Category Archives: Education Politics

Union Wins Bragging Rights

The Douglas County School Board election results were disappointing: The union backed, anti-reform slate of candidates won with the help of a last minute, 300,000-dollar push by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Douglas County’s unique district funded school-voucher program will likely, but not certainly, end. Pam Benigno, the director of the Education Policy Center at the Independence Institute, elaborated on the results of the election in The Denver Post, stating that: “No doubt they [the union backed slate] will end the [Choice Scholarship] program and no longer defend it through the court system. No doubt the union’s prize for winning the election will be a collective bargaining agreement and national bragging rights that they killed the nation’s first local school board voucher program.” While strong union involvement was an important factor in the election, the union backed candidates were also able to capitalize on the current political environment. The Trump/DeVos hysteria, when paired with the recent criticism of charter schools by groups such as the ACLU and NAACP, has created political turmoil that has masked the success of school choice programs across the county. These forces have created uncertainty about the legitimacy of charter schools, and reintroduced the stale […]

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PARCC Rides Off Into the Sunset… On a Circular Track

It’s no secret that people don’t love Pearson’s PARCC tests. Even way back in 2015, states were practically tripping on themselves trying to get away from the unpopular test, which was originally designed to provide comparable results across state lines. That trend has continued, and only a handful of the original dozens of PARCC states remain. Now, it looks like Colorado is jumping ship. It’s about time. But are we really leaving PARCC behind? Or are we just witnessing a rebranding effort? Colorado’s experience with PARCC has not been overly pleasant. For starters, and although there have been some improvements on this front, results have been slow to roll in despite promises from test-making giant Pearson Education that their technology would make those results available faster. It’s hard to do much with test scores that come in after the new school year is already in full swing. That makes it very tough to create buy-in on the part of educators, parents, or even education observers. PARCC has similarly failed to convince students and parents of its value, and opt-out numbers have soared. Those opt outs are a serious problem for a number of reasons. First, they signal that the state […]

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The Education Establishment is Dead, Long Live the Education Establishment?

“The king is dead, long live the king.” Have you heard that one before? It’s a phrase a variety of countries have used to simultaneously announce the death of a monarch and the ascension of a new one. The phrase has survived into the modern era in part because it provides an excuse to use the word epanalepsis and in part because it turns out to be a pretty poignant description of the lack of change when regimes shift. I was reminded of this old phrase while reading a recent blog post by American Enterprise Institute education guru Rick Hess, who has been working for a while now to prevent education reformers from morphing into a new education establishment. This particular post is in response to a number of folks who took issue with a previous Hess post criticizing the amount of bureaucratic paperwork involved in crafting state education plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act. You know, like the 150-page one Colorado submitted in May. In that post, Hess wrote: The vapidity of the exercise would be unremarkable if everyone clearly understood that these filings are the kind of pointless, paper exercise demanded by 21st century bureaucracy, and that the […]

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Superintendent Subterfuge: Broken Promises, Empty Words, and the Crystal Ball in Jefferson County

Remember that recall thing that happened in Jeffco back in 2015? Of course you do. We all do. In fact, a fair number of folks are still suffering from the edu-PTSD that nasty fight caused. Many speculated as the dust settled that the dishonesty underlying the Jeffco recall portended broken promises and bad behavior by the new 5-0 anti-reform board. And based on the board’s recent selection of Eagle County’s legendarily anti-reform Jason Glass as its new superintendent, it would appear those predictions have come true. It became clear pretty quickly following the 2015 election that recall proponents were somewhat… erm… less than honest about their motivations and backers. That’s a nice way of saying they lied through their collective teeth. First, it emerged that the teachers union began working against the conservative reform majority “from the moment the polls closed in 2013” despite statements to the contrary from just about everyone on the pro-recall side. Then, we discovered that the “parent-led” recall effort was, in fact, directly funded by the National Education Association. When that revelation blew up a legal attempt by the pro-recall Jeffco United to conceal its donors, it was revealed that things were even worse than they […]

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HB 1375: What Is It, and What Does It Mean for Charters?

Last week, we talked about the sausage-making process behind House Billl 17-1375, which was originally Senate Bill 17-061, but on two separate occasions was part of Senate Bill 17-296.  Got it? Tortured though its legislative journey was, HB 1375’s passage has been heralded by many who worked on it as a huge victory for public charter schools. The Colorado League of Charter Schools, which spearheaded the effort, has been celebrating the bill’s passage as it heads to the governor’s desk, as has much of the rest of Colorado’s education reform lobby. Even the Denver Post gave the bill it’s nod of approval just before final passage. Certainly, some high-fiving and celebration is in order. Many people and organizations, including the Independence Institute, worked in support of Senate Bill 061’s original incarnation. Those folks, and the handful of Senate Democrats brave enough to vote for the bill in its near-original form, deserve a lot of praise for their efforts. But after all the backroom deals and last-minute compromises, I think it’s important to take a close look at what, exactly, we passed. Let’s do that today. Below is a rundown of the major changes to the final bill and what they might mean […]

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Sausage, Sausage Everywhere: Charter Funding Bill Survives the Legislature… Sort of

