Who Is In Charge

Literacy bill signed into law

The Colorado READ Act, House Bill 12-1238, was signed into law Thursday by Gov. John Hickenlooper at a packed Capitol ceremony.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and students
Gov. John Hickenlooper was flanked by second graders from Aurora's Kenton Elementary as he signed the Colorado READ Act on May 17, 2012.
“This is legislation that really does put kids first,” Hickenlooper told a crowd of officials, lawmakers, lobbyists and educators in the Capitol’s west foyer.

“It’s really a great day for young people in Colorado,” said Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia, the administration’s point man on education. “”But we’re not done. We have a long way to go.”

The law, nearly a year in the making, is the most significant piece of education legislation to emerge from the just-completed 2012 regular session. It also has the distinction of being one of the few recent Colorado education reform laws to come with significant funding.

Several speakers at the signing ceremony referred to the long process it took to get to the final product.

“It certainly takes a village to write a bill to help raise a child,” joked Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and a prime sponsor of the bill.

Here are the key features of the READ Act:

• Next school year districts will report to the Department of Education the number of K-3 students with significant reading deficiencies. The State Board of Education the will define what constitutes a significant reading deficiency for the purposes of the law. SBE has until March 31, 2013, to adopt the rules for the new program.

• The law is expected to cover up to 24,000 students. An estimated quarter of Colorado third graders don’t read at grade level.

• Starting in 2013-14 districts will annually assess K-3 students’ reading abilities with CDE-approved tests. The department is required to create a list of approved instructional programs and professional development programs that districts can use.

• Individual READ plans have to be created for students with significant deficiencies. The law also creates a process for parent, teacher and administrator consultation to determine each year if students should advance to the next grade. Parents have the final say for K-2 students. Superintendents (or designated administrators) will review the cases of third graders recommended for advancement and can decide to retain a student. Special services must be provided for third graders who are held back.

• The law contains protections and exemptions for students with disabilities, limited English proficiency or who have already been retained.

• The program will divert interest revenue from the state school lands permanent fund to provide about $16 million in per-pupil funding (about $700 per student) to districts working with students who have significant reading deficiencies. The law also includes some $5 million in funding to be used for CDE administration costs ($1 million) and for professional development grants to districts. So total funding in 2012-13 will be about $21 million.

• Districts receiving the per-pupil funding will be required to use specific interventions, such as enrollment in full-day kindergarten, summer school or tutoring.

• The law abolishes the existing Read-to-Achieve grant program and uses its remaining funding for the new grant program.

Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs
Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs / File photo
The idea for the law originated last year with a coalition of business and education reform groups working with Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and outgoing chair of the House Education Committee. Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Summit County, was Massey’s co-prime sponsors.

The original concept called for mandatory retention of lagging third graders, but that plan was quickly dropped in the face of widespread opposition.

As passed by the House, HB 12-1238 had a “preference” for retention, contained only $5 million in funding and also would have required services for a second group of students, those with just “reading deficiencies.”

Low funding and some of the bill’s language didn’t sit well with Senate Democratic leaders, and the bill was significantly amended. More funding was added, the bill was refocused on a smaller group of students, some of the more detailed requirements for parent consultation and notification were streamlined and retention language was softened.

Democratic Sens. Rollie Heath of Boulder and Bob Bacon of Fort Collins were key figures in crafting the Senate compromise, in consultation with Massey.

Several speakers at the ceremony highlighted Heath’s role in the bill. Garcia said Heath “reall helped keep us on track … and come up with a bill we all could fully support.”

The Senate sponsors were Johnston and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial. Hickenlooper advisors also were heavily involved with the READ Act from the beginning.

Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton
Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton
A few lawmakers, led by Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, were skeptical of the bill, arguing that the money would be better spent to expand state preschool programs and full-day kindergarten. But the bill had lots of momentum after the Senate passed it 35-0. The House accepted the Senate version and re-passed the measure 58-7 on the last day of the regular session.

The READ Act is the swansong for some lawmakers who have been key players on education legislation for years. Massey, Bacon, Spence and Solano all are leaving the Capitol because of term limits.

Tennessee Votes 2018

Early voting begins Friday in Tennessee. Here’s where your candidates stand on education.

