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Archive for the ‘Teacher pay’ Category

ProComp at 5: A ‘decorated box?’

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Editor’s note: Jeff Buck is a math teacher at Denver’s East High School and a cofounder of the Denver Green School. He was a member of the task force that designed Denver’s landmark ProComp teacher compensation system, which recently marked its fifth birthday.

In Denver in 2002, the Joint Task Force for Teacher Compensation (JTF) designed the Professional Compensation System for Teachers (ProComp).  We worked in a seminar-style format, which gave me the opportunity not only to consider deeply many of my own beliefs and assumptions about teaching and pay, but also to explore openly those of the other nine members.

I cannot speak for the others but at the end of it all, I could verbalize two core beliefs that I saw reflected in ProComp as we designed it:  I understand teaching not just as a profession but as a career, and I believe that supporting the intrinsic motivation of people (or at least staying out of its way) offers the best chance we have for making positive change.

A teacher should not have to leave the classroom completely and permanently in order to approach or even exceed administrative pay if they have the knowledge and skills and do the work to justify it.

These two beliefs form a mutually reinforcing feedback loop that lies at the heart of my work on school reform and now, school creation.

On the first point, I know that 50 percent of new teachers will quit before their fifth year.  I do not believe monetary compensation, as salary or as bonus, will solve that problem.  Whether or not ProComp has done anything to retain teachers past this stage of their career remains an open question in my opinion.

I have not seen the program evaluation reports myself but I have heard from people who should know that it has improved retention and that it hasn’t made any significant difference. Apparently your results may vary.

This does not eliminate the need to think about the other 50 percent, many of whom will make teaching a career. I understood part of the problem and the seed of a solution when I realized I couldn’t think of another profession in which you know you will do substantially the same work at the beginning and the end of your career, no matter how long you work.

God bless those who can keep their steam up for 20 or 30 years, and I know several who have, but it would seem far more inviting if teaching had a career ladder offering access to a variety of activities with escalating responsibilities and pay while providing for continuing direct contact with kids.

Members of the JTF agreed that a teacher should not have to leave the classroom completely and permanently in order to approach, or even exceed administrative pay if they have the knowledge and skills and do the work to justify it. I have managed to craft (or stumble onto) my own sort of ladder but we have a long way to go toward an institutional response.

We discussed this but in the end, we recognized it went beyond the scope of the JTF’s mandate. We understood a compensation system could not by itself create it but we wanted the core elements of ProComp (Student Growth Objectives, Comprehensive Professional Evaluation, and Professional Development Units) to provide the hooks for a career ladder in teaching. We had to leave the details of the key feeder systems to someone else.

We talked a lot about the balance between bonus and salary. I think most of us doubted we had enough money to actually change people’s behavior ($10,000 came up in that context). And I personally think that the motivation for bad behavior increases with the dollar value of the potential reward. The evidence I have seen supports this belief.

Since then, I have read more about human motivation.  For example, I came across the work of Deci and Ryan (Self Determination Theory) and “Drive,” Daniel Pink’s synthesis of decades of research. Both put words to my long held belief that “autonomy, competence, and relatedness … foster the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity.”  (from second paragraph of link above, italics in original)

I had also studied complexity, emergence and chaos for a couple of years and during the time the JTF met, my reading pile included “The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture” by Mark Taylor.  In his first chapter, “From Grid to Network,” Taylor develops an architectural metaphor that I still think about. He uses the work of Mies van der Rohe, Robert Venturi, and Frank Gehry to illustrate a progression from grid thinking to network thinking.

Mies worked in grids and blocks to express the efficiency of modernism. Venturi wanted to push beyond simple geometric forms and ended up with what I describe as decorated boxes.With the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, Gehry tries to network interior and exterior spaces with the surroundings to achieve a very different architectural effect.

At the time I had hoped we could jump from the salary grid to a set of parts that interacted with each other (forming a network, in other words) allowing the emergence of new system behaviors and characteristics. What we ended up with, especially after rebalancing the system in favor of more and larger bonuses, amounts to a decorated box.  I have learned not to look at this as a failure. After all, who am I to shortcut the succession of thinking?

But now almost 10 years later I can draw a fairly solid line between my experiences on the JTF and my contribution to the governance model of the Denver Green School.  ProComp has become complicated rather than complex and it does not really provide the tools I need to figure out how to allocate a fixed budget for compensation in a democratically managed partnership such as we have dreamed right into reality.

