Archives for category: Colorado

A few days ago, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the voucher plan adopted by the school board in Douglas County was unconstitutional. It was a split decision. It is puzzling that it was a split decision, because the Colorado state constitution explicitly prohibits any public funding of religious institutions.
Text of Section 7:
Aid to Private Schools, Churches, Sectarian Purpose, Forbidden.

 

Neither the general assembly, nor any county, city, town, township, school district or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any church or sectarian society, or for any sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any church or sectarian denomination whatsoever; nor shall any grant or donation of land, money or other personal property, ever be made by the state, or any such public corporation to any church, or for any sectarian purpose.

 

s Hess at the American Enterprise Institute writes in the National Review that the U.S. Supreme Court might well decide to throw out this part of the state constitution because it was written in the late 1870s as a Protestant ban on funding Catholic schools. Such amendments, found in 2/3 of the states’ constitutions, are known as Blaine amendments for James G. Blaine of New York, who led the movement to keep public money out of religious schools.

According to the Denver Post, the Douglas County school board plans to appeal the ruling that declared vouchers unconstitutional. It will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The voucher program, which would use taxpayer money to send children to private schools, was put on hold in 2011 just as the first 304 students were about to enroll. Most planned to attend religious schools.

“The court found the program conflicts with “broad, unequivocal language forbidding the State from using public money to fund religious schools.”

“Wrote the court “… this stark constitutional provision makes one thing clear: A school district may not aid religious schools.”

The article describes the county as a “wealthy suburban district.”

School board officials promised to fight for vouchers:

“During a news conference Monday morning, Douglas County school officials indicated they likely would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case for consideration. They also said they will immediately seek a legal way to proceed with vouchers.”

The Supreme Court of Colorado struck down the voucher program in Douglas County. It is unconstitutional, the justices said.

After a radical group won control of the public schools of Douglas County in Colorado, they enacted a plan for vouchers. Being a relatively affluent community, there was no baloney about “saving poor kids from failing schools.” The point was privatization of public funds intended for public schools.

Here is the story, as told by the nonpartisan group that brought the suit, called Taxpayers for Public Education.

Contact: Cindy Barnard
(303)905-3803

CO Supreme Court Strikes Down Vouchers

Douglas County Program Found to Violate State Constitution

“Denver, CO June 29, 2015) In a landmark legal decision today, the Colorado State Supreme Court struck down the Douglas County School District (DCSD) voucher program. In the case of Taxpayers for Public Education, et al., v. Douglas County School District, et al., the Court found that the program violates the Colorado Constitution.

“This is a great victory for public school children in Colorado,” said Cindy Barnard, President of Taxpayers for Public Education (TFPE), one of the plaintiffs in the case. “The DCSD voucher program took taxpayer funds, intended for public education, and used that money to pay for private school education for a few select students. The decision means that money set aside for public education in Colorado can only be used the way it was intended to be used- for the betterment of education in Colorado public schools.”

“In this groundbreaking case, Michael McCarthy and Colin Deihl of the Denver office of Faegre Baker Daniels represented Taxpayers for Public Education pro bono. Other plaintiffs and intervenors in the suit included children and parents of the Douglas County School District, Douglas County citizens and several local and national organizations that support a strong and vital public education system.

“As we celebrate this important victory, we have to continue to closely watch the leaders of the Douglas County School District as they look to implement other programs and methods to intentionally erode the quality of public education in their own district,” said Barnard.

“Details of the Court’s ruling can be found on the Taxpayer for Public Education website at taxpayersforpubliceducation.org. ”

###

About Taxpayers for Public Education:
Taxpayers for Public Education, (TFPE), is a Colorado-based, bi-partisan, 501c4 organization. The members are Colorado taxpayers and parents of children enrolled in public schools. TFPE supports public education and believes that a strong public education system is instrumental in building and maintaining an extraordinary workforce that will keep American companies and American entrepreneurship viable and robust to meet the challenges in the years ahead.

For more information, please visit: http://www.taxpayersforpubliceducation.org.

Contact:

Cindy Barnard
President, Taxpayers for Public Education
(303) 905-3803
cindrabarnard@q.com

Anne Kleinkopf
Director, Taxpayers for Public Education
(720) 219-6253
annekleinkopf@msn.com

Michael McCarthy
Attorney, Faegre Baker Daniels
(303) 607-3670

Mason Barnard

Plaintiff/Former Douglas County Student

(303) 518 – 7939

###

The Pearson server crashed in Colorado as tens of thousands of students were taking online assessments in science and social studies.

It was not what you would call an opt out, but it had the same effect. The Brave Néw World of online assessment is not quite ready for prime time.

The Colorado legislature is considering legislation permitting parents to opt their children out of state testing. The legislation is opposed by corporate reformer State Senator Michael Johnston and corporate reform groups like Colorado Succeeds.

