Who Is In Charge

Zero-tolerance bill clears Senate

A bill that would ease school zero-tolerance discipline policies passed the Senate 32-3 this morning, more than four months after it was introduced.

Legislature 2012 logoThe discipline bill, HB 12-046, has a simple premise, to reduce to one the number of school offenses that require mandatory expulsion. That last offense would be carrying a firearm at a school.

Sponsors and many other lawmakers have hailed the bill as one of the most important education proposals of 2012, but there’s been little disagreement or policy debate over the central premise of reducing zero-tolerance offenses.

An early version of the bill was proposed last year by a study panel named the Legislative Task Force to Study School Discipline. (Get information about the task force’s work here.) But the bill has been mired in months and months of negotiations among a wide variety of education, law enforcement and advocacy groups.

At issue were the bill’s proposed requirements for gathering and reporting of data about student discipline and arrests, and about training of police officers who work at schools. Bill proponents believe data gathering is needed to ensure schools make reforms in discipline policies.

The bill’s Senate Democratic sponsors, Linda Newell of Littleton and Evie Hudak of Westminster, asserted during floor debate Thursday afternoon that all those disagreements finally are settled.

“We have finally got to where virtually everybody agrees with this bill,” Newell said.

“Virtually everybody” didn’t include Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, a dogged critic of the bill’s reporting requirements since it was being discussed by the task force. “This is a horrendous unfunded mandate,” he argued Thursday.

King offered two amendments, one to basically strip reporting and data requirements from the measure and another to ease reporting requirements on police departments. Both failed.

He returned to the microphone this morning to make a last plea for a no vote. He and GOP Sens. Bill Cadman and Kent Lambert, also of Colorado Springs were the only no votes.

Several other Republicans went to the microphone to urge passage, saying it’s time to end rigid no-tolerance policies and defending some level of data reporting.

Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, even complimented the long process of negotiations. She said she originally opposed the bill but that “It keeps getting better” with every version.

More information

SB 10-191 appeals rules pass committee

The Legislative Legal Services Committee unanimously approved the regulations for appeals by teachers with two consecutive ratings as ineffective or partially effective. The rules were issued by the State Board of Education earlier this month (see this story for details).

Legislative legal staff questioned whether one part of the rules was supported by Senate Bill 10-191, the educator effectiveness law. That part allows a superintendent to give a “no score” to a teacher who wins an appeal. But Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the author of SB 10-191, said he thought that part of the rules was fine, and the committee took him at his word. (Read the staff analysis here.)

Approval of the rule will be included in the omnibus annual rules review bill, which covers all rules issued by state agencies in the last year. The main body of SB 12-191 rules was approved by the legislature in a separate bill earlier in the session.

For the record

Three education bills of note moved on Thursday. Here’s the rundown:

House Bill 12-1155, a measure to reform remediation policies at state colleges and make them more flexible, passed the House 61-0.

Senate Bill 12-121 will create new matching funds requirements for charter schools seeking Building Excellent Schools Today funding and also create a loan program charters could use for their matches. The measure, a priority for charter schools interests, passed the House 61-0.

House Bill 12-1324
will change Colorado Mesa University from a “moderately selective” to a “selective” admissions institution and passed the Senate 35-0.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.


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.”