Colorado

Business groups challenge CEA on potential lawsuit

Leaders of seven business groups wrote to the Colorado Education Association Friday, urging the union to “to drop this ill-conceived and disruptive lawsuit” against a provision of the state’s landmark educator effectiveness and evaluation law, Senate Bill 10-191.

StockA66Logo92613CEA issued a statement saying, “The work of getting SB-191 implementation done right does not lend itself to the quick resolution the writers of this letter demand.”

The letter is the latest development in a slowly simmering controversy over a recent decision to extend the deadline for CEA and its affiliate, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, to file a lawsuit challenging part of the law, if they choose to do so.

Those two groups, plus potential defendants the Denver school board and the State Board of Education, agreed last month to extend the filing deadline from Aug. 31 to next February 1. (EdNews was the first to report the delay; see this story.)

Since then there have been charges by Amendment 66 opponents and conservative commentators that the delay was engineered to avoid bad publicity during the campaign to pass Amendment 66, the proposed $950 million P-12 tax increase.

Denver Post editorial page editor Vincent Carroll raised that idea in a recent column, and a scathing editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette this week made the same charge under the headline “Deception key to new education tax increase.”

However, it’s hardly been a secret that the unions, particularly the DCTA, were unhappy with the mutual consent provision of the law, which requires both principals and teachers to agree to placements in a specific school. The Denver union challenged DPS’ use of mutual consent, and an arbitrator’s “advisory opinion” last year concluded the provision was unconstitutional. (Unlike other provisions of SB 10-191, which are still being rolled out, mutual consent went into effect as soon as the bill was signed.) It’s been widely assumed in education circles that a union lawsuit was possible. (Get more background in this EdNews story.)

Highlights of the letter

The business groups’ letter reads in part: “This pending lawsuit puts educator effectiveness at risk, leading you and our partners into unproductive territory that ultimately will greatly challenge our efforts to improve schools. Throwing up legal roadblocks and delaying implementation of this important statute does nothing to improve the effectiveness of our teachers, strengthen teacher and student performance, or expand the horizons of students. … Voters will decide this fall whether to fund these positive changes via Amendment 66; however, your recent actions have put a foundational piece of the reform agenda in jeopardy, and we urge you to drop this ill-conceived and disruptive lawsuit.”

Only at the end of the letter do the signers refer to the speculation about lawsuit delay. “We have been pleased to work with you in the past on many education initiatives and are ready to do so again. As a first step, we ask you to waive your legal challenge over the mutual consent provisions of SB 191 and join us in a public statement to reaffirm our shared commitment to implementing the core principles of SB 191 statewide with fidelity. But, if you are not willing to do that, Coloradans deserve to know now, not next year, that you are turning to the courts to undercut positive school reform.”

What CEA said

In response, here’s the text of the CEA statement:

“The Denver Classroom Teachers Association has been trying to work collaboratively with the Denver Public Schools district to find an alternate resolution to the problem of Senate Bill 191 implementation for two years. It is difficult for those who haven’t been part of the complex and intricate discussions between DCTA and DPS to have a clear picture of the nature of our disagreement and our objective of ensuring quality, veteran teachers are not displaced from Denver classrooms.

“Since passage of SB-191, the Colorado Education Association has been focused on implementing the law in a way that lives up to its stated objective: to give public school students the best possible classroom teachers. How best to accomplish that is at the heart of the dispute between DCTA and DPS. Keeping the best teachers with demonstrated effectiveness in the classroom is in the best interest of students, and CEA has a moral and professional obligation to ensure this is every district’s priority as the educator effectiveness evaluation system is implemented across the state.

“CEA and DPS signed a tolling agreement [the delay in the filing deadline] to allow more time for conversations and discussions to take place. This means that both sides agree to commit to action in an attempt to stay out of the courts. The quickest and most productive way to bring a resolution is it to continue quality conversation between DCTA and DPS, and we look forward to mediation and the opportunity to find a collaborative solution that is best for students.

“The work of getting SB-191 implementation done right does not lend itself to the quick resolution the writers of this letter demand. But we will continue to have diligent and intensive discussions that hopefully lead to the collaborative outcome that ultimately benefits the children and families of Denver.”

Who signed the business groups’ letter

Signing the business groups’ letter were representatives of Colorado Concern, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry and the South Metro Denver Chamber of Commerce, as well as two regional groups, Action 22 and Progressive 15. Also signing were co-chairs Bob Diebel and Al Timothy of Colorado Succeeds, a business group that focuses on education issues and generally supports the education changes that would be partly funded by Amendment 66.

While numerous individual executives have endorsed Amendment 66, business groups generally has remained neutral, notably the Denver Metro Chamber. A few, such as the South Metro chamber, are opposed. (See this list of individual and other endorsements on the website of Colorado Commits to Kids, the main support group.)

Business hesitancy around Amendment 66 is primarily generated by the fact that the measure would modify Colorado’s current flat income tax rate with a two-step system. The amendment would raise the individual income tax rate from 4.63 percent to 5 percent on incomes up to $75,000, and income above $75,000 would be taxed at 5.9 percent. Small business owners who file taxes as individuals would pay the new rates, something that also concerns some business groups.

Read the letter here.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.