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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 18, 20185min220
Thousands of additional Colorado families might be able to pay for child care if a federal spending bill due in March fulfills the pledge of a recently approved budget deal. That’s because the deal, passed by Congress and signed by President Trump earlier this month, promised new money for a subsidy program that helps low-income […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 16, 20184min489
The Denver school board took a stand Thursday in support of young undocumented immigrants, urging Congress to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and pledging to provide opportunities for Denver educators to teach students about immigrant rights. “You have accomplices and luchadores in us,” said board member Angela Cobián. Cobián, who represents the […]

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Joey BunchJoey BunchFebruary 9, 20186min375

School districts could do more to ensure students, particularly students of color, have an opportunity to take college classes while still in high school.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from a student advocacy group that looked at disparities in access to what is known as “concurrent enrollment” in Colorado schools.

Programs allowing students to take college courses while they are in high school have consistently expanded to more schools and enrolled more students in Colorado for years and have been seen as a way to both prepare students for college and allow them to save money on tuition once they are fully enrolled, since they pay nothing for the courses they pass and complete now.

A copy of the report is available on Chalkbeat Colorado’s website.

The student advocacy group, Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism, gathered data about how many students of each race take concurrent enrollment classes in Aurora and Denver and is releasing a set of recommendations at an event on Friday for how districts might expand access to the courses to more students.

Janiece Mackey, co-founder and executive director of the group, said the data show that there are fewer Latino students, who are taking the college-level courses before high school graduation. However, as an upside, those who do are taking more courses.

Other student groups aren’t seeing that pattern.

“We could have more impact through supporting black students,” Mackey said. “We do best by going to the most marginalized. That’s what these correlations and numbers are showing. There’s more work to be done.”

Annual statewide reports show that in 2015-16, 22 percent of students participating in concurrent enrollment identified as Hispanic and 3 percent identified as black. Both those groups were underrepresented — statewide 33.4 percent of students identified as Hispanic and 4.6 percent as black.

Those state reports also show that Aurora Public Schools is behind other metro area districts in terms of how many students take college courses in high school. Ten percent of all Aurora students take advantage of such programs, while school districts in Englewood, Douglas County, Cherry Creek, and Denver all have higher rates of participation.

In Aurora, the more recent data used in the group’s report from 2016-17 shows white students are accessing concurrent enrollment at a higher percentage with 18 percent of all white students enrolled in the courses, compared to 13 percent of Hispanic students or 11.5 percent of black students.

Mackey said the group created recommendations after conducting interviews with officials that work in, or closely with, concurrent enrollment programs. Among the recommendations: Districts should translate information about the programs into at least the top five languages of their students; they should align courses with career pathways; and they need to find ways to increase access in charter schools and other school models.

This year, state legislators are considering a bill that would change the requirements for how school districts must notify families of concurrent enrollment opportunities. The bill, if passed, calls for districts to provide information about the benefits of taking college courses during high school, including how doing so can reduce a student’s college expenses. The bill would also require districts to clearly lay out deadlines, such as for testing or registration, that students must meet to be able to participate in the courses.

Registration and timelines were identified in the report as some of the barriers students face in trying to take concurrent enrollment.

Mackey said she has provided some input on the bill and supports it, but believes it’s just one step. It would be better, she said, if the state also required the information to be provided in multiple languages, and if it came with money for districts to comply.

“I definitely think it’s a good idea,” Mackey said. “I do think that funding needs to be put with it as well. The state should be addressing and funding this issue and also providing some guidance for the district.”

Mackey’s group is planning to do more research on this topic, including putting together another report that will focus more on students’ experiences accessing these concurrent enrollment programs.

 

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Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 9, 20182min511

Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia informs us Pam Manzanec, the Larkspur Republican who represents the 4th Congressional District on the State Board of Education, is resigning from the board at the end of this month:

Mazanec provided a copy of her letter of resignation to Chalkbeat. In a separate statement, Mazanec said she is leaving her post to focus on her family’s small business. Her term would have ended in 2019.

“Serving in this role has truly been an honor and a privilege,” she said in a statement. “I thank the people of Colorado, all my colleagues on the board, past and present, Commissioner Anthes, all the staff at CDE, and everyone committed to excellent education for Colorado’s students. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve.”

As Garcia notes in his report, Manzanec, first elected in 2012, represents a solidly GOP swath of the state and “has been a reliable conservative voice in some of the state’s thorniest education debates, including the role of standards and testing, data privacy, and school choice.”

A Republican vacancy committee will choose a replacement to serve the rest of her term.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirJanuary 5, 20184min1621

The rule of thumb when it comes to mounting a statewide citizens initiative for public school funding is — don’t bother. Whichever way the political pendulum happens to be swinging in a given election cycle, Colorado voters seldom seem in the mood for giving the state government more money, even for schools.

Local school ballot issues are entirely another matter, of course, but at the state level, the last attempt to raise taxes for schools was shot down by voters 2-to-1, in 2013.

And yet, as Chalkbeat Colorado’s Nic Garcia informs us, some true believers in the quest to up the ante for education funding have boldly stepped forward once again. Garcia reports this week that public-ed activists Martha Olson of Boulder and Donald Anderson of Fort Collins have filed a bevy of ballot proposals with the state, and expect to file more, to raise up to $1.7 billion more for Colorado schools. (All the proposals are variations of one another, a standard tactic in testing the waters for a ballot issue.)

