Archive for the ‘Public Education’ category

Thank you, Colorado Legislators, for passing SB 33 and helping more students attend college

March 9, 2013

On Friday, the House of Representatives approved Senate Bill 33, the legislation that will make it possible for an undocumented student to attend college in Colorado at the in-state tuition rate. The House was the last stop for the bill before it lands on Governor Hickenlooper’s desk for his signature.

All the Democrats in the both the Senate and the House voted for the bill, along with six Republicans. We ask CEA members to thank all the legislators who voted for the bill, with special appreciation to these Republicans: Sens. Larry Crowder (Alamosa), Owen Hill (Colorado Springs), and Greg Brophy (Wray); Reps. Cheri Gerou (Evergreen), Kevin Priola (Henderson), and Clarice Navarro-Ratzlaff (Pueblo). You can find all legislators’ email addresses and web sites in the General Assembly’s Legislative Directory.

Watch for news about Governor Hickenlooper’s plans for signing SB 33.

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Thursday’s Supreme Court hearing on school funding may lead to legislative action on long term problem

March 8, 2013

On March 7, The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the State’s appeal of the December 2011 decision that Colorado’s public school funding system is unconstitutional. CEA and other public school funding advocates hope the Court’s decision in the Lobato lawsuit will be the turning point in a decades-long effort to achieve adequate, sustainable K-12 education funding.

In the state’s highest court this week, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Lobato case – students, parents, and school districts – argued that the December 2011 Denver District Court ruling be upheld. The State of Colorado argued that the Supreme Court should reject the ruling and, in essence, leave school funding just as it is today.

In the lower court, Judge Sheila Rappaport found, after a lengthy trial, that Colorado’s public school funding system is “irrational, arbitrary, and severely underfunded” and violates the State Constitution. Key findings in her decision are on the Children’s Voices web site.

Judge Rappaport ordered the State to design, fund, and implement a system of public school funding which guarantees that all students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need for citizenship, postsecondary education, and the workforce. This work falls to the Colorado Legislature.

Kathy Gebhardt, plaintiffs’ legal counsel, said, “This case has been ongoing for eight years. During that time, the violation of Colorado children’s constitutional rights has continued: school budgets have been cut, mandates added, class sizes increased, school hours decreased, student populations increased, and the number of teachers decreased. The trial court, after hearing evidence for five weeks, found that the current system of school finance is not only unconstitutional, but unconscionable.”

CEA and other education organizations have helped fund the plaintiffs’ legal work through the non-profit Children’s Voices. It’s worth your time to look at the Children’s Voices site, where you can follow the case for changing Colorado’s system of school funding.

The Supreme Court will likely issue its decision by the end of 2013.

Across-the-board education cuts will happen Friday unless…

February 27, 2013

Across-the-board cuts in federal education funding and other “discretionary” spending are scheduled to take effect this Friday, March 1. Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, economists, and educators agree that the cuts are a terrible idea.

Monday’s Denver Post reported that as a result of the cuts to federal education funding, “Almost 4,000 fewer Colorado special education students would receive support; 700 Colorado kids would lose access to school-readiness programs; and more than 100 teachers funded by Title I money could lose their jobs.”

While we are bracing for this terrible impact to Colorado students and schools, we know these cuts and job losses will not happen overnight – however, we expect Congress to take action well before the end of this school year.

You can help by contacting Colorado’s Congressional delegation and ask our members of Congress to stop the across-the-board education cuts:

Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet

Representatives Diana DeGette (CD 1), Jared Polis (CD 2), Scott Tipton (CD 3), Cory Gardner (CD 4), Doug Lamborn (CD 5), Mike Coffman (CD 6), and Ed Perlmutter (CD 7)

You can also add your name to NEA’s Kids, Not Cuts petition, and then post it on your Facebook page and tweet it.

