Who Is In Charge

$237 million in BEST projects make the cut

Nearly a dozen school renovation and construction projects totaling $237.7 million were recommended Wednesday by the state School Capital Construction Assistance Board.

The decisions came after two and a half days of difficult meetings during which the board wrestled with competing priorities, the unavoidable fact that most applications wouldn’t get funded and with some public confusion about how the board makes its decisions.

The State Board of Education has the final say on grants from the Build Excellent Schools Today program. The board is expected to consider the recommendations at its meeting on Aug. 11-12.

The construction board’s recommendations were the second major round of grants since passage of the BEST law in 2008. Grants awarded last year totaled about half of the latest package, although a substantial portion of last year’s package wasn’t used because some local matching funds fell through.

Voters in several school districts also will have an influence on which projects ultimately are funded. In most cases BEST grants require local matching money, and districts are expected to ask voters to approve bond issues this November to raise local matching funds.

If some of those bond issues fail, those projects will be out of the running. Anticipating that problem, the CCAB Wednesday designated one additional project as a “runner-up” that won’t be funded unless one or more of the others fall off the list.

Voters statewide also may have an influence on the BEST projects, which are funded by lease-purchase agreements called certificates of participation, or COPs in government lingo. Amendment 61 on the November ballot would ban use of COPs.

“All bets are off if Amendment 61 passes,” said Dave Van Sant, a retired superintendent who serves on the construction board.

Here are the projects recommended by the board, culled from the 47 that applied:

Center District 26 JT – $31.5 million for replacement of several buildings. State share is $26.7 million and the local match is $4.7 million. (Bond vote required this November.) District enrollment is about 600 students.

Elbert District 200 – $19.6 million for a PK-12 replacement school. State share $16.1 million; local match $3.5 million. (Bond vote required this November.) Enrollment is about 240 students.

Fremont District RE-2 – $13.1 million  for an elementary school renovation and addition. State share $8.3 million; local match is $4.7 million.

Holly District RE-3 – $28.5 million for a new PK-12 school. State share $25 million; local match $3.5 million. (Bond vote required this November.) Enrollment 290 students.

Lake George Charter School (Park County) – $7.4 million for a new P-6 school. $6.5 million state share; $970,000 local match in hand. Enrollment is about 85 students.

Mapleton Public Schools – $53.7 million for major construction and renovation of the district’s Skyline Campus. State share about $33 million; local match about $21 million, which will require a bond issue in November. Enrollment 5,800 students. (The Mapleton proposal has a difficult history and sparked intense board discussion; see below for details.)

Monte Vista Schools – $32.1 million for elementary school renovations and high school replacement. State share $27.6 million; $4.5 million match already raised. Enrollment 1,200 students.

North Routt Charter School – $3.9 million for an addition to its K-8 campus. $3,1 million state grant; about $696,000 local match. Enrollment is about 70 students. (The school, which uses a Mongolian yurt for one of its buildings, won a BEST award last year but couldn’t use it because the state ruled it didn’t have a properly funded match. That problem has been fixed.)

Peyton School District 23 JT – $5.6 million for a junior high addition to the high school. State share $3 million; local match $2.6 million.

Salida District R-32 – $30.4 million for a new high school. State share $12.5 million; local match $17.9 million, with a bond vote this fall. The district has about 1,100 students.

Vista Charter School (Montrose) – $6.1 replacement for a 6-8 alternative school. State share $4.6 million; local match of  $1.5 million is in hand. Enrollment 190 students.

The runner-up on the list is a $24.1 million P-12 building to replace three schools in the 380-student Akron R-1 School District. The rub for the district is that it will have to try to sell voters on a bond issue to raise the $7.7 million local match without being able to say the $16.3 million state share is a sure thing. The district hasn’t passed a bond issue since 1964.

(Enrollment data taken from Department of Education 2009 statistics.)

Mapleton Public Schools Skyline campus

Like North Routt, Mapleton received a BEST award last year but couldn’t use the money because voters defeated a $30 million bond issue by only a few votes.

Mapleton’s latest application proposed only a $10.7 million local match, about half the $21 million required by the state’s formula for matching. Construction board members weren’t comfortable with that and rejected Mapleton’s waiver letter, thereby requiring the full match.

