Wednesday Churn: Budget outlook worse

Updated 1:30 p.m. – The state’s revenue and spending problem is even worse than previously projected, according to the second installment of a study by the Center for Colorado’s Economic Future at the University of Denver.

“Twelve years from now, Colorado will generate only enough sales, income and other general-purpose tax revenue to pay for the three largest programs in the General Fund – public schools, health care and prisons. There will be no tax revenue for public colleges and universities, no money for the state court system, nothing for child-protection services, nothing for youth corrections, nothing for state crime labs and nothing for other core services of state government,” according to a summary of the report.

Discussing school finance, the report paints a scenario designed to protect to some extent other state departments. “Under this scenario, public schools would be cut at least 19 percent in 13 of 14 years from now until FY 2024-25, and they would be cut the maximum amount in 10 of those 14 years,” the report says.

The 2010 legislature commissioned the center to do the privately funded study. The first installment was unveiled last February (see story). The latest segment was released today.

Projected spending from the state general fund, much of it driven by formulas and requirements, will exceed revenue by $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2024-25, the report estimates. (Current general fund spending runs about $7 billion a year, roughly half consumed by K-12 and higher education.)

“The enormity of this gap suggests that Coloradans consider both tax increases and spending cuts, the Center finds. Attempting to dig out of this hole solely through cuts is problematic,” the statement said.

Among options suggested by the center are a new school finance system, establishment of a graduated income tax to replace the current flat rate and extension of the state sales tax to cover more services.

The report notes that a key way to control state education costs would be to stabilize or increase the local share of education spending, which has been falling steadily for years and now stands at about 35 percent of K-12 costs.

“The structural aspects causing the local share to erode can be addressed by moving toward a more uniform statewide mill levy for schools,” the report found.

That could be done by imposing a uniform mill levy throughout the state, a uniform mill levy coupled with a statewide property tax or by replacing local property taxes with a statewide tax.

A statewide property tax would require voter approval to changes in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and any of the options would impose higher taxes on many property owners.

The report comes out just as the Lobato v. State lawsuit trial is winding down. Plaintiffs in that case argue that the school finance system violates the state constitution and ask the court to order the legislature to come up with a new one.

Just starting is the campaign to pass Proposition 103, a ballot measure that would increase state tax rates for five years to provide “stopgap” funding for schools and colleges. Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder and the author of 103, also was a prime mover in commissioning the tax study.

Get more details on the report here, and test out the center’s interactive budget simulator here.

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What’s churning

The order of the ballot is set for the Denver Public Schools board election, following a random drawing Tuesday of candidates’ names by elections officials.

Alton Dillard, spokesman for the Denver Elections Division, announced that nine candidates have qualified for the Nov. 1 mail ballot. Three of seven DPS board seats are up for election.

Ballot order is determined by random drawing because school board races are non-partisan elections.

The order on the ballot for the at-large or citywide race is as follows:

  • Happy Haynes
  • Roger Kilgore
  • John Daniel
  • Jacqui Shumway
  • Frank Deserino

In each of the other two seats being contested, there are only two candidates.

In District 1 or southeast Denver, where current board member Bruce Hoyt is term-limited, the first name on the ballot will be Emily Sirota and the second will be Anne Rowe.

And in District 5 or northwest Denver, Jennifer Draper Carson’s name will appear atop that of Arturo Jimenez, who is campaigning for a second four-year term.

Denver must certify its ballot to the Secretary of State by the close of business Friday – but, since Friday is a furlough day for city employees, that will likely be done one day sooner.

Mail ballots will go out to voters in the second week of October.

Ballot orders for candidates in other large metro area districts, including Jefferson and Douglas counties, are not yet set. See a listing of school board candidates in the state’s three largest districts here.

What’s on tap:


The University of Denver’s Center for Colorado’s Economic Future will present the second installment of its study of Colorado’s state and local tax systems, including recommendations. The session will be at 10:30 a.m. in the Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management building on the DU campus. See this EdNews story for details on the report’s first installment, issued last February.

Denver Public Schools is hosting a coffee for parents of special education students from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. at 1330 Fox Street in Denver. More info.

Good reads from elsewhere

On the moveJohn Covington, the former superintendent of Pueblo City Schools who publicly called for an investigation of the Cesar Chavez charter schools network there, is on the move again, from Kansas City to Michigan, according to this report from the New York Times.

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at [email protected]

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede