Tag Archives: Rocky Mountain News

As DPSRS-PERA Merger Looms, Come March 20 to Independence Institute to Learn About K-12 Pension Compensation

That didn’t take long. The Rocky Mountain News is no more, but education reporter extraordinaire Nancy Mitchell is back. Hopefully the first of many, she has posted a lengthy piece on the proposed merger of the Denver Public Schools (DPS) and state PERA retirement systems. DPS officials are pushing the discussion forward, saying that the current set-up costs them funding that could be used in the classrooms: “We pay $685 more per pupil per year in pension and retiree costs than any of the other 177 school districts in Colorado,” [superintendent Tom] Boasberg said, “which comes out to $47 million more per year … “Translate that into teachers, that’s 700 or 800 teachers, that’s a reduction in our class size of 15 to 20 percent. Every class that has 30 students would be a class of 25 students.” Unfortunately, this article didn’t delve into the costly problem that University of Colorado at Denver professor Michael Mannino highlighted in his recent Independence Institute report Deferred Retirement Compensation for Career K-12 Employees: Understanding the Need for Reform (PDF). The average retired DPS career employee can expect to earn $627,570 more in benefits than his or her estimated retirement account balance. It’s a […]

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Sad to See Rocky Go, But Education Reporter Nancy Mitchell Should Stay

Today is a sad day, one that people who have been around a lot longer than I have seem to understand a bit more. No more Rocky Mountain News. There’s a nice tribute over at GoBash as a “bad day for education reform”, as well as a call for a moment of silence from Ed News Colorado. We will miss living in a two-newspaper town. The Denver Post reports that a lot of the big names from the Rocky will join the staff of the city’s sole remaining daily paper — including editorial page editor Vincent Carroll, political reporter Lynn Bartels, columnists Mike Littwin and Tina Griego, and sports writer Dave Krieger. But what about Colorado’s most decorated and talented education reporter: Nancy Mitchell? Her excellent “Leaving to Learn” series alone shows what a great asset she has been. I certainly hope Nancy Mitchell finds a way to stay in Colorado, and continue to provide the great coverage on education that this almost-6-year-old can only aspire to do someday.

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Colorado Schools Just That Much Closer to True Transparency

In case you missed it from Friday, after winning endorsements from both the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, a proposal to bring greater financial transparency to Colorado public schools moved one step closer to reality by passing the state senate on a preliminary voice vote. I guess the big discussion state legislators had included some very interesting and telling remarks.

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More Colorado Students and Parents Choosing the Cyberschool Option

Because of the fact that I communicate with you over the Internet, you’d probably guess I’m a big fan of online education. Well, I am. It doesn’t work for every kid, but it sure deserves to be treated fairly as another educational option. Cyberschools well may be the wave of the future, and it’s growing more popular with parents and students in Colorado all the time. In today’s Rocky Mountain News, Nancy Mitchell sheds light on the rising trend of cyberschools: Growth in the programs, which had spiked from 166 students in 2000 to 9,150 in 2006, eked up to 9,222 in 2007. But in fall 2008, that number grew to 11,641 students – an enrollment that would rank it 19th among Colorado’s 178 school districts in size…. In return for greater accountability, the law provides more funding. Before, online schools were prohibited from receiving funding for students who had been home- schooled or were in private schools the year before they enrolled in virtual classes.

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Citizens Have Chance to Stand Up for Real – not Phony-Baloney – Transparency

Nancy Mitchell of the Rocky Mountain News has reported that Denver Public Schools (DPS) plans to cut the budget by 2 percent. To its credit, DPS already has made some moves toward financial transparency, but not to the degree that Senate Bill 57 (PDF) would have DPS and every other Colorado school district and charter school do. At least the original version of SB 57. I told you last week how many citizens came to testify in favor of school districts adopting the relatively simple and cost-effective approach of posting expenditures online in a user-friendly, searchable format. But a majority of legislators on the Senate Education Committee hijacked the bill and made it merely a suggestion – a worthless way of pretending to support transparency. Tomorrow morning (Tuesday, February 3) SB 57 will be debated before the entire state senate, and we’ll get to see whether our legislators support real transparency or the phony-baloney kind. Over at YourHub, Lakewood citizen and transparency supporter Natalie Menten says the debate provides an opportunity to send a strong message to state lawmakers:

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Where Does Colorado Rank? Quality Questions about Quality Counts

In recent years we have seen reports from Colorado’s major newspapers – like this one from 2008 in the Rocky Mountain News – reacting to the release of Education Week‘s Quality Counts survey. The survey uses an assortment of measures in school finance, student achievement, accountability and more to come up with state-by-state scores and letter grades for comparison. Last year, Colorado overall ranked 38th with a low C. This year, Colorado overall ranks 37th with a low C. Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen any news stories yet. But trust me, I’m not complaining about this fact. Why do I say that? Check out legal scholar and philosopher Stuart Buck’s quick work of deconstructing Quality Counts. First, the humorous: In fact, the report reminds me of the old joke (I can’t remember who to credit for this) of a beggar sitting on the streets of New York, with a sign reading, “Wars, 2; Legs Lost, 1; Wives Who Left Me, 2; Children, 3; Lost Jobs, 2. TOTAL: 10.” Well, obviously, the number “10″ doesn’t represent ten of anything.

