Denver Public Schools could see as many as 15 schools add an hour to their day next year under new spending plans outlined today by Superintendent Tom Boasberg.
The extra time would add spending of about $2.5 million in 2012-13. Boasberg said the district also would spend roughly $8.5 million on additional per-pupil funding for English language learners – a boost of about $400 per student.
Despite generally tough economic times, Boasberg said the DPS community needs to think about what more can be done instead of talk about “less, and less, and less, and less” investment in students’ futures.
“In this next budget year, the 12-13 school year, we will be increasing money for our schools and our classrooms,” Boasberg said during a morning press conference at Grant Beacon Middle School in southeast Denver.
“That is the most important thing we can do, to maximize our dollars in schools and in the classroom, to allow us to hire more teachers, to offer more opportunity for more kids, more enrichment, more activities, more elective courses, more tutoring, more intervention, all of the kinds of things that we can do by putting more money in our schools, and in our classrooms.”
He added, “Money in our classrooms. That is the name of the game.”
Boasberg said he expects proposals within the next two weeks from 12 to 15 schools, demonstrating how they would make use of an added hour to the school day.
At the middle school level – from which a majority of the proposals are expected – the day currently runs from 7:30 to 2:30 p.m.
Grant is one of the schools seeking to add the hour. Social studies teacher Kevin Croghan said staff members have been developing plans for a longer day since last year.
“Within our school, I’d say we have a lot of support for this idea, and of course we have been looking at this for nine months, well before it became a bit of a hotter topic for the district,” said Croghan, who is particularly excited about the potential for adding electives.
“Everyone in our school has already been committed to staying added time. This will just be adding a structure to make it more effective.”
Some parents at other DPS middle schools have said an extended school day is being thrust upon them against their wishes. But Nick Bottinelli, whose daughter is a seventh-grader at Grant, insisted he has not heard that sentiment from parents there.
“We’ve been working with (Principal) Alex Magaña and his staff there, and we are very comfortable with the initiatives that they think are best for our students,” said Bottinelli, a member of the steering committee for the Grant Parents Group.
The press conference was attended by DPS school board president Mary Seawell and board member Anne Rowe, who represents the area. Neither participated in the presentation and, afterward, Seawell was measured in her response to what she heard.
“We haven’t had a chance to talk about this as a board,” she said. “There are some potentially complicated issues. We need more from the superintendent, whether it’s related to the labor contract, are there issues with the cost and what that is, realistically, and how is a school going to be eligible for this?”
DPS board members will get their first detailed 2012-13 budget presentation Thursday. They’re expected to approve the budget in May or June.
“Generally, I am very much in favor of extending the school day and the school year,” Seawell added, “if it can be shown how it’s going to have a positive effect on students.”
State K-12 funding cuts have cost DPS about $80 million in recent years, Boasberg said, and the anticipated loss of another $140 in per-pupil funding in the next fiscal year would mean DPS has lost nearly $1,000 per student over a three-year period.
But he said tapping the district’s reserves and cuts in administration leave DPS able to spend $40 million over the next two years on initiatives such as the extended school day and increased funding for English language learners.
State K-12 funding cuts have cost DPS about $80 million over the past three years, or roughly $1,000 per student, Boasberg said. But he said tapping the district’s reserves and cuts in administration leave DPS able to spend $40 million over the next two years on initiatives such as the extended school day and increased funding for English language learners.
As other districts have done in recent years, DPS has pulled money from its reserves – $20 million this year and an expected $20 million in 2012-13. That would leave about $52 million remaining in reserves, Boasberg said.
He said the district will be launching a “community conversation” in coming months about a proposed tax increase for operating dollars on the November ballot. District leaders already have said they may propose a tax increase for building dollars.
– Tom Boasberg, DPS
“There are still unacceptable achievement gaps in our city,” Boasberg said, “and we need to invest more resources in the programs that will eliminate those gaps – early childhood education, extended time, enrichment opportunities, new technology, and more teachers to lower class sizes.
“We look forward to discussing with the community how we can end this cycle of cuts and make these vital investments in our kids.”
Denver teachers’ union leaders on Tuesday filed a grievance over the proposed extra time and released a list of 14 schools they say may have a longer school day starting this fall.
The schools on that list are Barrett Elementary, Cole Arts & Science Academy, Bruce Randolph Middle, Denver Center for International Studies Middle, Grant Beacon Middle, Hamilton Middle, Henry World School, Hill Middle School of Arts & Sciences, Johnson Elementary, Manual High School, Merrill Middle, Morey Middle, Skinner Middle and Smiley Middle.
Boasberg today said the total number of schools with longer days this fall could be as high as 15. But he said the number will ultimately depend on how many submit applications and are approved.