Who Is In Charge

Bleak prospects for future K-12 support

There was no good news about the future of state support for K-12 schools at the Joint Budget Committee’s Friday briefing on the Department of Education’s 2011-12 budget.

Committee staff analyst Carolyn Kampman told the panel and several other lawmakers who sat in that she recommends no increase for schools next year, and she also said lawmakers will need to adjust school finance law if they want to avoid a large mandated increase in schools spending starting in 2012-13.

Staff and committee discussion also indicated that some specialized education programs, specifically the Colorado Counselor Corps and the ASCENT fifth-year program for high school students, might be in the budget crosshairs during the 2011 legislative session.

The budget committee every December receives staff briefings on the proposed budgets for individual state departments in the upcoming budget year, which starts next July 1. It was CDE’s turn Friday.

Current “total program funding” for school operations is $5.4 million, down from about $5.6 million in 2009-10. The state is paying $3.4 billion of this year’s total. The executive branch has proposed a $91 million increase for 2011-12, an amount that won’t cover the costs of enrollment growth and inflation and which falls about $365 million short of what the traditional Amendment 23 funding formula would require.

The 2010 legislature passed a bill that allowed school funding to be reduced in 2010-11, using what’s called the “budget stabilization factor,” and that applies to the upcoming 2011-12 budget as well.

Because that factor currently is set to expire for the 2012-13 budget, “We have a big cliff coming,” Kampman told lawmakers. Returning to use of the previous funding system would require more than $700 million in additional state spending in 2012-13, according to the committee briefing document on CDE spending.

“Over the next five fiscal years, the General Fund appropriation would need to increase by more than one billion dollars,” the document continued.

Kampman suggested that the 2011 legislature consider extending the stabilization factor for one more year to avoid the $700 million cliff and that the 2012 legislature study more lasting changes. “For the longer term, staff recommends that the General Assembly consider making permanent changes to the school finance formula,” the briefing document says. (See pages 24-25 of the document for details.)

Next year might not be the best time to attempt permanent change, Kampman said, noting that there will be a new governor, many new legislators and that lawmakers have to deal with congressional redistricting. She also said the Lobato v. State lawsuit, which challenges the adequacy of state school funding, is scheduled to go to trial in August 2011. (Later in the day, the JBC got a closed-door briefing from the attorney general’s office about Lobato.)

Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen
Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen

Committee Vice Chair Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, noted, “2011-12 may seem like a walk in the park compared to what the next year will be like.”

Kampman also suggested that legislators be cautious about using the financially stressed State Education Fund, which is used to supplement general state school support and to fund some special programs.

Bernie Gallagher, another analyst who works on education spending, and Kampman also analyzed two special programs in their briefing paper.

The Colorado Counselor Corps is a $5 million program that’s in its final year of funding, although CDE has requested continuation of the effort. JBC staff last year recommended not funding the program, but lawmakers disregarded that advice. Gallagher said, “It’s difficult to determine if this program has had an impact.” (See pages 56-59 of the briefing paper for more details.)

The ASCENT program, created by the 2010 legislature, is a “fifth year” concurrent high school-college enrollment program. The current program had a projected participation of about 237 students at a cost of less than $2 million, but CDE projects it will balloon to 2,481 students and cost of $15.4 million next year. (See pages 33-40.) Kampman suggested capping enrollment at a much lower level.

On other matters, Kampman and Gallagher recommended that the legislature consider clarifying state law on the conversion of private schools to charter schools and on the use of contract schools.

A key function of JBC briefings is for members to raise questions they’d like a particular department to answer at a subsequent budget hearing. Committee members Friday racked up a long list, giving CDE staffers plenty to do before the department’s hearing at 1:30 p.m. next Friday, at which CDE executives will discuss those issues with the committee.

Among the issues raised Friday were queries about the cost of CSAP tests, the tab for expanding tests to include social studies, enrollment shift patterns between districts, spending on full-day kindergarten and preschool programs, the success of the Closing the Achievement Gap program, the health of the State Education Fund, charter school conversions, contract schools and the BEST school construction program.

meet the candidates

These candidates are running for Detroit school board. Watch them introduce themselves.

Nine candidates are vying for two seats on Detroit's school board in November. Seven submitted photos.

One candidate tells of a childhood in a house without heat.

Another describes the two-hour commute he made to high school every day to build a future that would one day enable him to give back to Detroit.

A third says her work as a student activist inspired her to run for school board as a recent high school grad.

These candidates are among nine people vying for two seats up for grabs on Detroit’s seven-member school board on Nov. 6. That includes one incumbent and many graduates of the district.

Chalkbeat is partnering with Citizen Detroit to present a school board candidate forum Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at IBEW Local 58, 1358 Abbott St., Detroit.

Participants will have the opportunity to meet each candidate and ask questions in a speed-dating format.

In anticipation of that event, Citizen Detroit invited each of the candidates to make a short video introducing themselves to voters. Seven candidates made videos.

Watch them here:

School safety

Report lists litany of failings over police in Chicago schools

PHOTO: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Police officers stand alongside Lake Shore Drive in August as protesters decry violence and lack of investment in African-American neighborhoods and schools

The Chicago Police Department doesn’t adequately screen and train the officers it assigns to Chicago Public Schools, and their roles in schools are poorly defined, according to a sharply critical report released today by the Office of Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.

The report lists a litany of failings, including basic administration: There is no current agreement between the police department and the district governing the deployment of school resource officers, or SROs, and neither the schools nor the police even have a current list of the officers working in schools this year.

The inspector general’s report also mentions several sets of SRO resources and best practices created and endorsed by the federal government, then notes that Chicago hasn’t adopted any of them. “CPD’s current lack of guidance and structure for SROs amplifies community concerns and underscores the high probability that students are unnecessarily becoming involved in the criminal justice system, despite the availability of alternate solutions,” says the report.

Chalkbeat reported in August about incidents in which SROs used batons and tasers on students while intervening in routine disciplinary matters.

Scrutiny of SROs is nothing new, and is part of the broader CPD consent decree brokered this week between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. That agreement calls for better training and vetting of SROs, as well as a clearer delineation of their roles on campuses—including a prohibition against participating in routine school discipline — beginning with the 2019-20 school year.

Read more: How the police consent decree could impact Chicago schools

But the report from Ferguson’s office says that the consent decree doesn’t go far enough. It chastises police for not pledging to include the community in the creation of its agreement with the school district, nor in the establishment of hiring guidelines; and for not creating a plan for evaluating SROs’ performance, among other recommendations. In addition, the report criticizes the police department for delaying the reforms until the 2019-20 school year. A draft of the inspector general’s report was given to the police department in early August in hopes that some of the issues could be resolved in time for the school year that began last week. The police department asked for an extension for its reply.