Superintendent Charlotte Ciancio, who attended all three days of the board’s hearings, wasn’t happy with the board’s decision, telling Education News Colorado “It puts us at a disadvantage” when seeking another bond issue this November. “We will go back and try again,” she said.

Ciancio said the district believes that the state’s matching calculations aren’t accurate in Mapleton’s case.

The Division of Public School Capital Construction Assistance calculates required matches based on a district’s assessed value per pupil relative to the state average;  median household income relative to the state average; bond redemption fund mill levy relative to the statewide average; the percentage of pupils eligible for free and/or reduced-cost lunch; and bond election effort and success over the last 10 years.

Districts can request waivers from the match formula, and the board has discretion to grant or reject those.

After having given it a preliminary OK Tuesday, the board Wednesday dropped an $18.7 million new-school request from the Rocky Mountain Deaf Charter School in Jefferson County, which serves about 40 students from several districts. The board was concerned that the request was for a new building that could serve four times as many students.

Other proposals that never made the cut included applications from Denver, Aurora, the Odyssey Charter School in DPS, Sheridan, Westminster, Otis, Pueblo County, the Pikes Peak BOCES, Falcon, Florence, the Ross Montessori School in Carbondale, the Eagle County Charter, the West End District at Nucla.

The total lease-purchase package recommended by the board is $165.5 million state money and $66.8 million in local matches. An additional $5 million in state money will be held in reserve to pay federal prevailing wages where required by federal law.

The BEST program is funded by revenues from state school lands and some Lottery funds. The program so far has awarded nearly $311.4 million to 69 projects in 57 districts, which have provided $98.6 million in matching funds. Advisors to the program estimate about $342 million will be available for lease-purchase grants in 2011-12 and 2012-13. After that most of the annual BEST revenue will have to be used for paying previous projects.

The board also approved spending of about $11.3 million of state money in 35 cash grants to school districts for smaller projects such as fire alarm upgrades, new heating and air conditioning systems and roof repairs. That package includes an additional $8.5 million in local matches. (See CDE list of all cash projects.)

There were 102 applicants for cash and lease-purchase projects.

This story was corrected on July 1 to include additional information.

Division of Public School Capital Construction Assistance

student activism

Five Chicago student activists on why they will be in your face this summer

PHOTO: Courtesy of Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia outside Trump Tower earlier this week

Trevon Bosley’s brother was murdered while attending band rehearsal at church. Shot from the street while helping a friend with drums in 2006, he was just one of the 471 people killed by gun violence that year in Chicago.

Through a peer youth council at St. Sabina Church in Auburn Gresham, Bosley, 20, became an outspoken student activist, and tonight he will join hundreds of students converging for an annual peace march that starts at the church. Chicago’s tradition of youth activism will be on full display, but the local students are getting a high-powered boost. Joining them are Chicago musicians Chance the Rapper and Jennifer Hudson and former Arizona House Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in 2011 at a public meeting with constituents. There will also be another set of special guests: the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl., where a February shooter killed 17 students and teachers.

All week long, local student activists have been rallying and some Parkland students have lended an assist. Several staged a sit-in in City Hall on Monday to protest the proposed construction of a $95 million police academy on the West side and call for an elected school board. Others staged a die-in on in front of Trump Tower on Tuesday to commemorate the second anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Chalkbeat sat down with five Chicago student activists to hear why they take action and what they hope to achieve.

"Gun violence isn’t mainly just about mass shootings. These kinds of things happen in Chicago, Baltimore 24/7."Alycia Moaton

East Woodlawn resident Alycia Moaton, 17, attends Kenwood Academy. She’s part of Good Kids Mad City, a new advocacy organization formed by Chicago and Baltimore students. This past Monday, Good Kids Mad City members were central figures in the City Hall sit-in this past Monday.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Alycia Moaton
Alycia Moaton outside City Hall earlier this week

On becoming an activist: I grew up in Oak Park for about 10 years of my life. Then I moved into Chicago. Going to public schools on the South Side, it was like a completely different world. A lot of the students—their first thought is whether or not they’ll be able to go to school that day because they’re worrying about getting shot on the way there. When I got to experience both sides, experience what it’s like to not fear going to school, I could see just how messed up it is.