It does give me a pretty good idea of which holes need fixing first and it tells me that we may need to think farther outside the box about revenue.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Jason Glass takes Colorado innovation to Iowa

Monday, January 10th, 2011

The new year brings a fresh opportunity to share a key example of Colorado education reform innovation spreading its wings and landing on a high perch beyond our borders. Former CDE consultant and Eagle County human resources director Jason E. Glass was recently named by Iowa’s incoming Gov. Terry Branstad to head up the state’s education department.

I first met and interacted with Jason in his role at Eagle County. There he played an instrumental role as an innovator. The district not only had adopted the Teacher Advancement Program but also had taken a clean break from the old, unworkable salary schedule. Along the way, Eagle County encountered a number of problems based on how the program was implemented. He helped move the district into its second generation of performance pay, retaining its innovative quality while building broader support.

The local Colorado transformation gave Jason somewhat of a national platform to share lessons learned, and apparently that proved to be quite a stepping stone up. After a few months in a senior position at Battelle for Kids, a group dedicated to “transformation in education…through focusing on human capital development” as well as value added data and formative instructional practices, he got a surprising invitation from Branstad’s staff to interview.

“I was of course honored but thought little of my chances! I went to Des Moines and spoke with the Governor and his staff for a couple of hours and we really found we shared a very similar vision or education,” Jason wrote in an email. “It was a fantastic experience for me. I was really surprised when they called a few days later after checking my references to make the offer!”

Unlike in Colorado, the head of Iowa’s education department is appointed by the governor rather than the state board. But the legacy of Colorado’s recently departed commissioner sure looks to have an influence in the Hawkeye State. “I had a great role model in watching Commissioner Jones. I have tremendous respect for him and what he did for Colorado,” Jason said.

A lot of what he gleaned during his time in Colorado figures to play out in Iowa, a state with different institutions and demographics. “The rest of the country should look to Colorado and think ‘innovation.’ This spirit of innovation and trying different approaches is something I hope to take from my time in Colorado and share. Iowa has tremendous educators and a great tradition of quality public schools. My role will be to serve those educators in making a really good state even better.”

On a personal note, Jason acknowledged his new position is a “big leap” but added: “I was as surprised by the selection as anyone else and this is a tremendous opportunity for me. However, I’ve lived my whole life beating the odds, taking calculated risks, and facing things others feared. The most powerful professional skill I’ve learned is putting my fear in check. It’s always there, but it doesn’t have to rule us.”

No pressure, either. A couple days after officially being named to the position, he headed up the Christian Science Monitor‘s list of “eight school chiefs to watch in 2011″ in the area of education reform.

While Jason and I certainly don’t agree on all things related to education reform, he brings some great ideas and leadership qualities to the table. For the sake of Iowa’s students, here’s wishing him well in his new job. And let’s hope that Colorado innovation earns at least a footnote of acclaim for any success he achieves.

Popularity: 10% [?]

Daniels-backed Harrison program one to watch

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

It was with great interest that I read in the Colorado Springs Gazette this morning about Harrison School District receiving a $1.1 million Daniels Fund grant to support its groundbreaking Effectiveness and Results Teacher Pay-for-Performance Plan. Other school leaders in Colorado and around the nation figure to have a lot to learn from the highly innovative program led by Superintendent Mike Miles, a program bolstered in recent months by the passage of SB 191.

What makes today’s story more interesting is the confluence of recent news coverage. First, last week’s big-splash Denver Post story on Vanderbilt’s Nashville merit pay study was eye-opening and potentially instructive, even if another less-touted rigorous research project studying a similar program in Little Rock showed different results. Like most research in the education field, the Vanderbilt findings weren’t as broadly definitive as some would like them to be. They do give good clues about the limits of merit pay in affecting the behavior of many current educators, but tell us little or nothing about the larger potential for transforming the teaching workforce.

The next day, two of Colorado’s largest school districts — Jefferson County and Colorado Springs 11 — celebrated the announcement of multi-million dollar federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grants that will enable them to pilot performance-based compensation programs in some of their high-need schools. These programs of course figure to be significantly different than the Nashville (or Little Rock) program so heavily scrutinized in recent media coverage.

But even bolder yet is the long-term strategic effort to remake the teacher evaluation process and compensation system in Harrison. (To get a glimpse of the vision and some nuts & bolts, you can listen to a podcast interview I recorded with Mike Miles earlier this year.) While several Colorado charter schools are innovating in the area of compensation, nothing as dramatic and to the scale of what Harrison is doing is being attempted anywhere else in the nation, at least as far as I know.

