and also to help the state’s school turnaround district with planning.

Nashville’s school board has not yet decided whether to appeal Young’s ruling, according to Lora Fox, the city’s attorney.

Shelby County Schools was not included in the state’s lawsuit leading to this week’s ruling, but the case has implications for Memphis schools as well. Last summer, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen ordered both districts to turn over the information. Both have been defiant.

Lawyers representing all sides told Chalkbeat this week that Young set the March 16 deadline to allow time for the legislature to address ambiguity over the state law and for Nashville schools to notify parents of their right to opt out.

Rep. Bill Forgety already has filed a bill in an attempt to do clear the air. The Athens Republican chaired the key House committee that advanced the new charter law and has said that recruitment was not the intent of the provision over student contact information. His bill would restrict charter school requests to a two-month window from January 1 to March 1, confine school communication with non-students from February 1 to April 1, and open up a two-way street for districts to request the same information from charter schools.

The disagreement began with longstanding requests from state-run charter organizations for addresses, phone numbers and emails of students and their parents who live in neighborhoods zoned to low-performing schools. When local districts did not comply last summer, the charters cited the new state law requiring them to hand over student information to the charter schools within 30 days of receiving the request.

To learn what information is at stake and how it’s used, read our in-depth explainer on student data sharing and FERPA.

Who Is In Charge

Inner circle: Here is the team helping Ferebee chart a new course for Indianapolis schools

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Superintendent Lewis Ferebee has been leading Indianapolis’ largest school district for nearly five years. But in recent months, his circle of advisers has seen some notable changes.

Two leaders who played essential roles in crafting the district plan to close nearly half its high schools and create specialized academies at the remaining campuses have left for other jobs. And a new chief of staff has joined the district as Ferebee’s deputy.

As 2018 begins, the district is at a watershed moment that includes redesigning high schools and appealing to voters for $936 million more in school funding over the next eight years. Here are the eight lieutenants who report directly to Ferebee.

Ahmed Young, chief of staff

PHOTO: Provided by Indianapolis Public Schools
Ahmed Young
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2017
  • Duties: General counsel, managing a portfolio of issues related to risk management, IPS Police, student assignment, human resources, and research, accountability and evaluation.
  • His story: Young is the newest member of Ferebee’s team. Before joining in October, he oversaw charter schools for the administration of Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Young has a background in education and in law. He taught middle school in Lawrence Township and New York City schools, then practiced law as a prosecutor for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office and at Bose McKinney & Evans. Young has a secondary education degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Le Boler, chief strategist

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Le Boler
  • Salary: $136,000
  • Hired: 2013
  • Duties: Leads strategic planning, public relations, and parent involvement. She is responsible for fundraising and collaboration with outside organizations.
  • Bio: Boler is one of Ferebee’s closest advisors. She worked with Ferebee in Durham Public Schools, where she was a program strategist, and joined him in Indianapolis at the start of his administration. She also worked with him at Guilford County Schools. She started her career in education through administration support roles for districts in North Carolina. Boler earned a B.A. in business leadership from Ashford University, a mostly online college based in San Diego, and she is pursuing a certificate in strategy and performance management from Georgetown University.

Weston Young, chief financial manager

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Weston Young
  • Salary: $140,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees budgeting and management of finances. Participates in procurement, accounting, financial reporting, audits, investments, debt service, and economic development issues.
  • His story: Young came to Indianapolis from the private sector, where he was a wealth manager in Zionsville. Previously he worked as a manager, tax consultant, and accountant. He is a CPA with a degree in accounting and business from Taylor University.

Aleesia Johnson, innovation officer

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Aleesia Johnson
  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Oversees innovation schools, including supporting schools, and developing processes for recruiting and selecting school leadership, evaluating existing schools and ending contracts with underperforming schools.
  • Her story: When Johnson joined the superintendent’s team, it was a clear sign of the district’s growing collaboration with charter schools. Before joining IPS, she led KIPP Indianapolis College Preparatory, the local campus of one of the largest national charter networks. She previously worked for Teach for America and as a middle school teacher. Johnson has a BA from Agnes Scott College, a master’s degree in social work from University of Michigan, and a master’s degree in teaching from Oakland City University.

Scott Martin, deputy superintendent of operations

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Scott Martin
  • Salary: $150,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees all non-academic operations, including facilities, construction management, maintenance, transportation, technology, and child nutrition.
  • His story: Martin came to Indianapolis from Davenport, Iowa, where he oversaw support services for a district of about 16,000 students. He also previously spent nearly a decade with the district in Columbus, Indiana. He has a degree in organizational leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Tammy Bowman, curriculum officer

  • Salary: $125,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Oversees curriculum, professional development, gifted, and prekindergarten programs.
  • Bio: Bowman came to Indianapolis from North Carolina, where she oversaw a high school academy for five years. She was director of the early college program, AVID coordinator, Title I coordinator, and a beginning teacher coordinator. She previously taught elementary and middle school. She has education degrees from University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a counseling degree from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, and a certificate in administration from Western Carolina University.

Joe Gramelspacher, special project director

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Joe Gramelspacher
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2014
  • Duties: Manages the administrative affairs of the Superintendent’s Office, coordinates the monthly work of the Board of School Commissioners, and leads and serves on special project teams.
  • His story: Gramelspacher previously served as special assistant to the superintendent. He began his career in education as a math teacher with Teach for America in Colorado and then in Indianapolis. He has degrees in finance and economics from Indiana University and is a 2017 Broad Resident.

Zach Mulholland, board administrator

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Zach Mulholland
  • Salary: $100,000
  • Hired: 2015
  • Duties: Manages operations for the Indianapolis Public Schools Board, including developing board policy, developing agendas and schedules, and assisting the board president.
  • His story: Before joining the district, Mulholland was a research analyst for the Indiana University Public Policy Institute Center for Urban Policy and the Environment. He has degrees in political science and economics from Wabash College and a law degree from Indiana University.