Here’s Garcia with more:

While each proposal varies slightly, each would create a new graduated income tax on individuals making more than $150,000. Some proposals would also create a new corporate tax, while others would make modifications to how personal and commercial property is taxed for schools. Some do all three. …

… Ultimately, though, voters will vote on just one of the various proposals — if Olson and Anderson and their network of supporters can gather enough signatures to place one on the ballot.

Making the bid’s long odds even longer is the fact that the proposals — some of which cleared a procedural hurdle this week when a state panel approved their ballot verbiage — would be constitutional amendments. That means they’re subject to a new, tougher standard passed by the state’s voters: Proponents must gather signatures in each of the Colorado’s 35 state Senate districts, and if they make the ballot, their measure would need the support of 55 percent of ballots cast rather than a simple majority in order to pass.

Meaning, they have to get something closer to a mandate. Squeaking by with a 1-point margin on Election Day won’t do. Neither will staking out the five busiest grocery stores in metro Denver and stalking shoppers to their cars until they relent and sign a petition. They actually have to pitch their proposal to voters across the state.

That’s the simplified version. Read Garcia’s full report — here’s the link again — for more detail as well as his characteristic, nuanced insights. Garcia even talks to an education-reform advocate who thinks more money isn’t the top priority in beefing up our schools.

At any rate, if you’ve been hoping for a chance to help boost education funding, sit tight; petition circulators just might be coming your way. Even if you live in Mancos.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirNovember 15, 20173min712

Chalkbeat Colorado's Nic Garcia offers a post-game analysis of last week's school board elections that serves as a primer for political junkies and campaign tacticians of every stripe. Garcia dissects the highly successful efforts of teachers unions to regain ground they had lost to education reformers in three high-profile school districts — Denver's, Aurora's and Douglas County's — and the big takeaway is go hyperlocal, start early, and dig deep.


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirNovember 1, 20173min1530

There’s election rhetoric, and there’s reality. Hence, the election mailers sent to Denver households recently accusing the incumbent Denver Public Schools board and administration of “ceding space to a for-profit charter school.”

It’s no secret the Denver Classroom Teachers Association — the local union that helped fund the mailers through its donations to an independent expenditure committee — doesn’t like charter schools and is backing a slate of candidates who feel the same way. The union aims to turn over the current Denver board and change its trajectory. A long-standing talking point in that effort has been to denounce the booming charter-school movement as an attempt to privatize public education and turn it over to profiteers.

Yet, as education-affairs sleuth Chalkbeat Colorado reminded us the other day in its coverage of the race:

In Colorado, charter schools are required to be run by nonprofit boards. Charter school boards are permitted to contract operations and management to for-profit companies, often known as education-management organizations or EMOs, but that is rare in Colorado.

OK, so just how rare is it that charter school management and operations are contracted out to for-profit firms at the state’s 226 charter schools (and counting), which enroll well over 100,000 students? It turns out to be less than 3 percent. That’s according to Dan Schaller, government affairs director for the Colorado League of Charter Schools.

In other words, the charter school movement in Colorado is, to all intents and purposes, nonprofit. Pretty open-and-shut.

Which is why, as Chalkbeat reported Tuesday, those responsible for the mailer have now cried “uncle” following an outcry from current Denver school board members and charter supporters:

An independent committee trying to sway a Denver school board race has agreed to stop saying a “for-profit charter school” is moving into a DPS campus in northeast Denver. … the committee … agreed “not to use that messaging in any digital advertising or in any future printed mailings.”

But will the committee agree to go door to door asking for its errant mailers back?


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Dan NjegomirDan NjegomirSeptember 6, 20173min662

If so, the local teachers union’s endorsement of four candidates reminds us where the battle lines are drawn. According to Chalkbeat Colorado, at least five of the nine candidates in the largely urban Aurora Public Schools board race this fall have expressed varying degrees of opposition to the proliferation of public charter schools.

And on Tuesday, the Aurora Education Association issued a press release endorsing four of the candidates:

The Aurora Education Association (AEA) is proud to support Kyla Armstrong-Romero, Kevin Cox, Debbie Gerkin, and Marques Ivey in their campaigns for School Board of Aurora Public Schools.

“As educators, our members are committed to ensuring that all Aurora students have the quality schools that they deserve. We are confident that these four candidates share that vision for public education and will work for increased transparency and accountability on the Aurora School Board,” said Bruce Wilcox, Aurora teacher and President of the Aurora Education Association.

Charter schools are not mentioned in the union’s press statement; it simply observes:

This Aurora Public School’s election is occurring at a pivotal moment in Aurora Public Schools. The outcome of this election will likely shape public education in the metro-area in the years to come.

Of course, the union’s opposition to expansion of the autonomous and largely non-union schools is well established. And as Chalkbeat points out, district Superintendent Rico Munn  pushed the current board this summer to OK a charter for Denver’s highly regarded DSST program.

Which sounds a lot like the “pivotal moment” the union refers to.

The question now is whether any of the other candidates will stand up for charters, which are increasingly popular with parents. Will the new DSST charter become a political football?