Another major news story in the past week — Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million reform gift to Newark, N.J., schools (which represents about 10 percent of the district’s annual budget; by comparison, Daniels’ gift represents about 1 percent of Harrison’s annual budget) — got the big splash on Oprah and a wide variety of media outlets nationwide. With the political spine of Governor Chris Christie and the courage and innovation of Mayor Cory Booker, there is tremendous opportunity to hope for great things to come out of Newark.

Not to belittle what’s taking place on the East Coast, but right here in Colorado — with the support of Daniels, not Zuckerberg — we have the opportunity to watch a smaller but potentially monumental laboratory of education transformation. I wish Harrison well, and am keenly interested to learn and observe the positive results in years to come.

Popularity: 5% [?]

Teacher bonuses≠better achievement?

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

A headline from the Washington Post: Teacher bonuses not linked to better student performance, study finds. How credible is the National Center on Performance Incentives at Vanderbilt? Real research or advocacy dressed up as research? (Oh, pardon me. That never happens).Thoughts?

Popularity: 5% [?]

Save teaching jobs by funding war?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

So, Congress is debating spending $10 billion to save teacher jobs and another $5 billion on Pell Grants. By all means pass this legislation!

Millions have been cut by local school districts resulting in layoffs and a reduction of some basic services (some districts even cutting summer school!). The NEA and AFT have been lobbying hard for this legislation. So have major education associations like the ASCD. I just received an email from the former group asking me to contact my senator and demand passage.

All of this advocacy is in the name of our children: Do it for our children! Here’s the catch: The funding is attached to an emergency funding bill for the war in Afghanistan.

The bill would send 30,000 more troops and spend $33.5 billion more in Afghanistan. David Swanson (When Teachers Unions Back War Escalations) has written a wonderful piece on what he sees as the irony of funding schools by funding a war in Afghanistan. Swanson also received an email from a teacher’s union requesting support for the education funding.

Swanson says, “there’s something extraordinarily revolting about an [e]mail that asks us to ‘put our children first’ by escalating a criminal foreign war.” This situation certainly reminds me why our political system needs some major overhauling. Swanson’s opinion piece is worth a read for all of us teachers union supporters.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Brad Jupp on the success of ProComp

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

By Brad Jupp

Editor’s note: Brad Jupp, one of the chief architects of ProComp, is now senior program advisor on teacher effectiveness and quality at the U.S. Department of Education. He was asked to comment on the progress of ProComp and its impact on teacher performance pay nationally.

Over the last five years, many people have asked me whether ProComp was a success. Until the Wiley report was published, my routine answer went like this: It’s too soon to tell but when the data comes in, we should look for progress in four areas.

Brad Jupp/New York Times photo

First, you would see an increase in the number of teachers who were exceeding district expectations on the state standards test. This is a limited but interesting measure because it shows a relationship between the incentives and individual teacher outcomes.

Second and third, you would look for improvement in district-wide student performance and the number of schools exceeding district performance expectations.

Finally, you would see changes in the behaviors of teachers and principals – such as increases in the teachers applying to hard to staff/hard to serve assignments; increases in the retention of teachers in hard to staff/hard to serve assignments; shifts in teacher choices for professional development from university coursework provided by outside sources, like universities and professional development mills, to district sources, both school and district level; new collaborative focus on the rigor of student growth objectives by teachers and principals.

The Wiley report shows progress being made towards success in at least three of these four areas: an increase in the number and percentage of teachers meeting district expectations for the CSAP, overall district performance and changes in teacher behavior. The report speaks for itself so I won’t recite all of the evidence at this point.

Personally, I think the most powerful of these conclusions is on p. 20, where you can see the shift in the number of teachers exceeding expectations over time. The shift forward in that curve is something many in the education policy world have talked about in the last 10 years. Denver is accomplishing it.

It is important not to claim victory for ProComp at this moment but to note that ProComp was a part of an aggressive reform strategy that included three pillars:

  • Instructional reforms – investment in the development of principals as instructional leaders, refinement of standards-based curriculum and aligned assessments, school supervision through instructional networks,
  • Human capital management reforms – teacher pay and principal pay, but also teacher preparation and sourcing, teacher assignment, teacher leadership development, teacher dismissal; and,
  • School performance management reforms – School Performance Framework, portfolio management of schools, etc.

