Colorado

Thursday Churn: Amnesty collections up

Updated 4:50 p.m. – A rush of last-minute payments have raised the revenue collected from a state tax amnesty to near projected levels, meaning a state school fund will gain expected levels of revenue.

Department of Revenue officials reported this afternoon that about $10 million has been collected from the Oct. 1-Nov. 15 amnesty.

As of Nov. 16 only about $2.34 million had been collected, and one legislator called the effort a failure. Department spokesman Mark Couch said today that a flurry of payments starting Nov. 17 have brought the total up significantly.

Because participating delinquent taxpayers have until Dec. 31 to pay up, Couch said department officials think the total could reach about $16 million. But, Couch said, “In all likelihood, it will be an amount less than that.”

The bill was among several ideas kicked around by Democratic lawmakers last spring to raise extra funding for schools. Statehouse wags referred to the effort as “looking for spare change in the sofa cushions.”

A legislative staff fiscal analysis predicted the amnesty would bring in $12.6 million, of which $9.7 million would go to the State Education Fund, an account used to supplement state K-12 aid, which totals more than $3 billion a year.

Updated 1 p.m. – The trustees of Metropolitan State College of Denver today delayed a decision on a proposed new name, instead agreeing to four principles they believe should govern the choice of a new name.

Chair Rob Cohen told the trustees they’d probably hold a special meeting in the next 30-45 days “to actually pick a name.”

A proposed new name would have to be approved by the legislature, which convenes on Jan. 11 for the 2012 session.

The meeting was the latest step in what has been a frustrating process for Metro. Last spring the trustees proposed Denver State University but later withdrew the idea from legislative consideration after concerns were raised by the private University of Denver. (Get more information about DU’s issues in this recent story by our partner 9News.)

The college took up the issue again last summer, working with a consultant that surveyed constituency groups about four possible names: Denver Metropolitan State University, Metropolitan Denver State University, Denver State Metropolitan University and Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The trustees apparently decided not to choose a specific name after a closed-door briefing with lawyers.

The principles the trustees agreed to are that the name should include “university” and “metropolitan,” should include “Denver” as the first or second word and should be framed to minimize the possibility of lawsuits challenging it.

Cohen said those principles are most closely matched the names Denver Metropolitan State University and Metropolitan Denver State University.

He noted that surveys found strong support for Metropolitan State University of Denver and that student leaders still support Denver State University.

President Steve Jordan and the college’s Strategic Name Initiative Committee are to continue working on the issue.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

A new U.S. Department of Education study finds a significant percentage of Title I schools around the nation aren’t getting the same levels of state and local funding as non-Title I schools in the same districts.

Title I is a 46-year-old portion of federal education law that provides extra funding to schools with high percentages of low-income students. The funding is supposed to supplement, not be used in place of, state and local financial support.

But the DOE study found that 46 percent of Title I elementary schools had per-pupil state and local spending on staff below the average for non–Title I elementary schools in their district. The figures were 42 percent for middle schools and 45 percent for high schools.

The report did not break out percentages by state, so there’s no overall information on where Colorado stands compared to other states. DOE did provide a district-by-district spreadsheet. EdNews reviewed the numbers for the state’s largest districts and found spending per-student on salaries was higher in Title I schools than in non-Title schools in both Jefferson County and Denver. For example, Jeffco averaged $4,050 per-student on personnel in its 23 Title I schools compared to $3,762 in its 132 non-Title schools. Denver averaged $3,429 on staff at its 92 Title I schools versus $3,422 at its 47 non-Title schools.

In Cherry Creek and Adams 12, non-Title schools averaged higher spending on staff than Title I schools. Cherry Creek’s 11 Title I schools averaged $4,093 per student on staffing versus $4,099 at 45 non-Title schools. Adams 12’s 13 Title I schools averaged $3,150 per-pupil spending on staff compared to $3,464 at 36 non-Title schools. Douglas County, the state’s third largest district and one of its most affluent, does not receive federal Title I funding.

Statewide, Colorado’s 603 Title I schools averaged $3,605 per-student on staffing compared to the $3,758 per-pupil on staffing spent at the state’s 965 non-Title schools.

Per-pupil spending on staff actually isn’t the standard currently used to determine if districts are funding Title I schools properly. According to officials at the Colorado Department of Education, current federal regulations require that Title I and non-Title I schools have similar teacher-student ratios. If a school can’t meet that standard, there are alternate measures that can be used, including per-pupil spending on staff salaries.

Federal DOE officials and some lawmakers such as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., think the regulations should be changed to use the per-pupil spending measure.

Title I, from eligibility to funding, is a head-hurting, complicated subject. Alyson Klein, a reporter for our partner Education Week, has a good explanation of the study and the broader issue – read it here.

Improving teacher quality by giving teachers access to professional development and college coursework is the focus of a new federal grant program. The effort, which will tap $680,000 in grants for Colorado, is designed to improve partnerships between institutions of higher education and school districts.

Targeted school districts include Denver Public Schools, Greeley District 6 and five rural BOCES or Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, which provide services such as special education to districts. Both districts and the five BOCES failed to meet federal guidelines for qualified teachers and annual student progress for three consecutive years under the federal government’s accountability system.

Projects at Colorado colleges and universities to receive grant funding include:

  • The University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education, the University of Denver’s Division of Natural Science and Mathematics, and DPS will partner to support elementary teachers in improving content mastery in math and science.
  • The University of Northern Colorado’s College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, Greeley District 6 and the BOCES will partner to provide professional development in linguistically diverse education.

“Studies consistently tell us that the greatest potential to influence children’s education is a highly effective teacher,” said DHE Executive Director and Lt. Gov. Joseph Garcia in a prepared statement. “That is why this partnership is so important. The more that higher education and K-12 can work together to improve teacher quality and effectiveness through professional development, the more we are helping our students succeed.”

Upcoming:

Expert panelists at this month’s Buechner Breakfast will discuss DPS’ ProComp compensation system and a recent evaluation of that system by the University of Colorado Denver.

The session will be held from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Friday at 1380 Lawrence St. in the second floor meeting area. The event also will be webcast; use this link to view – https://connect.cuonline.edu/bbff.

The Buechner Breakfast is a monthly event sponsored by the UCD School of Public Affairs.

Good reads from elsewhere:

The New York Times combed through data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and found a major surge in the number of American schoolchildren who are receiving free or low-cost meals for the first time as the economy’s slide has taken its toll on family incomes. The number of students receiving subsidized lunches rose to 21 million last school year, up from 18 million in 2006-2007. That’s a 17 percent increase. An interactive map that accompanies the story shows Colorado had a 5.7 percent increase from 2007 to 2011. Currently, 45.9 percent of Colorado students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at cbauman@chalkbeat.org.

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede