Who Is In Charge

A little dustup in Senate Ed

The proposal to provide state stipends for nationally board certified teachers was laid over abruptly in the Senate Education Committee Thursday after a sharp disagreement between the Democratic vice-chair and a Republican member over an amendment.

Colorado CapitolHouse Bill 12-1261 would provide $1,600 annual stipends to teachers who are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and $4,800 payments to such teachers who work in schools that are accredited with turnaround or priority improvement status. (The bill would continue an existing but unfunded law that’s due to expire.)

Colorado has 641 certified teachers out of about 95,000 nationwide, according to testimony Thursday.

The bill started in the House with an entirely different proposal for encouraging experienced teachers to work in low-performing schools. But sponsor Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, had it amended to focus on stipends for certified teachers.

But the bill’s title doesn’t say anything about board certified teachers, and Sen. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, questioned whether the measure could go forward because of that. (Colorado legislative rules are fairly tight about what a bill can contain under the wording of its title.)

“It came from the House this way, and the chair of the House Education Committee thought it fit just fine,” said sponsor Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.

“How can we pass a bill that doesn’t do what the title says?” asked Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial.

Bacon is committee chair but wasn’t presiding because he was presenting the bill. Vice Chair Sen. Evie Hudak, D-Westminster, wasn’t in the room for part of the discussion but returned before King started to offer amendments that would add professional development funding for teachers at low-performing schools and bonuses when such schools improve.

She abruptly ruled that his first amendment didn’t fit under the title, prompting a sharp reaction from King: “This has been a very collegial education committee this year, [but] this is disgusting.”

Bacon told Hudak to lay the bill over and adjourn the meeting. After the gavel fell, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, worked his way around the committee table, trying to cool down tempers.

(Get more details on the bill in this legislative staff analysis.)

For the record

The House Thursday gave final 64-1 approval to House Bill 12-1335, the main state budget bill for 2012-13. Rep. Chris Holbert, R-Parker and a member of House Education, was the only no vote. House Bill 12-1338 passed on a 65-0 vote. It requires that any surplus state revenues be transferred to the State Education Fund at the end of this fiscal year and at the end of 2012-13. (A minimum $59 million would be transferred at the end of this year.)

The Senate Finance Committee voted 4-3 (Democrats yes, Republicans no) to kill House Bill 12-1150, which would have required that Public Employees’ Retirement Association benefits be calculated on the highest seven years of salary, not on the three years used now. It would have applied only to new employees. It was the sixth of seven GOP-backed PERA bills killed so far this session.

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.”