This three-part agenda was what we were after when we laid its foundation in The Denver Plan. It will be impossible to parse the effects of any of these reforms because they are interlocking. It is also important not to claim victory for whole reform because Denver still has so far to go.

Nevertheless, I am encouraged by the findings of the Wiley report because it shows that we made progress during this era, and it does not indicate in any way that had we continued along the course we were on before 2005 that we would have made this progress.

This last point is important, both retrospectively and, more important, prospectively. The Wiley report does not contend that there has been a shift in the policy paradigm in Denver – but I would.

Denver now cares deeply about the measured improvement of student performance, classroom by classroom and school by school. That care is evident in a wide range of policies and a growing body of practices enacted by teachers, principals and other educators. The community wants its faculty and leadership to work with dedication and precision toward those ends.

Had the Wiley report been less optimistic, the right response would not have been to return to the single salary schedule because that is the best way to drive improvements in student learning or to pay teachers. It would have been to go back to the drawing board and re-tune ProComp so that it would get better results.

And, in fact, that is how we should approach the further refinement of ProComp as well as the other aligned reforms I outlined above, especially because we still have such a long way to go in Denver.

Since the DPS and DCTA entered into the Pay for Performance Pilot in 1999, which led to ProComp, I have seen three major trends in the national teacher pay policy landscape.

First, the number of school districts that have entered into alternative compensation efforts has increased from a handful to hundreds. Second, in the hundreds of school districts that have entered into these alternative compensation systems, people’s worst fears have not come true. There has not been rampant cheating by teachers or students, teachers have not radically altered their collegial behavior, school districts have not become arbitrary and capricious employers, etc.

Likewise, pay reforms have not proven to be the silver bullet that no one in their right mind would have claimed them to be. They have not magically transformed the results we were getting students. If the hundreds of districts working on teacher compensation reform have proven anything, it is that A) pay reform should be part of a broader set of reforms and that B) driving improvement in student performance is really hard work.

Third, there are still thousands of school districts that have not yet engaged in compensation reform or the broader body of reforms that Denver has entered into. There is no evidence that clinging to an older policy framework will improve student performance or close achievement gaps. There is, therefore, much work to be done to change the policy orientation in these remaining districts.

Denver – the district and the union – has taken great strides with much accomplishment and relatively minimal conflict. I would hope that school systems and teacher unions could learn from this.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Does Education Fifty rate Hick right on reform?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Back at the beginning of the legislative session, shortly after Bill Ritter’s stunning announcement that he would be a one-term governor, I briefly broke down what education reform might look like under either of his two likely successors: Mayor John Hickenlooper or former Congressman Scott McInnis. (Dan Maes is a good guy, but he will have to shock the world to win the primary.)

I think we all can agree that given economic conditions and the political climate that state-level education reform policy doesn’t figure to have the same prominence as it has had during the past four years, though big surprises often lurk just outside our view. Education isn’t a strong suit for either McInnis or Hickenlooper, though the edge has to go to the mayor on experience and familiarity.

But what about the respective candidates’ actual philosophies and visions for education reform that their administrations would use to govern? Enter the new website Education Fifty — a project of the D.C.-based Center for Education Reform (CER). The site provides very basic information on every announced candidate for the 37 gubernatorial races across the nation this fall:

  1. Does the candidate demonstrate real support for charter schools?
  2. Does the candidate demonstrate real support for broader public and private school choice?
  3. Does the candidate demonstrate real support for performance-based pay for teachers and school leaders?

In Colorado, the two Republican candidates win large green checkmarks on all three points. On the other hand, Hickenlooper gets a big red X for number 2 and a curious question mark for number 3. Does the Mayor’s support of ProComp count? I’m not sure where CER rates ProComp, but their explanatory definition reads as follows:

Performance pay, or merit-based pay, rewards teachers based on their performance in the classroom and not just on seniority, which is currently the norm. True merit pay is not a system of bonuses, but rather a method of linking educators’ pay directly to student performance. These policies are designed to increase individual accountability by linking compensation and job security directly to operational and academic outcomes.

If someone out there thinks the website features a goof, CER invites your feedback.

Popularity: 4% [?]

A parallax view on SB 191

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

With Mike Johnston’s teacher evaluation bill headed towards a vote later today, the heightened rhetoric has now eclipsed the likely impact.  For while I wholeheartedly support this bill, I also think the fevered opinion has given it a prominence that overshadows its relative ability to produce significant change.

