Thursday Churn: Tuition issue heats up

Daily Churn logoWhat’s churning:

Attorney General John Suthers Wednesday said he’s looking into Metro State’s recent vote to create a special tuition rate for undocumented students, something that’s been criticized by Republican lawmakers.

“We’re very vigorously researching this issue,” he told The Associated Press, saying many state colleges are interested in the issue. But he wouldn’t say who inquired or if his research would be made public. (See AP story.)

That announcement came the same day that 10 conservative Republican lawmakers wrote a letter to Gov. John Hickenlooper, asking that he “instruct” Metro to put the new tuition rate on hold and warning that legislation was being prepared for the 2013 session “to overturn the Metro State decision.”

A spokesman for Hickenlooper said the administration would have no comment until after the AG’s review is finished.

The issue could heat up further next week during a Wednesday afternoon meeting between the legislative Joint Budget Committee and Metro officials. JBC chair Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, is among the critics of Metro’s move. The six-member committee should be an interesting forum, given that it’s equally split between Republicans and Democrats. And Metro is in the district of member Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, a staunch defender of the new tuition rate.

The State Board of Education Wednesday approved innovation status for six schools in the Falcon district near Colorado Springs. The innovation schools law passed in 2008 allows schools, groups of schools and districts to petition for innovation status to gain waivers from a wide variety of state laws, regulations and union contracts.

Education reformers hoped the law would allow experimentation and variety that would help improve student achievement but have been disappointed that use of the law has been confined almost entirely to schools in Denver. Wasson High School in Colorado Springs District 11 has achieved innovation status, as has the tiny Kit Carson district on the eastern plains.

But the Falcon applications are for limited purposes. In the case of five schools, it involves only flexibility is schedules, and in the case of one middle school the innovation request involves curriculum flexibility.

Falcon is in the middle of an organizational and academic shift that involves giving four “zones” within the district greater freedom in decision-making and reducing the power of the central administration.

The board also approved a request from the Littleton schools for a waiver from the mutual consent for placement provisions of the educator effectiveness law. Some board members questioned whether that would be a problem in a couple of years when the law goes into effect fully. Littleton administrators testified that they need the flexibility of their own placement policy in a time of declining enrollment.

What’s on tap:


The Denver board will hold a special public comment meeting at 5 p.m. at district headquarters.

The Jefferson County board has a special meeting scheduled. Time not yet announced.

Good reads from elsewhere:

Arnold stumbles again: Matt Arnold, Republican candidate for an at-large CU Regents seat, has suffered another campaign embarrassment in his primary race against Brian Davidson. Arnold, angry that Davidson backers were encouraging Arnold supporters to desert him, posted the home addresses of some Davidson supporters on his website. The addresses were taken down after Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson called Arnold about harassment of Davidson backers. Arnold previously had to defend himself against complaints his misstated his academic record. The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels has the details.

Mixed picture for choice laws: School choice was expanded by some state legislatures this year, but the picture was different in other states, reports.

The EdNews’ Churn is a roundup of briefs, notes and meetings in the world of Colorado education, published during the summer as news warrants. To submit an item for consideration in this listing, please email us at [email protected]

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.