The State Board of Education Wednesday unanimously endorsed Senate Bill 10-191, the bipartisan proposal to reform teacher and principal evaluation and teacher tenure.
The vote came after a chummy one-hour meeting between the board and the four prime sponsors of the measure, which was introduced Monday and will have its first legislative hearing next Wednesday.
Two of the prime sponsors, Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, and Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, told the board that they’re willing to negotiate the timelines in the bill.
The Colorado Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, has come out publicly against the bill, complaining that it derails the process and timeline for studying educator evaluation and tenure established in an executive order issued by Gov. Bill Ritter in January.
Three top CEA officials and two lobbyists were in the audience as the board and Johnston, Scanlan, Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, and Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock, discussed the bill.
Johnston and Scanlan seemed to go out of their way to be conciliatory.
“We’re open to discussing reasonable changes in the timeline,” Johnston said.
“We are still open, particularly with the teachers’ union, about the specifics of the time line,” Scanlan told the board. “We can’t make this happen without our teachers, so we still are continuing that discussion.”
The CEA, however, seemed less conciliatory with a letter it sent to education Commissioner Dwight Jones on Wednesday, saying it won’t sign on to the state’s bid for round two of Race to the Top because of a newspaper commentary Jones wrote supporting SB 10-191. (See this article for details and links to the CEA letter and Jones’ column.)
Board members comments about the bill were generally positive and, in some cases, glowing.
- “I want to thank you a lot for bringing this forward. … It’s so exciting.” – Marcia Neal, R-3rd District.
- “This bill, as we all know, has been a long time coming.” – Elaine Gantz Berman, D-1st District.
- “I want to thank you for the courage it’s taken to do the right thing for kids in Colorado.” – Peggy Littleton, R-5th District.
- “We have been talking about this for years and years and years. … We can keep talking about it [but] if we can’t take a step like this now, frankly I don’t think we ever will.” – Randy DeHoff, R-6th District.
- “Thank you for the leadership.” – Jane Goff, D-7th District.
“We feel like there is a lot of momentum building … this is an important opportunity for us,” Johnston said.
The two other big mainline education interest groups, the Colorado Association of School Boards and the Colorado Association of School Executives, haven’t taken formal positions on SB 10-191, although leaders of both groups have spoken favorably about parts of the bill.
Each group’s legislative committee reportedly is meeting Friday to discuss the bill.
Johnston has gathered endorsements from a variety of civic and education groups around the state.
Online charter loses appeal
The board voted 6-0 Wednesday to deny an appeal by the Colorado Distance and Electronic Learning Academy. In January the Charter School Institute voted to not renew the academy’s charter for financial and achievement deficiencies. The state board’s decision is final. The case was the first appeal of a CSI action. (Charter appeals of school board decisions are fairly common.)
The four-year-old school has about 400 students. It has a local board based in Adams County but is operated by White Hat Management, an Ohio-based, for-profit charter management company.
The school’s lawyer, Barry Arrington, argued that “The plain fact of the matter is that CSI is massively mistaken” in its analysis of the school’s financial condition. The school overestimated enrollment in the past and had to pay back money to the state.
“This is a school that is just not performing,” said Tony Dyl, the state lawyer who represented the institute.
The board seemed to need little convincing. Even Chair Bob Schaffer, R-4th District, after emphasizing his general support for school choice, said he felt compelled to support the institute’s decision.
Hearing on notification rules goes smoothly
The board Wednesday took testimony on a proposed regulation that would require school officials to notify parents when a school employee is arrested.
Representatives of CEA, CASB and CASE all testified and raised concerns about the proposal, including questions about whether the board has the authority to issue such a rule and how police agencies and school districts could implement such a policy. They also expressed worries about possible unfair stigmatization of employees who were arrested but never charged or convicted.
The rule would require that parents be notified if a school employee is arrested or charged for any felony, misdemeanor offenses involving children, sexual behavior or indecent exposure or for drunken driving. Notice would have to be made regardless of whether the alleged offense was committed while the person was working.
The proposed rule has been pushed by Schaffer and was sparked by incidents in the Poudre School District.
A former paraprofessional at a Poudre middle school was arrested last November in a sexual crime involving a student. The district didn’t inform parents of the arrest until after administrators learned the case was about to be reported in the local media. And, the district never gave notice of the September arrest of a Poudre High School teacher for providing liquor to two students.
Schaffer said Wednesday he appreciated the comments made on the proposal. “I’m willing to entertain reasonable suggestions by anyone,” he said.
The board won’t vote on the proposed rule until its May 12 meeting and will accept further written comments before then.