With the rising antagonism between supporters and opponents, both sides went for the jugular: CEA publicly attacking Commissioner Dwight Jones and flexing its substantial lobbying muscle, while supporters enlisted the cumulative wisdom of the past 36 years of Colorado governors as well as district superintendents from Mapleton, Harrison, Denver and Aurora. In order to pass/block the bill, both sides must argue to its greatest possible impact. The end result is to inflate SB 191 to an elevated importance that no single proposal could possibly merit.

For if the bill passes (without too much change), it is both unlikely to be either a panacea leading to better educational outcomes for students, or the sudden arrival of nuclear winter for teachers. In truth, SB 10-191 is only one part of the institutional changes we need concerning teachers in public education, and in my view is probably of lesser importance than some related areas.  If this is the only evolutionary step we make for education reform, we are unlikely to crawl out of our current muck and rise to our feet.

To improve the quality of teaching, we need three primary changes (and a lot of secondary ones): First, find a way to move bad teachers out of the classroom. Second, retain the outstanding teachers who voluntarily leave the profession.  And third, widen the pool of potential hires so that we can recruit the best possible candidates into the classroom. Now don’t misunderstand, there are a lot of other tasks — many of these district-related policies that prevent current teachers from being able to do their best work (I have long believed that we have better teachers than we have teaching, due to various impediments). But at a macro level, we need to address these three issues first.

Even rough numbers should help us gauge relative importance.  Colorado hires between 6,500 and 7,000 new teachers annually.  Of these, roughly 50 percent do not progress beyond their 5th year.  In contrast, the number of teachers who are likely to be “evaluated” out of the classroom is far smaller than the number of either better candidates that we might attract, or retaining the best teachers who leave. For without the ability to replace bad teachers with better ones, evaluating teachers out of the classroom will accomplish virtually nothing. While SB 191 may be a substantial change to the teaching profession, by itself it is unlikely to have significant change on educational outcomes for students.

SB 10-191 — laudable and important as it is — only directly tackles the problem of removing bad teachers (although it might help marginally with retention).  Now we all know there are teachers who should not be teaching, but in comparison to recruitment and retention, I think these numbers are fairly small.  My guess is that even if this bill is applied as aggressively as possible, the percentage of teachers affected will be in the small single digits. The impact of SB 10-191, by itself, is unlikely to move the needle of student achievement across the State.

What else should we do?  I’d posit two approaches.

To retain the outstanding teachers who leave the profession, we need to start by abolishing the collective bargaining agreement’s single salary schedule.  In no other profession are the best performers in an industry confined to being compensated at the same rate as their average (or below-average) peers. Most of the people testifying in support or against 191 have achieved professional distinction, and are both recognized and compensated for their accomplishments.  We need to extend to our best teachers the same respect. SB 10-191 may help us better recognize these top performers, but they are unlikely to remain in the profession without accompanying incentives (and this should start with, but not be limited to salaries).

In addition, we need to phase out teacher certification, which serves primarily as an artificial barrier that discourages potential teachers and diverts resources that could be better applied.  Programs like Teach For America and the New Teacher Project have shown no substantive difference between traditional teacher certification and alternative (and usually far less extensive and expensive) methods.

Other avenues of preparation should be offered – both TFA and NTP programs, and expanded teacher residencies, which provide hands-on experience and mentoring. The requirement for teacher certification, and the related increase in pay for advanced degrees with no correlation with teacher quality, primary results in tuition dollars and a transfer of wealth to schools of education that provide little to no value to K-12 students.  While it has been a few years since Art Levine’s seminal report on teacher education, little has changed.

Funding these changes will be hard, but not impossible.  Districts spend considerable amounts on new hires; reducing attrition will eventually have a positive impact on budgets.  But to start, redeploy the salary dollars we have away from fixed raises for seniority and professional certification to instead recognize outstanding teachers as determined by school leadership (which would incorporate, but not be limited by the evaluation procedures in SB 10-191).

Secondly, pursue policies that shift the substantial dollars provided to schools of education into residency and alternative training programs.  Meaningless academic educational programs – most at private universities — suck millions of dollars in tuition and valuable time directly from teachers.  This is a billion-dollar industry that provides limited value — a remarkable waste of resources in the struggle to improve public education.

Prospective teachers should be given a choice between paying for these programs – often highly expensive, particularly given teacher starting salaries – and contributing to residency and other programs (which would also provide jobs upon successful program completion).

So, in the heightened shadow of SB 10-191, here is a modest proposal: migrate teacher preparation from mandatory certification to alternative and residency programs, shifting tuition dollars that enrich private universities to public school systems.  Abolish the single salary structure, using the premium formerly paid for advanced degrees to reward outstanding teachers for the achievements in the classroom.

