Who Is In Charge

Ideas emerging from TBD Colorado

PUEBLO – Education and state constitutional issues are emerging as the top two areas of concern for those participating in the TBD Colorado initiative launched earlier this year by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Word cloud
Word cloud of discussion topics at a recent TBD Colorado meeting.

The first wave of multi-regional citizen summits for TBD Colorado – TBD stands for To Be Determined – was held in three locations around the state late last week, and some issues are rising to the top.

”For anybody who has been paying attention, those two (education and the constitution) have been intertwined for some time,” said participant Dave Dill of Pueblo.

He noted, “The amount of funds that the state has, that it can allocate to something, was greatly reduced by” such provisions as the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, which limits state and local revenues, and the Gallagher Amendment, which lays out rules for property taxes. The two are widely considered to create conflicts that restrict state government in budgeting.

People who participated in recent TBD meetings across the state were offered a menu of six broad issues and were asked to select which two Colorado should focus on in the next two years. Those issues are education, health, state budget, state workforce, transportation and the constitution.

The priorities identified by nearly 1,400 respondents were:

  • Education – 28.5 percent
  • Constitutional issues – 23.3 percent
  • State budget – 22.2 percent
  • Health – 13.7 percent
  • Transportation – 8.4 percent
  • State workforce – 1.6 percent

Another 2.24 percent said all six topics were “roughly equal” in importance.

“I think to me the most imperative thing to come out of this is to change, not just to repeal TABOR. I don’t know that that would be successful,” said Lee Merkel of Pueblo, a regional manager for the state Department of Local Affairs and TBD participant.

Participants also were polled on 10 other specific policy proposals. Here’s how opinion on some of those sorted out:

  • Creation of a uniform statewide property tax for schools. – 16.5 percent
  • Make preschool and full-day kindergarten universally available – 15.5 percent
  • Maintaining the transportation system and restoring the state income tax to pre-1999 levels – both at 11.52 percent
  • Providing healthy food choices for students – 6.96 percent
  • Ensuring rural road safety and reliability – 6.16 percent
  • Providing physical education in schools – 6.01 percent

At the Pueblo session last Saturday, participants were asked whether they strongly agreed, agreed, were neutral, disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, “I support a constitutional convention.”

Two thirds said they strongly agreed, and another 17 percent said they agreed.

One feature of the June regional summits is use of a computer program that called “Backseat Budgeter,” which included the TBD policy options in an interactive simulation of the state budget.

Using laptops at circular tables where they sat in small groups, participants were asked to make choices using TBD policy options in the context of their potential impact on the state budget.

The program makes it possible for participants to instantaneously see what effects each choice would have on the overall budget and its implications for the constitution.

Summits were held last weekend in Pueblo, Durango and Greeley, drawing about 130 people total.

Learn more
  • TBD website, including background information, videos and word clouds
  • Backseat Budgeter, an interactive service that allows you to run scenarios for changing the state budget

A second wave of summits is slated for June 23 in Denver, Colorado Springs and Greeley. Registration remains open for the Colorado Springs and Greeley sessions, but the Denver regional meeting is already at capacity.

“At the end of June, we will have held over 60 regional meetings, six multi-region summits, and from that we will have a list of priority options people think are really important to move forward on,” said TBD executive director Kae Rader

“And we’ll have six different state budgets, one for each summit, created by those participants,” he added

Many TBD participants appear to be enjoying the role of citizen policy maker, albeit with some reservations.

“I’m very much in favor of the process, but I’m just real curious about how it might be utilized‚” said Dill.

Following TBD advisory committee reviews set for July 24 and Nov. 17, a final report based on the June summits will go to Hickenlooper, the General Assembly and other state officials in December.

Although initiated by Hickenlooper, the TBD effort is privately funded. The effort is similar to smaller-scale community input processes the administration used to develop economic development and early children policy proposals.

Reporter Charlie Brennan wrote this story for EdNews’ partner, the I-News Network.

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.