Who Is In Charge

Last education bills get cleared out

Updated 9:30 a.m. May 7 – The Senate today gave final 27-8 approval to a late bill intended to give the University of Colorado more flexibility in admitting out-of-state students and using the additional revenue to provide merit scholarships to bright Colorado students.

CU-Boulder campus view
PHOTO: J. Zubrzycki
Campus of University of Colorado at Boulder

House Bill 13-1320, introduced only on April 23, is the last education bill in line as the 2013 legislative session heads toward Wednesday adjournment. It’s had a bit of a bumpy ride in committee, but on Monday passed on a voice vote after about 20 minutes of debate. After Tuesday’s final vote the House will have to consider Senate amendments.

Although the bill applies in theory to all Colorado colleges, in practice it’s tailored for CU-Boulder, which is bumping against its allowed percentage of non-resident students. CU officials want to admit more non-residents both so it can gain the substantially higher tuition they pay and also so it can use some of that revenue to provide merit scholarships for top Colorado students. (The state hasn’t provided any merit aid since 2009, although colleges can do so on their own, as CU does already.)

Issues decided Monday

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A controversial portion of the bill allows a college to count a Colorado merit scholar as equivalent to two regular Colorado students, making it possible to maintain the required 55 percent resident undergraduate enrollment while creating more space for out-of-staters.

“What they have done here is a little creative, I would say,” said Democratic sponsor Sen. Rollie Heath, whose district includes the Boulder campus. “You could say ingenious, but we have to resort to this sort of thing at this stage of the game.” Heath and other bill sponsors argue that top Colorado high school graduates are being lured out of state by generous scholarships offered by other universities.

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, said, “It’s not pretty, it’s not clean” but that he supports the bill anyway.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, argued against the bill Monday evening, noting questions raised last week by the Department of Higher education. Claiming the bill could lead to fewer Colorado students at CU, Renfroe asked, “Is that what you want?

The House version of the bill also included $3 million in state funds to be divvied up among colleges for merit scholarships. The Senate stripped the money fom the bill, and the House isn’t expected to object. (Learn more about the bill’s intricacies, who would qualify for scholarships and more in his legislative staff analysis.)

Green schools bill finally passes

School under construction
School under construction

Senate Bill 13-279, another late April bill that encountered some turbulence, is on its way to the governor. The measure sets energy conservation requirements for new school buildings and substantial renovations. Amendments to soften the bill and make its requirements more flexible somewhat eased the initial concerns of school districts. The Senate accepted House amendments and re-passed the bill 19-16.

Passage of the bill is a long-awaited victory for Sen. Andy Kerr, D-Lakewood, a Jeffco teacher who floated several unsuccessful versions while serving in the House.

Here are the details on the other education bills that passed Monday:

School medical emergencies

House Bill 13-1171 allows (but doesn’t require) schools to stock epinephrine injectors to treat students suffering allergic reactions. Students with diagnosed allergies now can bring their own injectors to school. Advocates of the bill argued that schools should stock injectors for undiagnosed students who have reactions. The bill was delayed because of negotiations over training of school employees, liability issues and the role of school nurses. Passed Senate 27-8; the House Tuesday adopted Senate amendments and re-passed the bill 57-8.

Parent involvement

Senate Bill 13-193 makes several changes in parent involvement laws. The measure requires school accountability committees to better promote parent involvement and to be more involved in school turnaround and priority improvement plans, requires each district to designate one staff member as a parent contact person, expands the role of the State Advisory Council for Parent Involvement in Education and allocates $150,000 for the Department of Education to hire a parent engagement specialist. Passed 37-28; the Senate has to review amendments.

Teacher evaluations

Teacher evaluationHouse Bill 13-1257 tweaks the state’s 2010 educator evaluation law and gives the Department of Education greater oversight of district principal and teacher evaluation plans. (Current law allows districts to use the state model system or develop their own systems if they meet state standards.) The bill allows the department to review district plans – or do so at the request of “any interested party” – and order compliance with state standards or use of the state system. The Senate passed the bill 21-14, and the House later approved Senate amendments and re-passed it 35-27.

The bill was introduced in a very different form, at the behest of AFT-Colorado, which represents teachers in the Douglas County Schools. The union and the conservative Dougco board are locked in a variety of disputes. The original bill essentially would have given teachers’ unions veto power over district evaluation plans. That idea had little or no support, and the measure was dramatically retooled.