Starting off around three years ago, I went to a lot of protests and youth summits, and that turned me into wanting to be part of an organization. That’s how I got in touch with Good Kids Mad City. Good Kids Mad City came to be after the Parkland shooting, from the idea that gun violence isn’t mainly just about mass shootings. These kinds of things happen in Chicago, Baltimore, 24/7, and it’s as national as a mass shooting.

What she hopes to achieve: One of my main goals is that [the rally tonight] gets a lot of national coverage. The Parkland students are allowing us to make the narrative about Chicago. I hope people leave with the idea of not treating gun violence as just a local issue, with the idea that this isn’t normal. This shouldn’t be viewed as “Oh, this is just how Chicago is, Chicago is just a violent city.”

The big goal is to have people change their narrative about what gun violence in Chicago is, that it has to be taken way more seriously than just a local issue.

"When people think of Chicago, they think of the most violent city. I hope that they think of it as the home of the young leaders."Diego Garcia

Brighton Park resident Diego Garcia, 16, led 15 local teenagers to the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C. in March. Earlier this week, he participated in the die-in outside Trump Tower. He is also a member of Chicago Strong, the citywide youth group organizing tonight’s rally.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia outside Trump Tower earlier this week

On becoming an activist: The parents in my community are immigrants, and so are my teachers and my friends. After Trump became president, they felt like, if they speak up for what they believe in, they’re putting themselves in danger of being targeted by the government.

I decided that if I really had nothing to lose, then I would be the voice for them. I’m a citizen of the U.S., and just being a citizen, I have many rights that a lot of other people feel like they don’t have—the right to voice my opinion, to vote about my future.

After the Parkland shooting, my priest said that he would support me in taking 15 teenagers to Washington, D.C., for March for Our Lives. It was one of the best times that I’ve had in my life, because not only were my peers standing up for what they believe in, but also I knew that I wasn’t alone. There was, visually, all around you, people who cared about you.

What he hopes to achieve: I hope that, after the rally, people realize that we young people in Chicago, we want something to change. A lot of the adults like normalizing the violence. The 14-year-old that got shot, or the adult that was going to the store and got shot for no good reason—no one talks about these small things because it happens so often.

I hope that people’s perspective of Chicago changes, because when people think of Chicago, they think of the most violent city. I hope that they think of it as the home of the young leaders.

"It takes everybody. We need people from every region to contribute so we can get total change."Alex King

Austin resident Alex King, 17, just graduated from North Lawndale College Prep. At North Lawndale, he was a Peace Warrior, a youth ambassador for violence prevention. After the Parkland shooting, he traveled to Parkland to visit student survivors. Alex is also part of Chicago Strong.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Alex King
Alex King on a radio interview

On becoming an activist: It started with me wanting a shirt. At North Lawndale College Prep, we have to wear these button-up shirts with collars, and it’s hot. One Thursday, I was seeing these different shirts, regular long-sleeve shirts. It had “Peace Warriors” going down the sleeve, a peace sign on the back, and I was like, “I want one of those.” Then I also heard that Peace Warriors get pulled out of class sometimes, and I’m like “Yeah, if we can get out of class, for sure!”

After joining Peace Warriors, it got to a point where I felt that family connection—these were some of the people I went to when I couldn’t even go to my own family. I’ve been shot at multiple times and I didn’t go to my family, because I didn’t want to put that burden on their shoulders. I went to the Peace Warriors because I knew some of them experienced the same thing, and it’s also easier to connect with people in your age range.

My nephew was shot and killed on May 28, 2017. Shot twice: once in the back of the head and once in the back. I feel like I would have done something that would have put me in a way worse spot than I’m in now if I didn’t have Peace Warriors. They came to me every day, and were like “We are here for you no matter what.” I was known as the one with all the energy. When those people saw me down, they told me,”‘You were always the one to cheer everybody up, so we have to be here for you, to get you back like that.”

What he hopes to achieve: I want people to walk away [tonight] and believe that change can happen. We might be different in a lot of ways, but we are alike in more ways than we are different. I want people to see the fact that we can’t be independent, if we want to make change across the world, we all have to come together to make this work.

We can’t try change the world with only Chicago, we can’t try to change the world with only Florida. It takes everybody. We need people from every region to put their input on so we can get total change.

