shot and a miss

Immunization exemption bill back in the shop for more work

Eight-year-old Monserrat Cholico cringes as she gets a shot at Crawford Kids Clinic in Aurora (Photo By Brent Lewis/The Denver Post).

The state’s immunization reporting law, gutted by a Republican-authored amendment unexpectedly added Thursday to a vaccination bill, will be reconsidered on Monday by the House.

The House voted 33-30 Friday for a procedural motion that takes the bill off the final consideration calendar, allowing members to debate it again Monday and consider amendments.

The change Democrats want to make is to undo a GOP amendment that unexpectedly passed Thursday.

Thursday’s 33-32 roll-call vote on that amendment caught everyone in the chamber by surprise, given that the idea had been defeated previously on a voice vote. House staffers said some Democrats may have been confused about what they were voting on.

The amendment would allow parents to voluntarily include children’s vaccination information in the state’s immunization tracking system. Current law automatically puts that information in the system and allows parents to have it removed. All children must be immunized to attend public schools, but state law allows parents to opt out for religious, medical or “personal objection” reasons.

The focus of Thursday’s debate, House Bill 16-1164, wouldn’t eliminate any of those exemptions, as prime sponsor Rep. Dan Pabon, D-Denver, kept pointing out during debate.

The bill would require parents to file their exemption notices online with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment rather than submit paper forms to their local schools. Supporters argue the change will take a burden off school nurses and secretaries, provide more complete data to the department and be easy for parents.

Republican members were having none of it. They repeatedly raised a couple big objections during debate that stretched for more than 90 minutes.

Data privacy – “How can you guarantee this sensitive data will be protected” by the health department, asked Rep. Lois Landgraf, R-Colorado Springs.

Slippery slope – Republicans fear the bill is a prelude to eliminating exemptions. “There’s a fear that the next step is to require vaccinations,” said Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio.

Others claimed data held by the health department wouldn’t be subject to federal student privacy law and that immunization reporting placed an unfair burden on college students.

Saying she’s received “over 700 phone calls and emails,” Landgraf added, “Everybody wanted a no vote. I don’t see how people can vote against their constituents this way” and support the bill.

Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Lone Tree, agreed.

“I don’t consider myself smarter than my constituents,” she said.

Several GOP amendments were defeated. The parent-option amendment was adopted at the end of preliminary consideration, when members are allowed to offer amendments a second time and recorded votes are taken.

The exemptions bill has been contentious from the start. A House committee spent nearly seven hours on the issue last month before passing it 7-6.

How the bill might fare in the Senate is unclear. One of the Senate prime sponsors is a Republican, Sen. Martinez Humenik of Thornton. But the last time lawmakers considered an immunization bill, in 2014, that measure passed the Senate on a close 19-16 vote. Democrats controlled the Senate that year, but the GOP now has a 18-17 majority.

The 2014 bill ultimately passed after being watered down. That bill only required CDPHE to set up immunization information website and reporting of percentages of students who aren’t immunized, broken out by school.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”