Who Is In Charge

Legislature put on notice

A campaign intended to nudge the 2013 legislature into taking education funding seriously kicked off Wednesday with student speakers urging citizens to join the effort.

Haylley Stromberg
Douglas County high school student Hayley Stromberg

Dubbed 2013: Year of the Student, the effort is seeking individual and organizational endorsements and their commitment to contact legislators.

The hope is “to join together the voices of the hundreds of thousands of Colorado’s who support public education,” said Douglas County 9th grader Hayley Stromberg, the lead-off speaker for the Capitol news conference. “The story of the 2013 legislature is ours to write.” Stromberg leads an effort named the Douglas County Kids Campaign.

“A Call to Legislative Action” petition will be presented to lawmakers and the governor after the November election. The campaign so far has signed up more than 50 community and advocacy groups.

Five other students, all college aged, also spoke at the event. Zeke Johnson, a University of Colorado Boulder senior, said rising costs are forcing students to go out of state. “Colorado cannot afford to have our best and brightest seeking education elsewhere.”

The Year of the Student effort launches at a time when education funding remains a major unresolved question hanging over the state.

Last December a Denver District judge ruled for the plaintiffs in the Lobato v. State school funding case, finding that Colorado’s K-12 funding system violates the state constitution’s requirement for a “thorough and uniform” school system.

Gov. John Hickenlooper and the State Board of Education appealed the decision to the Colorado Supreme Court, where it’s pending. (The state doesn’t have to file its first brief in the case until next month.)

With the district court ruling on ice because of the appeal, there wasn’t much talk about school funding during the 2012 legislative session, to the frustration of advocates for increased school spending.

Some Democrats wanted to add a Lobato cost study to the 2012-13 school funding bill, but that amendment was withdrawn in committee in the face of warnings that it would sabotage the whole school finance act.

Republicans introduced a late resolution that would have had the legislature intervene in the case as a friend of the court on the state’s side. But that measure was killed in committee because it had no chance of passing the full legislature.

Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, promised to introduce legislation to reform some elements of the finance system but didn’t pull the trigger, saying at session’s end that the issue wasn’t ready for legislative consideration. Johnston has been working with a study group named the Colorado School Finance Partnership, which reportedly is regrouping on the issue.

Year of the Student organizers hope to convince the 2013 session to do what lawmakers didn’t do this year.

Students at Capitol news conference
A Colorado map made of puzzle pieces was used as a visual aid at the June 13, 2012, news conference.

And education in general has emerged as a major subject of concern for participants in TBD Colorado, a statewide effort launched by Hickenlooper to gather citizen views on major policy issues (see story).

The Year of the Student campaign was organized by Great Education Colorado, an advocacy group that long has pushed for improved school funding.

Late last year Great Education mounted an online petition campaign urging state officials not to appeal the Lobato ruling. The group also was a major backer of Proposition 103, the school-and-college funding increase defeated by voters last year. And in 2010 Great Education backed an unsuccessful legislative proposal to exempt school funding from the limits in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights.

Lisa Weil, Great Education’s policy director, said Wednesday, “There wasn’t a sense of urgency” about education funding in the legislature this year” and that “It’s going to be necessary to have legislators hear from constituents” to change that in 2013. “We want to make sure that session will focus. … We’ve kicked this thing down the road for the last time.”

The campaign isn’t planning to propose specific changes to the finance system; it just wants lawmakers to take up the issue, Weil said.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”