Thursday, February 24, 2011

And the Winner is....Jefferson Academy Jr High

Tonight was the final in the debate league for northwest metro charter schools: Jefferson Academy elementary and junior high, Excel Academy, Woodrow Wilson Academy, Crown Pointe Academy, Twin Peaks Academy and Flagstaff Academy. The league competition began last November. Sixth, seventh and eighth grade students compete against each other in teams of 3-7.

Tonight the championship round was between a team from Woodrow Wilson Academy (affirmative) and Jefferson Academy Jr High (negative) in a resolution stating that the United States should be involved in the United Nations.

Both teams were exceptional with a 7 pt win going to JAJH. Students even brought up recent events in Libya to make some of their arguments.

Congratulations to the league champions and to all the students who participated this year and quite obviously honed their debating skills over the course of the competition!

Cyber School Day at the Capitol

Cyber school families from all over Colorado gathered to celebrate Cyber School Day at the Capitol. The opening session was led by Independence Institute Education Policy Analyst, Ben DeGrow, who talked about the prevalence of online education in the state and the choice options available to families. Later, there was a rally on the west steps of the Capitol.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Charter Friends 2011

Randy Zimmerman (left) and Dr. Rod Blunck (right) received 2011 Charter Friends awards at this year's Charter School Conference.

Randy Zimmerman, is the director of the CIVA Charter School in Colorado Springs 11. He received the Charter Friend for School Leaders award.

Rod Blunck, Supt. of the Brighton 27-J School District, received the Charter Friend for District Leaders award. Dr. Blunck also received this award when he was the Superintendent of the Elizabeth School District.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bob Schaffer Addresses Charter School Conference

State Board of Education chair, Bob Schaffer, addressed the League of Charter Schools' 17th annual conference. In his remarks, Mr. Schaffer spoke about the struggles he and his wife, Maureen, encountered with enrolling their own children in public school before helping to start Liberty Common School.

Mr. Schaffer also told about the origins of the charter school movement in the state, when he was a State Senator. In 1992 Rep. John J. Irwin, of Loveland, introduced a charter school bill that died in the House. The following year, in 1993, then-State Senator Bill Owens (R-Aurora) introduced the Charter School Act, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Peggy Kerns (D-Denver). The bill ultimately passed by a narrow margin in the Senate and went on to be signed by then-Gov. Roy Romer. Mr. Schaffer reminded everyone that initially charter schools were viewed as an experiment and that only 50 charter schools were permitted in the first legislation. In 1998 when the sunset provision was lifted, the cap on the number of charter school was lifted.

Mr. Schaffer also spoke about proposed budget cuts for K-12 public education. He said that because of charter schools having control over their own budgets, their nimbleness and flexibility to respond to budget cuts will afford charter schools a better opportunity for creativity. He noted that the State Board of Education grants waivers to public schools, in addition to charter schools, and suggested that more districts may look at the waiver process as a way to handle drastic budget cuts. Schaffer noted that the Governor's proposed budget cuts meant about $470 per student in the Poudre School District, where he's the Principal of a charter school.

Schaffer also talked about national assessments and their impact on public school choice, especially in regard to academics. He noted that standards drive assessments and then those assessments can become the only measure to determine if a charter school is successful. Instead, Schaffer said that the success of a charter school should be determined by the cash flow generated because parents choose the school for their children.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Gov. Hickenlooper's Budget Projections Hit Hard

This afternoon Governor John Hickenlooper presented his budget to the Joint Budget Committee of the Legislature. Amongst a number of cuts, the Hickenlooper budget includes closing a state prison, a drug treatment program and a residential health care program, repurposing four State parks, reducinglocal grants and the restoration of a 4% budget reserve.

The Governor's letter explaining the budget is here. The letter states that 41% of the state budget is spent on K-12 education. The total reduction for Total Program Funding will be at $836 million.

Vody Herrmann, the Asst. Commissioner and Director of Public School Finance, followed the Hickenlooper budget presentation with an email explaining the Governor's budget and providing additional detail for school districts here.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Loveland Classical Schools Supported by State Board of Ed

In a 6-1 vote, the State Board of Education voted to remand the Loveland Classical School charter school appeal back to the Thompson School District for further consideration.

Thompson has only one charter school -- New Vision Charter School - and it also had to appeal before being approved by the local district. The district has less than 2% of its students enrolled in the charter school. The state average is 8.97%.

The district used the new charter school application review rubric and pointed out deficiencies in the application based on that review. Attorney for the charter school, Barry Arrington, pointed out that no charter school application is perfect and with a 1,000 page application, the charter applicants had certainly provided everything necessary to be approved to open a new charter school.

A couple of State Board members raised concerns about the short timeline in which to open a new school and Chairman Bob Schaffer pointed out that Liberty Common School in Fort Collins (which he helped start) was approved in June and opened two and a half months later. He also noted that most of the charter school either have just as short a timeline, or even shorter.

Loveland Classical School plans to open with grades K-11 in the fall. They already have almost 1,000 students already expressing an interest in attending.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

SB11-132, Charter School Capital Construction

Senator Keith King introduced a bill pertaining to charter school capital construction, SB 132. The bill shores up the moral obligation fund in the State Treasurer's office. When the Cesar Chavez Academy and Dolores Huerta Prep in Pueblo nearly went under, it became apparent that the state taxpayer would be fulfilling the school's obligation on the charter school facility should they default on their bond. Bond issuers became concerned about the moral ob fund and thus, this bill is meant to address those concerns.

The bill also increases the amount available in the fund from $400 million to up to $500 million. Additionally, the bill would allow the County and Municipality Development Revenue Bond Act to allow bonding for public education facilities. Currently, only the Colorado Educational & Cultural Facilities Authority can issue bonds on behalf of charter schools.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

HB 11-1089, Charter School Institute as LEA for Grants

For many federal grants, only an LEA, or Local Education Agency, can apply. LEAs are typically school districts. A new bill has just been introduced into the Colorado General Assembly that would permit the state Charter School Institute to act as an LEA for the purposes of applying for federal grants. The bill, HB 1089, sponsored by Rep. Conti and Sen. K King, was heard in House Ed on Monday afternoon.

The committee amended the bill to require charter schools to notify their school district if they intend to apply for a grant through CSI. The committee approved the amended bill on a 10-3 vote and sent it to the floor of the House for second reading.