Ballots continue to trickle in

The percentage of ballots returned by Colorado voters has edged up to almost 15 percent, the Department of State reported Tuesday. The total now is 452,595.

All 3.09 million active voters received ballots by mail this year and must return them by mail or drop them off at vote centers by Election Day next Tuesday.

Republicans are continuing to return ballots in the greatest numbers. Some 42.2 percent of the returned ballots were from voters registered as Republicans, compared to 30.4 percent for Democrats and 26.3 percent from unaffiliated voters.

The percentage of returned ballots is below the statewide average in six major counties, Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, El Paso and Pueblo. Denver has the lowest percentage of returned ballots at 9.8 percent.

The rate of ballot returns is running above the state average in Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer, Mesa and Weld counties. Republican-leaning Douglas County, which has four high-profile school board races, has 21.9 percent of ballots returned.

Turnout by party and county is expected to be a factor in the success or failure of Amendment 66, the proposed $950 million income tax increase for P-12 education.

One veteran political consultant told EdNews that voter turnout doesn’t look like it will be higher than in 2011, which could be a negative indicator for A66’s chances. “The Amendment 66 campaign isn’t changing the 2013 electorate much from what it was two years ago, nor mobilizing those 2012 Obama voters to turnout and vote in this year’s election, or at least not yet,” he said.

In 2011 about 1.07 million ballots were cast, some 50 percent of active voters. That election also featured a school-funding proposal, the lower-profile and unsuccessful Proposition 103.

See the list of ballot return information for all counties here. The department’s next update is scheduled Thursday.

The chart below gives the early voting stats for the state’s 11 largest counties as of Tuesday. Light blue shading indicates Democratic-leaning counties, light red GOP ones and lavender indicates counties where unaffiliated voters are the plurality group. The three right-hand columns show the percentage of voters by registration who’ve returned ballots.


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

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.