Across the Street column: Educators review Every Student Succeeds Act |

Across the Street column: Educators review Every Student Succeeds Act

Joyce Rankin
Larry Laszlo |

The State Board of Education normally doesn’t meet in July. This year, however, there were time lines to meet and emergency situations that required board votes. So this past week, I hopped on the “Bustang” and headed to Denver.

The meeting was originally billed as an Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) study session with the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) explaining to the State Board the latest federal law and the accompanying U.S. Department of Education’s proposed regulations. Two time-critical items were late additions.

The three-and-a-half-hour ESSA session brought out frustrations with the alignment between the law (ESSA), the subsequent proposed regulations, written by the U.S. Department of Education (DoE), and Colorado state law. The board has until Aug. 1 to submit its concerns to the DoE, and there are many. As an example one part of the federal law has a statutory “may”; however in the regulations, the word “must” appears. This takes the new law, which promised flexibility, into a prescriptive federal mandate.

The first of the two additional items on the agenda that required a vote by the State Board involved Hope Online charter schools. Hope Online operates 29 learning centers in Colorado. Five are within Aurora Public Schools. In order to continue operating in Aurora, Hope submitted its required memorandum of understanding to Aurora Public Schools. Aurora Superintendent Rico Munn rejected Hope’s memorandum. Hope had an opportunity to appeal the decision before our board and did so this past week. Over 100 very supportive parents and students were in attendance wearing Hope T-shirts. Following arguments from both sides, the board voted 7-0 to keep the school operating.

The second board vote involved the Southern Routt County — or Soroco — School District south of Steamboat Springs. As a result of Peabody Energy filing Chapter 11, and not being able to pay taxes, the school district could not meet payroll through the summer. Superintendent Darci Mohr contacted the CDE to see if it could help. During one of my town hall meetings in Steamboat the same week, Ms. Mohr attended and expressed her deep concern for the district and asked for assistance. I met with CDE where I was told the issue would be presented at the August board meeting. Later that week I was able to move the item to the July agenda, allowing Soroco to apply for a $1M “Contingency Reserve Grant.” The board voted 7-0 to allow the grant process to move forward. The Legislature will work to restore money to this fund for future emergencies.

The Aug. 10-11 board meeting will be held at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. One of the agenda items will be Pueblo School District 60 and its plan to improve student achievement. All meetings are open to the public, and I invite you to attend.

I’ve just passed through the canyon and nearing the “Bustang” station in Glenwood Springs. Thank you for the honor to represent you.

Joyce Rankin is a member of the State Board of Education. “Across the Street” will appear monthly.

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