District ballot decisions due tonight, Thursday

School board members in three large metro-area districts are slated to decide this week whether to put proposals before voters on Nov. 6.

→ Aurora Public Schools board members meet tonight to discuss a $15 million tax increase in additional operating dollars. The increase is designed to recover some of the state funding lost in recent years as lawmakers have cut K-12 spending, according to the district.

According to the proposed ballot question, the increase would be used in the following ways:

  • Recover a portion of reduced state funding for reading, writing, math, science, early childhood education and more public school choices.
  • Recover a portion of reduced state funding for instructional classroom technology,
    equipment and curriculum materials which aid in preparing students for college and
  • Recruit and retain high quality teachers and staff to provide for smaller class sizes,
    increase graduation rates and lower dropout rates.

Tonight’s meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the district’s Educational Services Center, 1085 Peoria St. See the agenda, which includes details about the proposal. It’s projected to cost $68.43 per year for every $100,000 of home value.

→ Douglas County school board members also are scheduled tonight to consider a possible ballot item, though few details are available.

The board on July 26 voted to reserve space on the Nov. 6 ballot but have not publicly discussed what kind of proposal they’re considering. John Carson, the board’s president, has indicated a tax increase is unlikely.

Tonight’s agenda offers no additional information, simply indicating a discussion is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.

According to the agenda, board members will convene in public at 5 p.m. at district headquarters, 620 Wilcox St. in Castle Rock. They’ve scheduled public comment from 5:10 p.m. to 5:40 p.m. and will then recess into closed session for two hours. The rest of their public agenda begins at 7:30 p.m.

Tonight’s agenda also includes a resolution in support of education funding reform, though the resolution was not yet available this morning, as well as consideration of Monday’s arbitration ruling in the district’s dispute with its teachers union.

→ Denver Public Schools board members are scheduled to decide Thursday on whether to place a $457 million bond issue and a $49 million operating tax increase before voters. The issue has divided board members and some community members, according to previous EdNews stories about a recent school tax community meeting and a recent board school tax discussion.

The cost of the tax proposals for the average Denver homeowner with property valued at $225,000 is $143 annually, or about $90 for operating tax and $54 for bond issue. The two tax questions will be separate on the ballot. Additional information about the proposals as recommended by a citizens advisory committee is available here.

Thursday’s meeting begins at 5 p.m. at district headquarters, 900 Grant St. See the agenda.

School districts are wrapping up ballot plans this week as election deadlines approach. By Aug. 28, districts must sign agreements with their county clerks who are running the elections. And by Sept. 7, districts must submit their ballot language to the clerks. Ballots are to be printed by Oct. 5.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

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.