Issue Backgrounders

The State of K-12 Union Contract Transparency

More than a decade before Proposition 104 shone a light on the negotiation process, the General Assembly required that the negotiation product should be made available using online technology. Lacking any sort of enforcement mechanism, a significant minority of bargaining school districts have fallen short of the basic expectation, though persistent reminders helped in many cases. Given the experience with union contract transparency, citizens should not take for granted full compliance with the letter and spirit of the new open negotiations law.

The Truth About Class Size Reduction: Problems, Examples, and Alternatives

Throughout the United States, class size reduction (CSR) is heralded as an effective way to improve academic outcomes. However, the research surrounding the effects of CSR is inconclusive at best. It is often difficult to determine the reliability of the studies conducted on the topic, and much of the research wavers between small, temporary academic gains in certain student groups and no gains at all.

Amendment 66: Unfair and Overpriced

Amendment 66 on the November 2013 Colorado ballot proposes a nearly $1 billion statewide income tax increase to pay for a new school finance formula and other education funding priorities. A majority vote at the polls would activate the policy changes in Senate Bill 213, approved by the legislature’s Democratic majority and Gov. John Hickenlooper. The policy package tied to approval of the tax increase proposal raises four primary concerns.

Greeley Public Schools: Learning Reimagined

Yielding unacceptable results for a challenging population of nearly 20,000 enrolled students while receiving nearly $9,000 per student, leaders in Greeley Public Schools face a timely opportunity to transform the district’s educational approach, to successfully reimagine learning and the surrounding systems and infrastructure.

Colorado K-12 Tax Hikes Challenged: Economy Squeezes Household Incomes Harder Than School Budgets

Five of Colorado’s nine largest school districts have placed property tax hikes on the fall 2012 ballot. Over the past decade all five of the tax-proposing school districts have significantly grown spending on “current” operating costs. From 2005 to 2010, median household incomes in all five counties covered by the five districts fell short of per-pupil school tax revenues. Asking voters to increase property taxes this year may not be an easy task.

The Future of Colorado Digital Learning: Crafting a Policy Roadmap for Reform

Nearly 50 Colorado online education leaders (including school district and charter school staff) and policy experts gathered Monday, January 23, 2012, to help craft a roadmap of digital learning policy priorities for the state. Participants worked together to help identify Colorado’s leading digital learning policy priorities in three major categories: Access and Eligibility, Funding, and Assessment and Accountability. Given a list of policy options that included Digital Learning Now’s recommendations, participants selected those they saw as the most important for Colorado to pursue in the near term and to offer additional ideas or suggestions. According to many of the state’s online leaders, the following policy changes would enhance opportunities for Colorado’s children to achieve educational success.

Nine Key Changes at the Bargaining Table: A Policy Handbook for Colorado School Board Reform Leaders

Of Colorado’s 178 school districts, 41 have a formal bargaining relationship with one or more employee unions. Because Colorado has no defined public-sector labor law, the greatest opportunity to reform restrictive policies and interest group privileges comes at the school board level. Opportunity awaits local education leaders to enhance flexibility, fairness and fiscal responsibility at the bargaining table.

The Citizens’ Budget: K-12 Funding Issue Brief

This concise issue brief on K-12 education is part of the comprehensive Citizens’ Budget. The report lays out a road map for Colorado policy makers to implement policies that would close next year’s billion-dollar budget problem and establish a sustainable trend line for balanced budgets into the future, with no increase in taxes or fees. This section explores how Colorado’s current K-12 school funding system works and offers ideas for savings, including a tax credit program to offset private school tuition costs.

Colorado Education and Open Negotiations: Increasing Public Access to School District Bargaining

Forty-two of Colorado’s 178 school districts bargain exclusively with a local teachers union. Often conducted by tax-funded district employees on both sides, negotiations forge policies that determine the use of taxpayer dollars. Yet only one of the 42 districts has an established policy that thoroughly ensures the public’s right to observe bargaining negotiations.

What Should School District Financial Transparency Look Like?

Jeffco Public Schools has become a national leader among school districts by creating a top-notch financial transparency database. Colorado lawmakers have introduced two new transparency bills in 2010. As proposals are debated and initiatives implemented and upgraded, both state and local policy makers can benefit by understanding the criteria of effective financial transparency.