on October 31, 2014 by in Golden News, Comments Off on School leaders want fewer laws, more funding

School leaders want fewer laws, more funding

Colorado school leaders would prefer less legislative involvement but more funding, they said during an Oct. 29 Superintendent Forum in Denver.

“I wish the legislators would just trust us as professionals,” said Cherry Creek Schools’ superintendent Harry Bull, among eight Colorado superintendents who participated in the annual Public Education and Business Coalition event.

His response was among several offered in response to a state legislator who asked what the state’s education leaders want from the government. 

About 400 people gathered in the Seawall Grand Balloon in downtown Denver for the hour-long “The State of our Districts.” Subjects ranged from burdensome legislation – including state and federally mandated tests – to the impact of poverty on students.

Bull was not alone in his sentiments about state requirements.

“I think what our community would say is do less,” said Littleton Public Schools’ superintendent Scott Murphy. “More mandates that come down without the funding are problematic.”

Denver Public Schools’ superintendent Tom Boasberg said, “The fact that we don’t fund full-day kindergarten in this state, I think, is shameful.”

He also pointed to the achievement gap common among children from poverty-stricken homes.

“The kids are not two years behind because they were dumber than their more affluent peers; they had less opportunity,” he said. “I think it’s incredibly important we bring the base up and offer ours kids who need it full-day kindergarten … and help kids who are behind catch up and achieve the potential each of them is born with.”

Other leaders also said schools need funding more than legislation.

“I feel we’ve built a compelling case we use your money well,” Adams 12 Five Star Schools’ Chris Gdowski said. “But we need more of it.”

“Give us the resources,” said Boulder Valley School District superintendent Bruce Messinger. “Quit passing laws, and let us do what we know how to do.”

Similarly, they said heavy teacher and student requirements included in the Common Core Standards and a bevy of tests present challenges.

“Please don’t hear me say I’m not about accountability,” Bull said. “We spend so much time talking about assessment – structuring our days around assessment – that I would suggest we’re losing instructional time.”

Some expressed strong support for the Common Core, a set of national standards aimed at enhancing education. But the Douglas County School District has rejected the Common Core, creating its own set of student standards, said superintendent Elizabeth Fagen.

“We believe the (Common Core) standards are lower than we would like them to be,” she said.  “The assessments we’re forced to do are a data point, and we take that into consideration. But we also have to measure a more important skill set.”

Superintendents said they’re challenged to find and keep teachers in the quickly changing, ever-more demanding industry.

“These are people that want to have families and do bigger-picture things with their lives than just be chained to a desk 12 hours a day,” said JeffCo Public Schools’ superintendent Dan McMinimee.  “How can we take the dollars we have, take care of all the other needs we have, while still having a wage that makes it an attractive place for people to be?”

Messinger said Boulder Valley has focused on better pay and an appealing work environment to draw staff.

“As a state, we have created an environment that’s not attractive to our educators because (of) high-stakes testing,” he said.

Murphy said teachers still flock to Littleton, but he’s concerned about ensuring they stay.

“Part of it is about money, part of it is about recognition,” he said. “Some of the dialogue that goes on at the state and national level doesn’t recognize enough about what they contribute.”

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