Who Is In Charge

Co-chairs named for higher ed strategic plan

Businessman Dick Monfort and lawyer Jim Lyons will be the co-chairs of the delayed higher education strategic planning effort, Gov. Bill Ritter announced Thursday.

Monfort is vice chair of the Colorado Rockies and a trustee of the University of Northern Colorado. Lyons is a member of Ritter’s advisory Jobs Cabinet and prominent in the Democratic Party.

No other firm details of the plan, such as the size of the steering committee, its membership, a meeting schedule or a completion date for the project were announced Thursday.

Ritter met briefly with three members of the Commission on Higher Education, several college presidents and higher ed Director Rico Munn, who were gathered at the Capitol for another meeting about a financial flexibility bill.

Since the idea first surfaced last summer, the outlines of the project have remained somewhat vague, its start has been pushed back and some have questioned the rationale for a study, given that the higher education system is in an immediate fiscal crisis and that Ritter is about to enter the last year of his first term and may face a tough re-election campaign.

On Dec. 3, Rico Munn, new director of the Department of Higher Education, gave members of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education s a three-page “concept paper” for the plan.

According to Munn’s memo, the strategic plan is designed to address what the state needs from its higher ed system, the current funding crisis, other challenges and its relationship to the K-12 system.

While that memo said, “the strategic planning process should be launched by a clear articulation of goals by the governor,” the statement issued by the governor’s office Thursday set out no specific goals for the process. Noting the importance of higher education to the state’s economy and growth, the governor said, “We need to look out 10, 20 and 30 years. And the only way we get there is with a vibrant higher-ed system that can meet the needs of a 21st century Colorado.”

Munn’s memo said the goals “could include some mix of” doubling the number of postsecondary degrees and certificates awarded (Ritter’s Colorado Promise), increase in overall postsecondary participation, a larger role for community colleges, “targeted” improvements in remediation and retention, developing “some measure” for affordability and accessibility and “a standard for efficiency and sustainability” of the state system.

The memo outlined a steering committee that would supervise the work of subcommittees. Munn said the steering committee would focus on developing accountability measures while the subcommittees would be organized by issues such as the future needs of higher ed, institutional roles, governance, accessibility, financial issues and coordination with the K-12 system.

John Karakoulakis, legislative affairs director for the Department of Higher Education, said Thursday the steering committee is expected to have about a dozen members and that Ritter hopes to name them “as soon as possible.” Karakoulakis said the plan still includes use of the subcommittees.

Munn told CCHE members earlier this month that the steering committee would periodically report back to them, and the final report would be done by the fall of 2010.

Karakoulakis said there currently are “no definitive timelines on when it [the planning process] will end or specific deliverables. … The specifics haven’t been laid out yet.”

Joint Budget Committee Chair Rep. Jack Pommer, D-Boulder, recently questioned the need for a strategic plan, noting that Ritter’s first term will be ending and that many are calling for action now to deal with higher ed’s financial crisis (see story about that meeting).

The idea of a strategic or master plan was first surfaced publicly last summer by then-DHE Director David Skaggs, who subsequently resigned over an unspecified disagreement with Ritter. Munn, already in the governor’s cabinet as head of a different agency, was subsequently plucked to head DHE.

Funding for the state’s 27 colleges and universities, not shielded from cuts by constitutional or federal requirements as some other programs are, has suffered during this decade’s two recessions. While state tax support has been cut, the system has been held at flat overall funding levels with federal stimulus money and a steady series of tuition hikes.

Only a relatively small amount of stimulus money will be available for the upcoming 2010-11 budget year and none after that. Looking ahead to that “cliff,” many college presidents have already made budget cuts, particularly in administrative costs.

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.