PHOTO: Creative Commons

Tennesseans begin voting on Friday in dozens of crucial elections that will culminate on Aug. 2.

Democrats and Republicans will decide who will be their party’s gubernatorial nominee. Those two individuals will face off in November to replace outgoing Republican Gov. Bill Haslam. Tennessee’s next governor will significantly shape public education, and voters have told pollsters that they are looking for an education-minded leader to follow Haslam.

In Memphis, voters will have a chance to influence schools in two elections, one for school board and the other for county commission, the top local funder for schools, which holds the purse strings for schools.

To help you make more informed decisions, Chalkbeat asked candidates in these four races critical questions about public education.

Here’s where Tennessee’s Democratic candidates for governor stand on education

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and state Rep. Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley hope to become the state’s first Democratic governor in eight years.

Tennessee’s Republican candidates for governor answer the big questions on education

U.S. Rep. Diane Black, businessman Randy Boyd, Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, and businessman Bill Lee are campaigning to succeed fellow Republican Haslam as governor, but first they must defeat each other in the 2018 primary election.

Memphis school board candidates speak out on what they want to change

Fifteen people are vying for four seats on the Shelby County Schools board this year. That’s much higher stakes compared to two years ago when five seats were up for election with only one contested race.

Aspiring county leaders in charge of money for Memphis schools share their views

The Shelby County Board of Commissioners and county mayor are responsible for most school funding in Memphis. Chalkbeat sent a survey to candidates asking their thoughts on what that should look like.

Early voting runs Mondays through Saturdays until Saturday, July 28. Election Day is Thursday, Aug. 2.

full board

Adams 14 votes to appoint Sen. Dominick Moreno to fill board vacancy

State Sen. Dominick Moreno being sworn in Monday evening. (Photo by Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat)

A state senator will be the newest member of the Adams 14 school board.

Sen. Dominick Moreno, a graduate of the district, was appointed Monday night on a 3-to-1 vote to fill a vacancy on the district’s school board.

“He has always, since I have known him, cared about this community,” said board member David Rolla, who recalled knowing Moreno since grade school.

Moreno will continue to serve in his position in the state legislature.

The vacancy on the five-member board was created last month, when the then-president, Timio Archuleta, resigned with more than a year left on his term.

Colorado law says when a vacancy is created, school board must appoint a new board member to serve out the remainder of the term.

In this case, Moreno will serve until the next election for that seat in November 2019.

The five member board will see the continued rollout of the district’s improvement efforts as it tries to avoid further state intervention.

Prior to Monday’s vote, the board interviewed four candidates including Joseph Dreiling, a former board member; Angela Vizzi; Andrew LaCrue; and Moreno. One woman, Cynthia Meyers, withdrew her application just as her interview was to begin. Candidate, Vizzi, a district parent and member of the district’s accountability committee, told the board she didn’t think she had been a registered voter for the last 12 months, which would make her ineligible for the position.

The board provided each candidate with eight general questions — each board member picked two from a predetermined list — about the reason the candidates wanted to serve on the board and what they saw as their role with relation to the superintendent. Board members and the public were barred from asking other questions during the interviews.

Moreno said during his interview that he was not coming to the board to spy for the state Department of Education, which is evaluating whether or not the district is improving. Nor, he added, was he applying for the seat because the district needs rescuing.

“I’m here because I think I have something to contribute,” Moreno said. “I got a good education in college and I came home. Education is the single most important issue in my life.”

The 7,500-student district has struggled in the past year. The state required the district to make significant improvement in 2017-18, but Adams 14 appears to be falling short of expectations..

Many community members and parents have protested district initiatives this year, including cancelling parent-teacher conferences, (which will be restored by fall), and postponing the roll out of a biliteracy program for elementary school students.

Rolla, in nominating Moreno, said the board has been accused of not communicating well, and said he thought Moreno would help improve those relationships with the community.

Board member Harvest Thomas was the one vote against Moreno’s appointment. He did not discuss his reason for his vote.

If the state’s new ratings this fall fail to show sufficient academic progress, the State Board of Education may direct additional or different actions to turn the district around.