Technical education

House Bill 13-1165 directs a variety of state agencies, including the community colleges board and the departments of education and higher education, to create “a career pathway for students seeking employment in the manufacturing sector.” The program has to be up and running for the 2014-15 academic year. Passed 21-14. (Get more information on the bill here.)

The bill directs state officials to hold a “summit” with industry representatives to determine state manufacturing workforce needs and to design programs to fill them. The measure has a $474,600 price tag in the first year. This is one of two workforce/education bills that survived this session. The other, House Bill 13-1005, directs the community college system to create pilot programs that combine adult basic education with career training. The highest profile workforce bill, a measure allowing community colleges in a limited number of technical fields, died in the face of opposition from state universities.

Truancy

House Bill 13-1021 makes several changes in state truancy law with the intent of keeping more students in school and reducing the jailing of truant students. The bill encourages districts to develop procedures for identifying students who are chronically absent, to work more closely with local with juvenile services agencies and to adopt policies for dealing with habitually truant students. The bill says districts should “minimize the need for court action” and take students to court “only as a last resort.” The bill also limits detention of a student to no more than five days at any one time. The House agreed to Senate amendments and re-passed the bill 38-27. (Read the bill text for more details.)

Also approved Monday was House Bill 13-1007, which reinstates a legislative early childhood study commission. The body won’t receive funding – it will be getting in-kind support from the Colorado Children’s Campaign — but the panel will have the ability to propose bills without those counting against the limit of five that applies to individual members. Re-passed 21-14 by the Senate and 37-26 in the House.

turnover

The principal of Denver’s South High School is leaving due to health concerns

PHOTO: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post
South High Principal Jen Hanson will not return this fall.

The principal of Denver’s second-largest school, South High, has said she won’t return this fall. In a letter to families, Jen Hanson cited “personal health concerns” as the reason for her departure.

“It greatly saddens me to write this,” Hanson said in the letter, dated June 18. “A strong school is never about the leader but the staff and students inside who make it thrive, and that is South.”

Denver Public Schools has named Bobby Thomas the interim principal for the 2018-19 school year. Thomas has been principal of a small alternative high school in southwest Denver called Summit Academy for six years, according to a separate letter from the district.

The letter says the district will work with the South community to choose a permanent principal for the 2019-20 school year.

South has been on an upward trajectory for the 2½ years Hanson has been at the helm. The letter lists several bright spots, including a rising graduation rate, the second-highest college matriculation rate in the district, and being named a “School of Opportunity” by the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado – an accomplishment that netted South some positive press in the Washington Post.

The award was based on South’s success in educating all students, regardless of their background. South is a district “newcomer center” for refugee and immigrant students from more than 50 countries. A book published last year by Denver journalist Helen Thorpe follows the lives of 22 immigrant teenagers there. In 2016, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai made a surprise appearance at the school.

Almost 70 percent of the 1,600 students at South this past year were students of color, and more than half were from low-income families. Hanson’s letter notes that the number of students of color taking college-level classes at South increased from 72 in 2016 to 592 in 2018, one of the reasons cited by researchers in naming it a “School of Opportunity.”

In January 2017, shortly after President Trump announced a travel ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries and temporarily suspended the U.S. refugee program, South invited local journalists to speak to a group of students in the library. Seated in a semi-circle, the students talked about how South was a safe and welcoming place.

“Even if you are a minority student or a student who’s being targeted by politicians or told you don’t have a right to be here, we want you here at South,” said then-senior Cherokee Ronolo-Valdez, who was born and raised in Denver.

In her letter, Hanson said she knows South will continue to distinguish itself locally and nationally. “South is truly the epitome of what a public school can and should be,” she said.

The district’s letter says interim principal Thomas has family ties to South: his wife, mother-in-law, and father-in-law are alumni of the school. It also points to Thomas’s track record, noting that he oversaw the improvement of Summit Academy from a low-rated school to a high-rated one. (The district’s school ratings are largely based on test scores.)

Summit assistant principal Juan Osorio will take over as principal there, district officials said.

The letter says South families should expect more information in the fall about the process of choosing a permanent principal. The district is also still searching for a permanent principal for another of its high-profile schools, Manual High School in northeast Denver.

student activism

Five Chicago student activists on why they will be in your face this summer

PHOTO: Courtesy of Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia outside Trump Tower earlier this week

Trevon Bosley’s brother was murdered while attending band rehearsal at church. Shot from the street while helping a friend with drums in 2006, he was just one of the 471 people killed by gun violence that year in Chicago.

