A hit to the wallet

Cost of being a Colorado teacher may be going up

Colorado teachers could see a 12.5 percent increase in their license fees under a plan being considered by the state Department of Education.

Out-of-state applicants could feel an even bigger bite – 37.5 percent. Resident fees would rise from $80 to $90, while non-resident rates would jump from $80 to $110.

The alternative to increasing fees is reduction of licensing staff and deterioration of customer service, including longer wait times for licenses, CDE officials say.

The department is considering a number of options, and licensing office head Colleen O’Neil presented them to the State Board of Education last week. The board is expected to make a decision in October. Any increases would go into effect Jan. 1.

The reason for the increase is budgetary.

“We absolutely won’t have enough money if we don’t increase fees,” O’Neil told the board.

The licensing office is funded entirely by the fees and receives no revenue from CDE or the tax-supported state general fund. As its name implies, the Office of Educator Preparation, Licensing and Enforcement is responsible not only for licensing and special endorsements but also teacher background checks, investigation of license revocation cases and review of teacher preparation programs operating in the state.

Teacher licensing was in the spotlight a few years ago – including at the legislature – when wait times were running about six months.

“We now have a four- to six-week turnaround time, and in the slower months of the year, two weeks,” O’Neil said. “I don’t ever want to go back to six months, but we definitely would be increasing licensing times” without a fee increase.

Longer wait times can directly affect school districts because it delays their ability to hire, O’Neil noted.

Here are the three options she outlined for the board:

No fee increase – Without cuts, the office would have a $150,582 deficit at the end of 2015-16 and be $443,022 in the red at the end of $443,022.

Recommended increase – Raising fees $10 for residents and $30 for non-residents would allow the office to hire three more staff members, the office would stay in the black and no future increases would be needed for at least five years.

Minimum increase – Only non-resident fees would be raised — by $20 a year — no additional staff would be hired and another increase likely would be needed in two years.

O’Neil said the number of license applications has stayed relatively stable in recent years but that increasing amounts of time are required for investigations, review of preparation programs, customer service and license revocations. The office has a current annual budget of about $3 million and a staff of 24.

About half of initial license requests come from out of state, and those take twice as long to process than resident applications.

More than 37,000 license applications are received each year, and the office issues about 33,000 licenses, credentials and authorizations.

The last fee increases were in 2004 and 2011.

Most teachers don’t have to pay annual license fees. Initial licenses are good for three years, professional licenses run for five years before renewal, master teacher certificates are valid for seven years and substitute licenses are good for one to five years depending on the license type.

Board members asked O’Neil how Colorado compares to its neighbors.

O’Neil said Wyoming charges $150 for residents and $200 for non-residents, while Utah charges $40 and $75. New Mexico charges $125 for both but hits non-residents with $95 fees for each endorsement. Endorsements recognize that teachers have received appropriate training in fields such as special education.

The options

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Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.