Who Is In Charge

New bills: Literacy, gaming and more

House members return to work Wednesday facing more than 50 new bills in their file folders, including some key and interesting education measures.

IllustrationThe expected third-grade literacy measure was introduced as House Bill 12-1238. This year’s attempt to expand electronic gambling for help fund higher education came in as House Bill 12-1280.

Many lawmakers took most of the day off Tuesday to return to their districts for precinct caucuses, so the avalanche of new bills moved across the House front desk largely unnoticed by members.

The literacy bill, in the works for months, is expected to be the focus of one of the key education policy debates of 2012. An alliance of education reform and business groups are pushing the measure, and early literacy also is a priority for the Hickenlooper administration.

The proposal already has been the focus of extensive negotiations, partly because early versions proposed mandatory retention for third graders who didn’t meet specified test scores. That prompted lots of push back from wide segments of the education community.

The bill as introduced would rewrite the existing Colorado Basic Literacy Act and, starting in 2013-14, would create a detailed system for testing third-graders and determining their reading skills. Students who fell below a certain level would be recommended for retention, subject to discussions among parents, teachers and administrators. Superintendents would have the final say.

The measure would take money from the existing Read-to-Achieve program (and abolish that effort) to create a grant fund the Department of Education would use to help school districts pay for programs to help struggling students.

Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs
Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs
The 44-page bill has some powerhouse bipartisan sponsors, including Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs and chair of the House Education Committee and Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver and the author of 2010’s landmark teacher evaluation bill.

Bills have yet to be introduced on such key issues as regulation of online schools, school finance reform, revenue adjustments for the BEST program and modernizing regulation of for-profit colleges.

House Bill 12-1280 is sure to revive old debates about expansion of gambling and the needs of the higher education system. The bill has bipartisan sponsorship in both houses and proposes a complicated formula for distributing revenue from video gaming terminals to a college scholarship fund and a variety of other programs. The bill also includes geographic limits on where the new games could be offered.

The distribution formula and the limits appear to be efforts to defuse interest-group opposition that doomed similar efforts in past sessions.

Two other new education bills raise interesting ideas but may have a hard time advancing.

House Bill 12-1252 would require state colleges and universities to post various kinds of financial information online, much as other state agencies are required to do. In recent years higher education institutions, pointing out continually decreasing state support, have won large amounts of financial autonomy from the state and may well be resistant to a new mandate. The bill is sponsored by Rep. BJ Nikkel, R-Loveland, and Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, both of who are lame ducks.

Rep. Judy Solano, D-Brighton, along with Massey and Rep. Nancy Todd, D-Aurora, is sponsoring House Bill 12-1261, which would given certain teachers, based on their effectiveness ratings, preference in applying for jobs at high-needs schools. The measure also would establish a fund, seeded with gifts, grants and donations that would be used to help recruit and retain such teachers.

House Bill 12-1240 is a CDE cleanup bill that, among other things, would delay development of statewide graduation guidelines and development of specialized kinds of high school diplomas.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

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.