Through a peer youth council at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, Bosley, 20, became an outspoken student activist, and tonight he will join hundreds of students converging for an annual peace march that starts at the church. Chicago’s tradition of youth activism will be on full display, but the local students are getting a high-powered boost. Joining them are Chicago musicians Chance the Rapper and Jennifer Hudson and former Arizona House Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in 2011 at a public meeting with constituents. There will also be another set of special guests: the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., where a February shooter killed 17 students and teachers.

All week long, local student activists have been rallying and some Parkland students have lended an assist. Several staged a sit-in in City Hall on Monday to protest the proposed construction of a $95 million police academy on the West side and call for an elected school board. Others staged a die-in on in front of Trump Tower on Tuesday to commemorate the second anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Chalkbeat sat down with five Chicago student activists to hear why they take action and what they hope to achieve.


"Gun violence isn’t mainly just about mass shootings. These kinds of things happen in Chicago, Baltimore 24/7."Alycia Moaton

East Woodlawn resident Alycia Moaton, 17, attends Kenwood Academy. She’s part of Good Kids Mad City, a new advocacy organization formed by Chicago and Baltimore students. This past Monday, Good Kids Mad City members were central figures in the City Hall sit-in this past Monday.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Alycia Moaton
Alycia Moaton outside City Hall earlier this week

On becoming an activist: I grew up in Oak Park for about 10 years of my life. Then I moved into Chicago. Going to public schools on the South Side, it was like a completely different world. A lot of the students—their first thought is whether or not they’ll be able to go to school that day because they’re worrying about getting shot on the way there. When I got to experience both sides, experience what it’s like to not fear going to school, I could see just how messed up it is.

Starting off around three years ago, I went to a lot of protests and youth summits, and that turned me into wanting to be part of an organization. That’s how I got in touch with Good Kids Mad City. Good Kids Mad City came to be after the Parkland shooting, from the idea that gun violence isn’t mainly just about mass shootings. These kinds of things happen in Chicago, Baltimore, 24/7, and it’s as national as a mass shooting.

What she hopes to achieve: One of my main goals is that [the rally tonight] gets a lot of national coverage. The Parkland students are allowing us to make the narrative about Chicago. I hope people leave with the idea of not treating gun violence as just a local issue, with the idea that this isn’t normal. This shouldn’t be viewed as “Oh, this is just how Chicago is, Chicago is just a violent city.”

The big goal is to have people change their narrative about what gun violence in Chicago is, that it has to be taken way more seriously than just a local issue.


"When people think of Chicago, they think of the most violent city. I hope that they think of it as the home of the young leaders."Diego Garcia

Brighton Park resident Diego Garcia, 16, led 15 local teenagers to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. in March. Earlier this week, he participated in the die-in outside Trump Tower. He is also a member of Chicago Strong, the citywide youth group organizing tonight’s rally.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia outside Trump Tower earlier this week

On becoming an activist: The parents in my community are immigrants, and so are my teachers and my friends. After Trump became president, they felt like, if they speak up for what they believe in, they’re putting themselves in danger of being targeted by the government.

I decided that if I really had nothing to lose, then I would be the voice for them. I’m a citizen of the U.S., and just being a citizen, I have many rights that a lot of other people feel like they don’t have—the right to voice my opinion, to vote about my future.

After the Parkland shooting, my priest said that he would support me in taking 15 teenagers to Washington, D.C., for March for Our Lives. It was one of the best times that I’ve had in my life, because not only were my peers standing up for what they believe in, but also I knew that I wasn’t alone. There was, visually, all around you, people who cared about you.

What he hopes to achieve: I hope that, after the rally, people realize that we young people in Chicago, we want something to change. A lot of the adults like normalizing the violence. The 14-year-old that got shot, or the adult that was going to the store and got shot for no good reason—no one talks about these small things because it happens so often.

I hope that people’s perspective of Chicago changes, because when people think of Chicago, they think of the most violent city. I hope that they think of it as the home of the young leaders.