"Be smart with campaigns. If you’re gonna march, make sure you’re doing it in a community that can really change something."Trevon Bosley

Roseland native Trevon Bosley is a rising junior at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He joined Bold Resistance Against Violence Everywhere, or B.R.A.V.E., a peer youth council run through the St. Sabina youth program, in 2010. He is also a member of Chicago Strong.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Trevon Bosley
Trevon Bosley at March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. earlier this year

On becoming an activist: On April 4, 2006, my brother was murdered while attending band rehearsal at church. He was outside helping a friend with drums. Someone fired shots at them and he was shot in the shoulder. After that, my parents got in contact with (the Rev.) Michael Pfleger at St. Sabina, and he introduced me to B.R.A.V.E.

The main things that the older B.R.A.V.E. members told me was to be smart with campaigns. If you’re gonna march, make sure you’re doing it in a community that can really change something. They told me to just be effective when you’re planning and strategizing your movement.

A while back [around three years ago], we did a voter registration campaign. The strategic thing was how we planned to tackle violence. We know that we have a lot of gun violence in Chicago, but we have to understand why. We noticed that the elected officials at the time weren’t allocating resources to anti-violence initiatives, and the only way you can get politicians to listen to you is to vote. We identified what the problem was and how to go about addressing it.

What he hopes to achieve: We’ve been doing this for a long time and we’ve been fighting for change in the community for a very long time. Tonight’s rally is going to be bigger because of the Parkland influence. We’ve been fighting in Chicago for a very long time for peace, but only recently has the national media really wanted to cover our everyday shootings. The Parkland influence is giving us the platform, it’s led to our voices finally being heard about everyday shootings.

"I want to make sure that we tell our stories ourselves, and not have social media or the news tell our stories because they always twist it around, and then you’re like: That’s not me."RieOnna Holmon

RieOnna Holmon, 15, attends Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep in Rosewood, and she lives in Woodlawn. She joined B.R.A.V.E in 2017, where she received mentorship from older members such as Trevon. Most recently, RieOnna became the president of B.R.A.V.E.

PHOTO: Courtesy of RieOnna Holman
RieOnna Holman speaking at St. Sabina in March

On becoming an activist: I joined B.R.A.V.E. last summer when I did an internship at the ARK of St. Sabina. I just started going to the meetings and taking part in all of the rallies. I see myself in these children [that I mentor], how I was naïve and didn’t really know anything. Being able to teach them about what is really happening out there really shows me that the youth need to be educated about what’s going on.

What she hopes to achieve: [Tonight,] I want to make sure that we tell our stories ourselves, and not have social media or the news tell our stories for them because they always twist it around and you’re always like, “That’s not me.”

It happens a lot. People will talk about someone they lost, and [media outlets] will turn it around being like, this “x” gang member. But we didn’t tell you that. I know now that I have to actually get out there and tell it for myself, because otherwise what’s out there could not be true or another side of the story.

Colorado Votes 2018

Where candidates in the Colorado Democratic primary stand on education issues

The Democratic candidates for governor of Colorado have been sniping at each other over education policy. (Courtesy Colorado Public Television)

Four candidates are vying for the chance to be the Democratic nominee for governor of Colorado. Education has emerged as a key issue on the campaign trail, a point of debate and even a subject of negative campaign ads. Whoever wins the Democratic primary will face the victor of an equally competitive Republican primary.

They’ll be trying to hold on to an office that Democrats have controlled since 2007. Gov. John Hickenlooper cannot run again after serving two terms.

The primary is June 26. Ballots have already been mailed, and they must be received by your local county clerk no later than 7 p.m. on Election Day. For the first time, unaffiliated voters, who make up a third of Colorado’s electorate, can participate in the primary. Unaffiliated voters must pick ONE ballot. If you vote both a Democratic and a Republican ballot, neither will count.

Find voter registration information here.

Colorado’s next governor will have an important role to play in shaping education policy. To better understand their positions, we asked the candidates about their own educational experiences and choices, how they would close the achievement gap, whether Colorado should fund full-day kindergarten, and more.

Find their answers below. You can sort by candidate. They have been lightly edited for grammar, style, and length.

You can read the Republican candidates’ responses here.