Teacher talk

Ritz: Indiana teacher shortage still a problem, needs to be addressed

PHOTO: Scott Elliott

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz said addressing teacher shortages will be a priority during next year’s legislative session.

“We’re developing a legislative agenda,” Ritz said Tuesday at an event for teacher leaders in Indianapolis. “We are going to be getting groups together to make sure we are always on the next steps: What it is we need to do and where it is that we’re headed.”

Ritz’s effort continues a conversation that began last year when some Indiana districts reported problems finding teachers and keeping them in the classroom, but despite many debates and a 49-member panel dedicated to finding solutions, legislators took little action, passing just two laws that aligned with the panel’s recommendations.

This week, her event featured college of education professors from Butler, Marian and Purdue universities and teachers from across the state, including 2006 Milken Educator Award-winner Marjorie Ramey.

Indiana educators who participated in the event offered a range of solutions. Among them:

Teachers need to talk more about teaching.

Angela Lupton, assistant dean for Butler University’s college of education, said one way to encourage more kids to become teachers is simply to talk about it with them.

“It’s amazing how looking someone in the eye … and saying, ‘I just want you to know you’re the person I want teaching next door to me in five years,’ (can be powerful) to a high school student,” Lupton said. “We’ve got to not only make teaching seem appealing but make it a privilege you are being invited into.”

Create more education classes and give them a competitive advantage.

The state needs to consider offering a dual credit class in teaching, Lupton said, which could serve as an incentive to students who are planning for college and careers.

Lupton mentioned one of her students had an opportunity to take a teaching class in high school — something only 36 percent of Indiana high schools even offer — but the girl eventually decided against it in favor of Advanced Placement and dual credit courses that give a bigger boost to a student’s GPA.

The state also needs expand what kinds of education classes it has on the books for high school students, she said.

“Most education courses are early childhood-focused or elementary-focused,” Lupton said. “Quite frankly, we need secondary teachers.”

Support local efforts to seek out diverse teachers.

David McGuire and Blake Nathan, two Indianapolis teachers, founded an organization called EducateME, which aims to recruit more black students — and black men in particular — to be teachers.

Read: A shortage everyone can agree on: Indianapolis schools don’t have enough black teachers

The two have developed a comprehensive program that spans high school, college and the first years of a teacher’s career. This year, their goal is to get more than 400 people involved: 25 high school “cadets” who learn about teaching through an after school program and time spent paired with elementary schools; 20 college “ambassadors” to help recruit at universities in and out of state; 200 teaching fellows; and 200 mentor teachers to guide them.

It’s ambitious, but McGuire and Nathan have already had successful college tours for high school students and interest from prospective out-of-state teachers. The more students can see teachers who look like them in schools, the better they’ll do, McGuire said. It’s a win-win situation for kids and for the community as a whole.

“The people who led the community (where I grew up), who were stalwarts of the community were the preachers and the teachers,” McGuire said. “You saw when there became a lack of black teachers.”

Learn more about Ritz’s priorities around teachers and her legislative agenda here.

Follow the money

Final Denver school board campaign finance reports show who brought in the most late money

PHOTO: Denver Post file
Victoria Tisman, 8, left, works with paraprofessional Darlene Ontiveros on her Spanish at Bryant-Webster K-8 school in Denver.

Final campaign finance reports for this year’s hard-fought Denver school board elections are in, and they show a surge of late contributions to Angela Cobián, who was elected to represent southwest Denver and ended up bringing in more money than anyone else in the field.

The reports also showed the continued influence of independent groups seeking to sway the races. Groups that supported candidates who favor Denver Public Schools’ current direction raised and spent far more than groups that backed candidates looking to change things.

No independent group spent more during the election than Raising Colorado, which is affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform. In the week and a half before the Nov. 7 election, it spent $126,985. That included nearly $57,000 to help elect Rachele Espiritu, an incumbent supportive of the district’s direction who lost her seat representing northeast Denver to challenger Jennifer Bacon. Raising Colorado spent $13,765 on mail opposing Bacon in that same period.

Teachers union-funded committees also were active in the campaign.

Individually, Cobián raised more money in the days before the election than the other nine candidates combined. She pulled in $25,335 between Oct. 30 and Dec. 2.