Johnston, drawing on his experience in Teach for America and a brief stint as a principal, was author of legislation passed in 2010 that made test scores count for 50% of teacher evaluations.

I was in Denver the day his dreadful legislation came to a vote, and we were supposed to debate before about 100 civic leaders. Johnston waited outside the room for me to finish my presentation, so he heard nothing to contradict his love of high-stakes testing. As soon as he entered the room, he told the audience about the passage of his “great schools, great teachers” bill.

I was happy to see this part of the AP story about legislation in Colorado:

“Several more testing-related bills await hearings this week, including proposals to reduce social studies testing and to eliminate all statewide tests not required by the federal government. Another bill would dismantle a 2010 requirement that teacher evaluations rely at least 50 percent on student test scores.”

That last item is Mike Johnston’s “historic” bill.

According to the Cherry Creek News, Colorado parents are trying to beat back another high-stakes testing bill by State Senator Michael Johnston. This one is aimed at kindergarten children. They would be required to pass a reading test or take remedial instruction.

Maybe kindergarten kids will stage protests or their parents will.

The last education reform bill by Johnston made test scores 50% of every teacher’s evaluation. He called it “Great Schools, Great Teachers,” all accomplished by the magic of standardized tests. That was 2010. How did that work out?

Colorado students are rallying to demand testing reform. This is THEIR issue. They have been subjected to test after test after test. They lose instructional time. They lose time for the arts and history and foreign languages to make more time for testing. Their scores can get their teachers and their principal fired. They are genuine patriots. Despite 12 years of testing, they have not been turned into robots. They are standing up for their right to a real education. They refuse to be crushed by the standardization machine. These students can teach the nation what matters most.

 

On Saturday, March 7th, from 11 am to 12 pm, high school students from schools around the state will join on the West Steps of the Denver Capitol.

 

They aim to have their voices heard on the issue of standardized testing in Colorado. The Colorado Measure for Academic Success (CMAS) test proved to be the uniting factor that prompted these students to raise concerns regarding the corporate ownership of tests such as the CMAS, as well as the ways in which they feel these tests are misaligned with curriculum design.

 

Other grievances regarding these tests include the fact that teachers cannot see the tests their students take, and that depending upon the school district, they feel teachers and schools can be unfairly jeopardized based upon the students’ scores. After contemplating this myriad of complaints and concerns, a group of high school seniors in Fort Collins began an organization known as ‘The Anti-Test’, a group which seeks to peacefully protest certain aspects of standardized testing for the sake of testing reform. They have organized this rally in Denver so that the voices of civically engaged students may be heard in what they ultimately believe is a student issue.

 

I hope they bring a special message of dissent to State Senator Michael Johnston, who wrote Senate Bill 191, which made high-stakes testing the focus of “reform” in Colorado. Johnston is a former member of Teach for America. He insisted that 50% of educators’ evaluation should be based on test scores. Making testing so important, he claimed in 2010, would produce “great teachers” and “great schools.” How has that worked out?

Last night, I posted an appeal to support Peggy Robertson, who is under fire for her bold advocacy of opting out of mandated testing.

 

The story in the Denver Post said that the Colorado Education Association was ambivalent about standing by Peggy. Its story said:

 

Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, said the state’s largest union has a legal duty to represent its members but also recognizes Colorado law requires standardized tests.

 

She said: “It may be difficult to defend those who don’t comply,. We absolutely will do our best to defend our members who are acting in the best interest of our students. “

 

There can be no doubt that Peggy Robertson is acting “in the best interest of our students” by defying the state.

 

In a comment sent to this blog, Kerrie Dallman, president of the CEA, says the Denver Post story was erroneous. The union will support Peggy.

 

She wrote:

 

There is no ambivalence, CEA will support Peggy if there is any job action take against her. We will do all that is within our power.

Clearly Denver Post writers did some picking and choosing from my comments provided to them.

Check out my guest commentary in the Denver Post on the same issue:

http://www.denverpost.com/guestcommentary/ci_27612734/education-reformers-denial?source=infinite

Peggy Robertson, the leader of United Opt Out, is under attack. In this article in the “Denver Post,” administrators warn that she might lose her job if she doesn’t give the test. Even union leaders express ambivalence about supporting her.

Peg has Ben a hero of the Opt Out movement. She has been fearless and outspoken. She belongs on the honor roll of the blog as one of the indispensable voices who support children.

Please write letters and tweets to the Denver Post and tweet your support for Peg.

The Denver Post is @denverpost

Peggy Robertson is @pegwithpen

United Opt Out is @UnitedOptOut

Stand with Peggy and UnitedOpt Out!

#IsupportPeggyandOptOut

Douglas County, Colorado, has a school board controlled by supporters of school choice. Normally, school boards see themselves as stewards of public schools. Not this one.

One local parent has been watching the money. She wonders, “Quid Pro Quo or Coincidence?”

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