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Colorado Judges Rule in Favor of Funding Fairness for Charter Schools

Okay, the year is almost over. And you won’t see me writing anything here between now and 2009. So I thought it a good idea to close out 2008 with a post that has some good news. In yesterday’s Rocky Mountain News, Berny Morson reported on a Colorado court decision that almost got completely overlooked. But it definitely is good news: School districts must apply the same funding rules to charter schools as they do other schools, the Colorado Court of Appeals has held in a Fort Collins case. At issue is a provision inserted by the Poudre R-1 school board in the contract that governs the Ridgeview Classical Schools, a charter school. The provision allowed the district to reduce financial support to Ridgeview when students transfer out. [link added] Basic and simple fairness, right? Students should benefit from the same funding rules whether they are in a traditional public school or a public charter school. Either it’s a good idea to take funds away from a school when a student transfers after the fall attendance count, or it’s not. It shouldn’t be a good idea for charters and a bad idea for others, or vice versa.

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Kafer's Invaluable Advice for Colorado Families Seeking a New School

Yes, I’m not ashamed to admit it: I’m a big (and maybe the youngest) fan of Krista Kafer. The column Krista wrote for yesterday’s Rocky Mountain News is just the latest reason — even though she does tell readers to do more homework: While rankings and other analysis can provide the public and parents confidence in charter schools as a whole, school-by-school information is actually more important to individual families. When considering public schools – whether district-run or charter – the [School Accountability Report] is great place to start when choosing a school. Parents shouldn’t stop there. They should check out other sources of information such as www.greatschools.net, www.schoolmatters.com and www.schoolchoiceforkids.org. Next they should visit the school’s Web site and the school building. You don’t have to be an education expert to recognize student disengagement, apathy or boredom. Kids wandering aimlessly, teachers yelling angrily or trash scattered about the floor – these would be bad signs. Talking to other parents, teachers and students is a must. Families who want to look for a charter school for their child, or to take advantage of the open enrollment process and find a different traditional public school, you have to read the whole […]

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Education Secretary Post Could Do a Lot Worse than Michael Bennet

According to reliable Rocky Mountain News education reporter Nancy Mitchell, the name of Denver Public Schools superintendent Michael Bennet is being bounced around as a serious candidate to serve as Secretary of Education: The Newsweek columnist who broke the story of Barack Obama’s presidential bid is betting on Denver Public Schools Superintendent Michael Bennet as the next U.S. secretary of education. “I have my money on Bennet,” Jonathan Alter writes in the soon-to-be-printed Dec. 15 issue. The others on Alter’s short list are Chicago Public Schools Superintendent Arne Duncan and Paul Vallas, head of New Orleans’ public schools. The usually accessible Bennet is being coy about the column. He declined to comment directly. Being superintendent of an urban school district is a tough job. From the standpoint of teacher innovation, parental choice, local empowerment, and student opportunity, it’s easy to argue that Michael Bennet has done better than most. The CSAP results that have come in show some small positive gains in DPS, but there is still much work to be done. As this 2007 New Yorker feature story (Word document) shows, Bennet has worked tirelessly to take on the challenges. He has hit his share of bumps and made […]

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Congratulations to Susan Elliott, Colorado Teacher of the Year

The Rocky Mountain News today has an inspirational feature on Colorado Teacher of the Year Susan Elliott: Elliott, 54, grew up in California. She has been deaf since early childhood. “When I was 5 years old, I flunked the hearing test when I tried to get into kindergarten,” Elliott said. “And I continued to keep losing my hearing. It got worse and worse every year until I was profoundly deaf in my late teens.” The cause was genetic. Elliott has been teaching since 1977. She taught in Denver Public Schools and has been with Douglas County since 1994. While she has taught at all grade levels, she currently teaches English and social studies at Highlands Ranch High School. “We have a wonderful team of interpreters,” she said of the people who enable communication between students who speak and those who sign. “I guess I could say that creativity and the opportunity to be a lifelong learner is what keeps me coming back to the classroom.” Susan Elliott seems like a remarkable teacher. She is deserving of congratulations for the tremendous honor. It’s interesting to note that she teaches in Douglas County School District, a local leader in advancing ways to […]

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