That includes a total of $11,000 from three members of the Walton family that founded Walmart: Jim, Alice and Steuart. The Waltons have over the years invested more than $1 billion in education-related causes, including the creation of charter schools.

Total money raised, spent by candidates
  • Angela Cobián: $123,144, $105,200
    Barbara O’Brien: $117,464, $115,654
    Mike Johnson: $106,536, $103,782
    Rachele Espiritu: $94,195, $87,840
    Jennifer Bacon: $68,967, $67,943
    Carrie A. Olson: $35,470, $35,470
    Robert Speth: $30,635, $31,845
    “Sochi” Gaytan: $28,977, $28,934
    Tay Anderson: $18,766, $16,865
    Julie Bañuelos: $12,962, $16,835

Cobián was supported in her candidacy by donors and groups that favor the district’s brand of education reform, which includes collaborating with charter schools. In the end, Cobián eclipsed board vice president Barbara O’Brien, who had been leading in contributions throughout the campaign, to raise the most money overall: a total of $123,144.

The two candidates vying to represent central-east Denver raised about $5,000 each in the waning days of the campaign. Incumbent Mike Johnson pulled in $5,300, including $5,000 from Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz. Teacher Carrie A. Olson, who won the seat, raised $4,946 from a host of donors, none of whom gave more than $500 during that time period.

The other candidates raised less than $5,000 each between Oct. 30 and Dec. 2.

O’Brien, who staved off two competitors to retain her seat representing the city at-large, spent the most in that period: $31,225. One of her competitors, Julie Bañuelos, spent the least.

money matters

In election of big spending, winning Aurora candidates spent less but got outside help

Four new board members, Kyla Armstrong-Romero, Marques Ivey, Kevin Cox and Debbie Gerkin after they were sworn in. (Photo courtesy of Aurora Public Schools)

A slate of Aurora school board candidates that won election last month were outspent by some of their rival campaigns — including in the final days of the race — but benefited from big spending by a union-backed independent committee.

Outside groups that backed the winning slate spent more overall during the campaign, but wound down as pro-education reform groups picked up their spending in the last period right before the election. Those efforts were not enough to push their candidates to victory.

According to the last campaign finance reports turned in on Thursday and covering activity from Oct. 26 through Dec. 2, Gail Pough and Miguel Lovato spent the most from their individual contributions.

Together Pough and Lovato spent more than $7,000 on calls, canvassing and consulting fees. Both candidates were supported by reform groups and had been reporting the most individual contributions in previous campaign finance reports.

But it was the slate of candidates endorsed by the teachers union — Kevin Cox, Debbie Gerkin, Kyla Armstrong-Romero and Marques Ivey — that prevailed on election night.

How much did candidates raise, spend?

  • Gail Pough, $12,756.32; $12,328.81
  • Lea Steed, $1,965.00; $1,396.16
  • Kyla Armstrong Romero, $7,418.83; $3,606.12
  • Kevin Cox, $2,785.54; $2,993.07
  • Miguel Lovato, $16,856.00; $16,735.33
  • Jane Barber, $1,510.32; $1,510.32
  • Debbie Gerkin, $4,690.00; $4,516.21
  • Marques Ivey, $5,496.50; $5,638.57
  • Barbara Yamrick, did not file

The slate members spent varying amounts in the last few days before the election. For instance, Cox, who won the most votes, spent $403 while Ivey who recorded the fewest votes of the four winning candidates, spent $2,056.

Most of the slate candidates’ spending went to Facebook ads and consulting fees.

The four also reported large amounts in non-monetary contributions. Collectively, the slate members reported about $76,535 in non-monetary contributions, mostly from union funds, to cover in-kind mail, polling, office space and printing. All four also reported a non-monetary contribution in the form of a robocall from the Arapahoe County Democratic Party.

Other financial support for candidates, through independent expenditure committees, showed that the group Every Student Succeeds which was backed by union dollars and was supporting the union slate, spent less in the last days than the reform groups Raising Colorado and Families First Colorado which were supporting Pough and Lovato.

Overall, the independent expenditure committee groups spent more than $419,000 trying to sway Aurora voters.

Incumbent Barbara Yamrick failed to file any campaign finance reports throughout the campaign.

This story has been updated to include more information about in-kind contributions to the union-backed candidates.