And in the wake of what I think will be the successful passage of a mostly-whole SB 10-191, do not, for one minute, think that the effort to improve public education in Colorado has taken more than a small step forward, with a long distance still to travel.

Popularity: 9% [?]

Deep thoughts on teacher power and pay

Monday, February 8th, 2010

If Colorado’s teachers unions are so powerful, how come teachers here are the worst paid in the 50 states (relative to other occupations, which is the best adjustment for cost-of-living, local labor markets, etc.)?

(Note: These data are from Ed Week’s 2010 Quality Counts – and unlikely any Colorado interest group, Ed Week has absolutely no stake in where Colorado ranks.)

Since Colorado teachers are the worst paid, when the economy and budgets recover, couldn’t there be a deal of more money for more accountability – more meaningful tenure earning, meaningful “4 point” evaluations rather than “satisfactory” for nearly all, no forced placements, being able to fire poor teachers, etc.?

Popularity: 3% [?]

From the editor: On budget cuts, choose your poison

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

When it comes to money and public education, I am of two minds. On the one hand, I do not believe that pouring more money into dysfunctional systems will by itself solve the underlying problems that plague education.

Some members of interest groups were ready to string me up last year when I used inartful language to suggest that federal stimulus money could be wasted if it was used only to prop up broken institutions.

On the other hand, I found a story by Mike Booth in Sunday’s Denver Post about crushing budget woes in Colorado Springs to be shocking and disturbing. Although the story dealt with city government rather than the school district, it gave me a canary-in-a-coal-mine feeling. In case you missed it:

More than a third of the streetlights in Colorado Springs will go dark Monday.

The police helicopters are for sale on the Internet. The city is dumping firefighting jobs, a vice team, burglary investigators, beat cops — dozens of police and fire positions will go unfilled.

The parks department removed trash cans last week, replacing them with signs urging users to pack out their own litter.

Neighbors are encouraged to bring their own lawn mowers to local green spaces, because parks workers will mow them only once every two weeks. If that.

Water cutbacks mean most parks will be dead, brown turf by July; the flower and fertilizer budget is zero.

Wow. Sure, Colorado Springs is the home of anti-government zealot Doug Bruce, and is known for its ultra-conservative politics and aversion to taxes. But did average citizens in that spectacularly situated town have any idea what they were about to lose when they, according to the Post, “said an emphatic no (last November) to a tripling of property tax that would have restored $27.6 million to the city’s $212 million general fund budget?”

It’s when I read stories like this one that I feel more in tune with organizations, like Great Education Colorado, which advocate tirelessly and somewhat monotonally for increased education spending in Colorado. Yes, education is underfunded here, if you look at needs (including capital construction) versus resources. No, education isn’t close to the Colorado Springs cliff. Not yet.

But it could get there. As EdNews’ Todd Engdahl reported last year:

The state’s financial clock is ticking because 2011 is when Referendum C (the five-year window during which the state can spend “extra” revenues under TABOR), one factor in Amendment 23 (the multi-part formula requiring annual increases in K-12 spending) and federal stimulus money all expire.

So this is the moment for people to shed their pet ideologies and their mantles of self-interest and get serious about how to tackle these challenges in a sensible manner.

That’s easy to say, of course, but as recent political debacles in Washington demonstrate, difficult to do. Nancy Mitchell reported last week that as school districts grapple with profound budgetary challenges, jockeying for position is already under way. In several districts, state budget cuts mean teachers will not be getting their full raises.

In Jefferson County, two school board members touched the third rail by passing on a community suggestion that perhaps teachers’ base salaries should be frozen. Jefferson County Education Association President Kerrie Dallman called the proposal “insulting.”

But Jeffco, which has had a tough time passing mill levy hikes and bond issues in recent years, provides an excellent illustration of the challenges districts and unions face in the coming months and years.

Teachers, famously under-compensated, do not want their salaries frozen. Who does? Nor do they, or their communities, want to see layoffs and the class-size increases that would result.

So something has to give – and probably more than one thing.

Are we capable of working together across various divides to forge creative solutions? Stay tuned. We’ll find out in the coming months.

As we move forward, let’s all keep the cautionary tale of Colorado Springs in mind.

Popularity: 4% [?]

Colorado Health Foundation Walton Family Foundation Daniels fund Pitton Foundations Donnell-Kay Foundation