Well, my friends, we made it. As of last week, Colorado’s 2017 legislative session is a done deal. The session produced a couple of notable wins, including the elimination of PARCC in Colorado high schools and the bipartisan death of  Senator Mike “Special-Place-in-Hell” Merrifield’s perennial effort to blow up teacher tenure reform, performance compensation, and accountability in Colorado. But the main show of this year’s session was Senate Bill 061’s long and tortured journey toward finally providing funding equity for Colorado’s public charter school students. Unfortunately, that journey was rather messy and didn’t end quite the way I had hoped it would. Despite some major controversy, SB 061 cleared the Colorado Senate on a bipartisan 22-13 vote back in March. Five brave Democrats joined most Senate Republicans in pushing the funding bill forward, though they did add an amendment offering districts the opportunity to “clarify” voter intent with regard to mill levy override revenues—an addition I find rather disconcerting given the near-total lack of MLOs that explicitly exclude public charters. But hey, at least it got through. Then stuff got weird.

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DeVos Wasn't Wrong About Choice and Accessibility

It’s been a while since we last talked, hasn’t it? I apologize for that. The last few weeks have been absolutely packed with edu-stuff. But I’m back now, and what better way is there to rekindle old fires than to tackle a controversial issue? And what could be more controversial in education right now that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos? I wrote about the unhinged shrieking over DeVos following her confirmation hearing. Shortly thereafter, she was confirmed as secretary of education on a historically narrow vote. The shrieking only intensified, so my policy friend Ross Izard used an editorial in The Hill to point out the Left’s rather stark philosophical inconsistency when it comes to ambitious, successful women in politics. As Ross wrote, the Left appears to believe that “Women are to be empowered—unless they disagree with progressive positions.” The furor over DeVos receded somewhat as the healthcare debacle and President Trump’s newly declared war on conservative congressional leaders took center stage. But then, a statement by Secretary DeVos about Denver’s top ranking in the Brooking Institution’s latest Education Choice and Competition Index (ECCI) reignited the fire in earnest. Here’s the full video of DeVos’s remarks at Brookings for […]

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Colorado Democrats Take Brave Stand for Choice

I updated you last week on SB 061, which would provide fair local funding to public charter school students in Colorado. As expected, the bill sailed through the senate with broad bipartisan support, clearing the floor on a 22-13 vote. Five Democrats joined all but one Republican (Sen. Don Coram from far southeast Colorado) in passing the bill. The five Democrats were: Lois Court Dominick Moreno Rhonda Fields Cheri Jahn Angela Williams (one of the bill’s sponsors) I have a lot of respect for the Democrats who were willing to take a stand on funding fairness. This may come as a surprise, but my posts don’t always fully capture the scale of the political forces folks feel at the capitol when big bills come through. Legislators often hear from many, many lobbyists on both sides of an issue, and the pressure exerted on them can be enormous. Nowhere was that pressure more evident than with the debate about SB 061. Both sides lobbied heavily on the bill, but the opposition—CEA, AFT Colorado, AFL-CIO, a number of school districts, and others—were particularly hard on Democrats considering a yes vote. CEA President Kerrie Dallman penned a high-profile op-ed designed to politically damage Democrats […]

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Good News: Charter Funding Bill Looks Set to Pass Senate

The weekend is fast approaching, but it doesn’t look like charter advocates and legislators will be getting much rest. Further debate on Senate Bill 17-061 has been postponed until Monday, giving both sides some additional time to continue working the levers of influence. For those who haven’t been watching the Colorado Capitol closely this year, SB 061 would address the problem on inequitable local funding for public charter school students by requiring school districts to share mill levy override revenue, or extra voter-approved property taxes for education, with charters. Many of you probably remember that we saw similar legislation last year (in the form of SB 16-188), and that I was strongly supportive of that legislation. Ross Izard, my favorite policy nerd, also supported the bill. Here’s a quick refresher on the issue at hand: Public charter schools get the same amount of funding as traditional public schools under Colorado’s school finance formula (minus some chargebacks for district overhead). But money that flows to schools under the School Finance Act is only part of the education funding equation. In 2014-15, the last year for which we have complete revenue data, the School Finance Formula calculated about $5.9 billion for education. […]

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Say Bye Bye to High School PARCC Exams

It’s been a while since we talked about PARCC. Truthfully, there hasn’t been much to talk about. The test remains enormously unpopular—a fact that breeds high opt-out rates; limits student, educator, and parent buy-in; and fosters instability in our ability to measure schools’ performance and provide good information to parents looking to choose schools for their children. Now, thanks to a new bill at the legislature, PARCC will very likely be leaving Colorado high schools for good. It’s hard to talk about PARCC-era testing without talking about opt outs. That subject can get complicated quickly. There’s a lot more going on with the formal “opt-out movement” than meets the eye, a lot of which is pretty concerning. But a good deal of the fuel for that particular fire comes from opposition to PARCC. Don’t believe me? Consider this (from a previous post on the issue): I still believe PARCC—not the idea of standardizing testing itself—is a big part of the problem here. Americans overwhelmingly still support the idea of regular standardized testing, and this level of anti-testing angst didn’t exist back in the TCAP era. Don’t believe me? Check out the CDE graph from the last ESSA Hub Committee meeting below. […]

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