Colorado

Wednesday Churn: Notice rule dies

Updated 4 p.m. – A tie vote this afternoon by the Legislative Legal Service Committee effectively killed the State Board of Education rule that requires school districts inform parents when employees are arrested for certain crimes.

The board unanimously approved the rule last April, and it was subsequently challenged in court by the Colorado Education Association. That case is pending, although a Denver judge earlier this fall denied a motion for an injunction against the rule.

State agency rules are governed by a complex review process. Once issued, rules are in effect until the following May 15. For rules to go into effect permanently, the legislature passes a law every year extending rules beyond May 15.

Lawyers from the Office of Legislative Legal Services review new rules and may make recommendations to the Legal Services Committee, a joint House-Senate panel. In this case the staff lawyers recommended the parent notice rule not be extended because they concluded the board didn’t have the legal power to issue it.

A motion to extend the rule died on a 5-5 vote, with committee Republicans voting yes and Democrats voting no. That means the rule will expire next May 15.

SBE Chair Bob Schaffer, R-1st District, attended the committee hearing and testified. He said after the meeting that he’ll probably start looking around for a legislative sponsor to carry a bill in 2012 that would make parent notification the law.

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

The Department of Education and some universities have significant amounts of unspent federal stimulus funds, but officials told the Legislative Audit Committee Tuesday that they plan to use the money before federal deadlines hit.

The committee was briefed by members of the state auditor’s staff on unspent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. The staff report (not a full audit) focused on the Department of Education and the Governor’s Energy Office because those agencies have spent less than 75 percent of the funds received. The report also covered three grants to the University of Colorado and one to Colorado State University.

Two grants to CDE and the lieutenant governor’s office totaled $18.9 million, of which $3 million has been spent. The four higher education grants totaled $26.1 million, of which $10.4 million has been spent.

The largest is the $17.4 million longitudinal data systems grant to CDE, of which $2.7 million has been spent. The grant must be used by June 30, 2013. Dan Domagala, CDE chief information officer, said 73 percent of the funds have been committed. “We’re on plan,” he added, to finish the project before the federal deadline.

What’s on tap:

TODAY

Democratic legislative leaders will offer a look at their 2012 legislative agenda during an 11:30 a.m. Capitol news conference. Senate President Brandon Shaffer of Longmont and Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino also are supposed to unveil the first bill of the session, Senate Bill 12-001.

A briefing on innovation schools is scheduled at 3 p.m. at Colorado Education Association offices in downtown Denver. Kelci Price, with the School of Education & Human Development at CU-Denver, will present the first report from an ongoing three-year study of the state’s innovation law and the first innovation schools in Denver. It’s hosted by CEA, A+ Denver, Denver Public Schools, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Education Reform Now and Get Smart Schools.

The Colorado Springs District 11 board meets at 6:30 p.m. at 1115 N. El Paso St. Agenda

The St. Vrain Valley School District board is scheduled to meet at 395 S. Pratt Parkway in Longmont at 7 p.m. Agenda

Good reads from elsewhere:

The New York Times spent several months analyzing the for-profit online schools provider K12 Inc. and reports its findings in this in-depth article, which notes, “A portrait emerges of a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.” Read article

A dispute over land is heating up between Eagle County School District, Stone Creek Charter School and the Charter School Institute. The school district is calling in state officials to investigate. Story in the Vail Daily here.

A third-party analysis of Craig Middle School found some structural concerns and as a precaution students are being kept from entering certain portions of the building. The independent review was sought after problems surfaced at Meeker Elementary School. The Neenan Co., the district’s general contractor, was in charge of the work at both buildings. Story in the Craig Daily Press here.

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