Who Is In Charge

College safety bill watered down

Rep. Steve King got House Education Committee approval of his college and university safety bill Monday, but in a much diminished form.

The Grand Junction Republican’s original House Bill 10-1054 originally would have required state colleges and universities to give 45-minute orientations to new students about how to respond in critical incidents. A much more expansive school and college safety bill by King went nowhere last year, defeated in large part by opponent concerns about cost.

King’s more modest 2010 bill looked to be in big trouble when House Ed first considered it Jan. 28, but committee chair Rep. Mike Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, mercifully laid it over.

The version approved by the committee Monday merely requires that colleges “shall disseminate school safety information to students, faculty and staff.”

The committee devoted two hours to House Bill 10-1131, the Colorado Kids Outdoors program, which would set up grants to fund outdoors programs for school children. The trouble is, this is one of those gifts-grants-and-donations programs, except for an unused $27,000 fund in the Department of Natural Resources.

It also wasn’t that the bill was controversial (except to some committee Republicans, who were worried about environmentalist indoctrination). But, sponsor Rep. Christine Scanlan, D-Dillon, had lined up 18 witnesses to support the idea (many of them from her central mountains district), and all that testimony took time. A leadoff witness was Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien, who’s made the proposal one of here 2010 priorities.

The bill passed easily, with three Republicans voting no.

The committee also approved House Bill 10-1171, which would repeal various school data reporting requirements, and House Bill 10-1183, which would set up a study of alternative school finance methods.

Quite frankly, it was just a for-the-record kind of day, with no major debates or decisive votes.

Here’s the rest of the rundown:

• House Bill 10-1193 – Sales tax on out-of-state retailers (part of budget-balancing package), passed Senate Appropriations Committee

• House Bill 10-1064 – Mandatory appeals process for prep athlete eligibility disputes, final House approval

• Gov. Bill Ritter Monday nominated Ruth Ann Woods of South Fork of Richard E. Martinez Jr. of Centennial to the State Board of Community Colleges and Occupation Education and five people to the Charter School Institute board – Patricia Hayes of Aurora, Amy Anderson of Denver, John Schlickting of Greenwood Village, Cecilia Sanchez de Ortiz or Denver and Celeste Di Ioria of Fort Collins.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

Who Is In Charge

Indianapolis Public Schools board gives superintendent Ferebee raise, bonus

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Lewis Ferebee

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee is getting a $4,701 raise and a bonus of $28,000.

The board voted unanimously to approve both. The raise is a 2.24 percent salary increase. It is retroactive to July 1, 2017. Ferebee’s total pay this year, including the bonus, retirement contributions and a stipend for a car, will be $286,769. Even though the bonus was paid this year, it is based on his performance last school year.

The board approved a new contract Tuesday that includes a raise for teachers.

The bonus is 80 percent of the total — $35,000 — he could have received under his contract. It is based on goals agreed to by the superintendent and the board.

These are performance criteria used to determine the superintendent’s bonus are below:

Student recruitment

How common is it for districts to share student contact info with charter schools? Here’s what we know.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Staff members of Green Dot Public Schools canvass a neighborhood near Kirby Middle School in the summer of 2016 before reopening the Memphis school as a charter.

As charter schools emerge alongside local school districts across the nation, student addresses have become a key turf war.

Charter schools have succeeded in filling their classes with and without access to student contact information. But their operators frequently argue that they have a right to such information, which they say is vital to their recruitment efforts and gives families equal access to different schools in their area.

Disputes are underway right now in at least two places: In Tennessee, school boards in Nashville and Memphis are defying a new state law that requires districts to hand over such information to charters that request it. A New York City parent recently filed a formal complaint accusing the city of sharing her information improperly with local charter schools.

How do other cities handle the issue? According to officials from a range of school districts, some share student information freely with charters while others guard it fiercely.

Some districts explicitly do not share student information with charter schools. This includes Detroit, where the schools chief is waging an open war with the charter sector for students; Washington, D.C., where the two school sectors coexist more peacefully; and Los Angeles.

Others have clear rules for student information sharing. Denver, for example, set parameters for what information the district will hand over to charter schools in a formal collaboration agreement — one that Memphis officials frequently cite as a model for one they are creating. Baltimore and Boston also share information, although Boston gives out only some of the personal details that district schools can access.

At least one city has carved out a compromise. In New York City, a third-party company provides mass mailings for charter schools, using contact information provided by the school district. Charter schools do not actually see that information and cannot use it for other purposes — although the provision hasn’t eliminated parent concerns about student privacy and fair recruitment practices there.

In Tennessee, the fight by the state’s two largest districts over the issue is nearing a boiling point. The state education department has already asked a judge to intervene in Nashville and is mulling whether to add the Memphis district to the court filing after the school board there voted to defy the state’s order to share information last month. Nashville’s court hearing is Nov. 28.

The conflict feels high-stakes to some. In Memphis, both local and state districts struggle with enrolling enough students. Most schools in the state-run Achievement School District have lost enrollment this year, and the local district, Shelby County Schools, saw a slight increase in enrollment this year after years of freefall.

Still, some charter leaders wonder why schools can’t get along without the information. One Memphis charter operator said his school fills its classes through word of mouth, Facebook ads, and signs in surrounding neighborhoods.

“We’re fully enrolled just through that,” said the leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity to protect his relationship with the state and local districts. “It’s a non-argument for me.”

A spokeswoman for Green Dot Public Schools, the state-managed charter school whose request for student information started the legal fight in Memphis, said schools in the Achievement School District should receive student contact information because they are supposed to serve students within specific neighborhood boundaries.

“At the end of the day, parents should have the information they need to go to their neighborhood school,” said the spokeswoman, Cynara Lilly. “They deserve to know it’s open.”