Details on the impact of across-the-board cuts in each state
Details on the impact of across-the-board cuts nationwide

Senate Education Committee to hear ASSET bill, SB 33, on January 24

January 22, 2013

Senate Bill 33, Colorado ASSET, will ensure that all qualified Colorado high school graduates can better afford to go to college by giving them the opportunity to pay in-state tuition. As we have invested in these students during their K-12 years, we should continue our investment in them right through college.

And after college with degrees in hand, these young people are less likely to get caught in a cycle of poverty, are more likely to be productive citizens engaged in their communities – and more able to strengthen the economy by working.

Approving ASSET is one more step toward a better economy. That’s our message to the Senators on the Education Committee: Senators Evie Hudak, Michael Johnston, Rollie Heath, Andy Kerr, Nancy Todd, Owen Hill, Vicky Marble, Scott Renfroe, and Mark Scheffel.

Please join CEA and the broad coalition that supports ASSET in encouraging the Education Committee to pass SB 33 this Thursday, January 24. Sign an online petition and ask other educators to do the same and/or email your Senator and ask for support for SB 33.

Legislators back at work for 2013 session

January 9, 2013

The Colorado Legislature opened its 2013 session today with nearly one-third newly elected, first-time state lawmakers. They are led by Senate President John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) and Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). These top leaders took over from Sen. Brandon Shaffer (D-Longmont), who was term-limited, and Rep. Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch), who relinquished his party’s control as the result of the November elections. Sen. Bill Cadman (R) and Rep. Mark Waller (R), both of Colorado Springs, lead the minority party.

After Governor Hickenlooper’s State of the State speech tomorrow morning (Thursday, January 10), legislators will get down to business.

CEA is a partner in the Higher Education Access Alliance (HEAA), the coalition that will try again to pass ASSET legislation offering reduced tuition rates to undocumented students. The Legislature rejected the last two versions of this important legislation. Colorado ASSET will create a new category of public college/university tuition, called standard-rate, for undocumented students who meet specific criteria, such as attending and graduating from a Colorado high school or obtaining a Colorado GED. ASSET is a key element in ensuring Colorado’s economic recovery by offering more students the opportunity to attend college and increasing revenues to higher education institutions.

Through the Colorado School Finance Partnership, CEA and other organizations are working with legislators on a revision of the 1994 School Finance Act. Many in education and the Legislature believe the law is outdated and must be rewritten to enable the Legislature to provide more resources while supporting what voters say they want: safe neighborhood schools with excellent teachers who ensure that each student has the opportunity for a quality education. The finance law revision must also provide adequate resources without creating “winners and losers” among districts, as we already have this situation.

A new school finance law is one of several approaches* to achieving resources our schools need, but it alone will not solve the PreK-12 funding problem. However, if it is written well and widely accepted, a new finance act could be the vehicle to implement funding from a future tax increase.

As always, the dollar amount of school funding will be a big issue this year. Governor Hickenlooper said last fall that he does not want to make any more K-12 cuts, though he thinks the state will be able to make only a modest school funding increase for FY 2013-14.

CEA President Kerrie Dallman said, “The Governor is correct to point out that the projected increase ($31.7 million after accounting for inflation and higher student enrollment) repairs very little of the damage caused by massive state budget cuts over the last five years. Our K-12 investment is more than $1 billion behind the funding level Colorado voters said they wanted more than a decade ago. Districts have made painful, unpopular budget cuts, resulting in larger class sizes, fewer curriculum offerings, and increased fees for families. State leaders still need to address this serious situation.”

*Note: We expect a decision from the State Supreme Court in the Lobato lawsuit by summer, but likely not in time for legislators to consider the ruling before adjourning in May. Last year a lower court said the State is not providing a thorough and uniform public education system, that Colorado’s public school funding system is “irrational, arbitrary, and severely underfunded” and violates the State Constitution. CEA Dallman recently spoke to Colorado Public Radio listeners about the lawsuit.

Kids, not cuts!

December 7, 2012

All eyes are on Congress and the important work our federal lawmakers must do before they go home for the holidays. Right now you can add your voice to the millions of calls Association members are making to their members of Congress by calling Colorado’s U.S. Senators:  Mark Udall and Michael Bennett.