"It takes everybody. We need people from every region to contribute so we can get total change."Alex King

Austin resident Alex King, 17, just graduated from North Lawndale College Prep. At North Lawndale, he was a Peace Warrior, a youth ambassador for violence prevention. After the Parkland shooting, he traveled to Parkland to visit student survivors. Alex is also part of Chicago Strong.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Alex King
Alex King on a radio interview

On becoming an activist: It started with me wanting a shirt. At North Lawndale College Prep, we have to wear these button-up shirts with collars, and it’s hot. One Thursday, I was seeing these different shirts, regular long-sleeve shirts. It had “Peace Warriors” going down the sleeve, a peace sign on the back, and I was like, “I want one of those.” Then I also heard that Peace Warriors get pulled out of class sometimes, and I’m like “Yeah, if we can get out of class, for sure!”

After joining Peace Warriors, it got to a point where I felt that family connection—these were some of the people I went to when I couldn’t even go to my own family. I’ve been shot at multiple times and I didn’t go to my family, because I didn’t want to put that burden on their shoulders. I went to the Peace Warriors because I knew some of them experienced the same thing, and it’s also easier to connect with people in your age range.

My nephew was shot and killed on May 28, 2017. Shot twice: once in the back of the head and once in the back. I feel like I would have done something that would have put me in a way worse spot than I’m in now if I didn’t have Peace Warriors. They came to me every day, and were like “We are here for you no matter what.” I was known as the one with all the energy. When those people saw me down, they told me,”‘You were always the one to cheer everybody up, so we have to be here for you, to get you back like that.”

What he hopes to achieve: I want people to walk away [tonight] and believe that change can happen. We might be different in a lot of ways, but we are alike in more ways than we are different. I want people to see the fact that we can’t be independent, if we want to make change across the world, we all have to come together to make this work.

We can’t try change the world with only Chicago, we can’t try to change the world with only Florida. It takes everybody. We need people from every region to put their input on so we can get total change.


"Be smart with campaigns. If you’re gonna march, make sure you’re doing it in a community that can really change something."Trevon Bosley

Roseland native Trevon Bosley is a rising junior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He joined Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere, or B.R.A.V.E., a peer youth council run through the St. Sabina youth program, in 2010. He is also a member of Chicago Strong.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Trevon Bosley
Trevon Bosley at March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. earlier this year

On becoming an activist: On April 4, 2006, my brother was murdered while attending band rehearsal at church. He was outside helping a friend with drums. Someone fired shots at them and he was shot in the shoulder. After that, my parents got in contact with (the Rev.) Michael Pfleger at St. Sabina, and he introduced me to B.R.A.V.E.

The main things that the older B.R.A.V.E. members told me was to be smart with campaigns. If you’re gonna march, make sure you’re doing it in a community that can really change something. They told me to just be effective when you’re planning and strategizing your movement.

A while back [around three years ago], we did a voter registration campaign. The strategic thing was how we planned to tackle violence. We know that we have a lot of gun violence in Chicago, but we have to understand why. We noticed that the elected officials at the time weren’t allocating resources to anti-violence initiatives, and the only way you can get politicians to listen to you is to vote. We identified what the problem was and how to go about addressing it.

What he hopes to achieve: We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve been fighting for change in the community for a very long time. Tonight’s rally is going to be bigger because of the Parkland influence. We’ve been fighting in Chicago for a very long time for peace, but only recently has the national media really wanted to cover our everyday shootings. The Parkland influence is giving us the platform, it’s led to our voices finally being heard about everyday shootings.


"I want to make sure that we tell our stories ourselves, and not have social media or the news tell our stories because they always twist it around, and then you’re like: That’s not me."RieOnna Holmon

RieOnna Holmon, 15, attends Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep in Rosewood, and she lives in Woodlawn. She joined B.R.A.V.E in 2017, where she received mentorship from older members such as Trevon. Most recently, RieOnna became the president of B.R.A.V.E.

PHOTO: Courtesy of RieOnna Holman
RieOnna Holman speaking at St. Sabina in March

On becoming an activist: I joined B.R.A.V.E. last summer when I did an internship at the ARK of St. Sabina. I just started going to the meetings and taking part in all of the rallies. I see myself in these children [that I mentor], how I was naïve and didn’t really know anything. Being able to teach them about what is really happening out there really shows me that the youth need to be educated about what’s going on.

What she hopes to achieve: [Tonight,] I want to make sure that we tell our stories ourselves, and not have social media or the news tell our stories for them because they always twist it around and you’re always like, “That’s not me.”

It happens a lot. People will talk about someone they lost, and [media outlets] will turn it around being like, this “x” gang member. But we didn’t tell you that. I know now that I have to actually get out there and tell it for myself, because otherwise what’s out there could not be true or another side of the story.