Right now – before December 13 –  we are asking CEA members and Friends of Public Eduation to call Sens. Udall and Bennett to ask for their help – and to tell them how the across-the-board cuts would affect Colorado students and schools. You can call our Senators from this web site where you will find a phone number and message. Enter your zip code to be connected to Senator Udall or Senator Bennett where you can leave a brief personal message.

Automatic, across-the-board spending cuts will go into effect on January 2 unless Congress finds a solution. Our Association believes lawmakers should take a balanced approach to this problem, ensuring that funding for national education priorities is not cut (Title I, IDEA, School Improvement, and Rural Education grants).

In Colorado, the across-the-board cuts would result in far fewer federal dollars for what we know are essential public school programs for our students. Our schools and students have already been hit with four years of cuts by the Legislature (already $1 billion), and we know how budget cuts impact real students, real classrooms, and real educators.

Want to learn more about the pending across-the-board cuts to public schools?

Watch a short video by CEA President Kerrie Dallman who went to Washington, DC to lobby Colorado’s Congressional Delegation. National media interviewed Kerrie. She told the Colorado across-the-board cuts story, saying we’d not only get fewer dollars for programs, but the cuts would certainly mean a loss of educator jobs in Colorado.

Take the Kids, Not Cuts Pledge and help Congress make the right choice for our students. Someone needs to stand up for students. That’s YOU and all Association members. US!

Find out about the specific cuts to Colorado students and their public schools that will happen unless we get Congress to change its plan.

Share your story about how federal budget cuts would affect your students.

Election victories will lead to positive changes for many P-12 students

November 7, 2012

School districts put 38 ballot issues before Colorado voters yesterday and, based on preliminary results, just three lost in bids for a combined total of more than a billion dollars in bond issues and property tax increases. Unheard of? Yes. Local school district funding elections usually don’t win this big.

Voters clearly saw the fix districts are in after consecutive years of funding cuts. During the last four years, the state has cut aid to K-12 education by more than a billion dollars. Districts have been forced to cut budgets, draw down their reserves, and increase class sizes. This school year districts are getting the same amount of state school funding as in 2011-12 with only a slight increase for student enrollment increases. All this is on top of a poorly-funded education system that must be changed if we are ever to have long term, sustainable K-12 funding. But we digress…

Here’s what some of the winning districts will be able to do with the additional revenue the voters okayed yesterday:

BOND ISSUES (no tax increase)
Genoa-Hugo, a consolidated district south of I-70 east of Denver, will build a new elementary and high school, connecting the two new additions to the existing middle school. Greeley (Weld County 6) will rebuild a middle school in Evans. Cortez in SW Colorado will replace a high school. Otis in Northeast Colorado will replace a P-12 school. Salida will replace an elementary school. Dolores School District in the southwest part of Colorado will beef up its safety and security systems in school.

Some districts will get matching funds from the State under the BEST program (Building Excellent Schools Today).

MILL LEVY OVERRIDES (property tax increase)
Del Norte in the San Luis Valley will buy books and computers. Denver will expand music, PE, and classes in the arts, as well as increase full-day preschool and kindergarten programs. Plateau Valley on the Western Slope will renovate or replace worn-out heating and cooling equipment and purchase new textbooks. St. Vrain Valley in Longmont will maintain reasonable class sizes and expand early childhood programs. Jefferson County, the state’s largest district, will stave off $43 million in cuts. Weld County RE-1, south of Greeley, will restore remedial reading, counselors, and other programs lost to recent budget cuts.

The Colorado School Finance Project (CSFP), a CEA partner organization, has a comprehensive list of the school funding elections on its web site. On this list, you’ll see that school districts plan to use the money the voters approved to “keep going” – to save programs, keep class sizes low, provide preventive maintenance, and help offset state budget cuts.

Thank you to Colorado voters for investing in our public schools.