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In CO, Attack on Great Teachers for All Avoided for 2014 Legislative Session
April 7, 2014

Contact:
Jennifer Walmer | 720.224.1909 | JWalmer@dfer.org
Devin Boyle | 202.445.0416 | Devin@dfer.org

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Attack on Great Teachers for All Avoided for 2014 Legislative Session

In a telling move, Rep. Joseph Salazar backed out of a transparent discussion on his bill HB1268 that would have mandated the return of forced placement of teachers. After sharing misinformation and suggesting that DPS was operating against their own self-interest by dismissing good teachers, he moved to postpone the bill indefinitely, effectively killing the legislation for the 2014 session.

The bill would have forced districts to place those teachers removed from their positions who were unable to secure mutual consent assignments back into the classroom, regardless of the wishes of the principal.

“This bill was a slap in the face to SB 191, known as the Great Teachers and Leaders Law,” said Jennifer Walmer, DFER-CO State Director. “SB 191 was passed in 2010 to provide our children with the best teachers possible by making sure principals have a say in the placement process. Despite references to bringing back the legislation next year, Rep. Salazar should know: forced placement laws that prioritize politics over the needs of kids aren’t welcome in Colorado.”

Superintendent Tom Boasberg added, "I'm disappointed that we didn't have the chance to set the record straight in the face of such misinformation. This bill is a civil right travesty because it does the most damage to low-income kids in high poverty schools who most need the best teachers. Forced placement of teachers is wrong - wrong for kids, wrong for teachers, and wrong for schools."

HB1268 was the latest in a series of attacks against SB 191, which increased accountability in the classroom and established mutual consent laws in teacher placement. The Colorado Education Association recently filed a lawsuit to overturn SB 191 and a bipartisan coalition of business and education leaders are fighting back, citing broad public support for the measure.

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About Democrats for Education Reform
Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) is a political reform organization with 13 state offices that cultivates and supports leaders in the Democratic party who champion America’s public schoolchildren.




Get Ready for Caucus Night
March 3, 2014

By Jen Walmer, DFER-CO State Director

"Democrats believe that we're greater together than we are on our own—that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, when everyone plays by the same rules."

- Democratic National Committee

Tuesday, March 4 is Caucus Night! At 7 p.m., Democrats across Colorado will gather to partake in the purest form of Democratic activism. And we hope you’ll join us!

Why should I attend when there are no Democratic primaries in statewide races this year? There are so many other ways to engage beyond top tier races; Democrats across the state are stepping up to run for office, and they need your support.

During caucus activities you'll be able to take a more active role in your local Democratic party by casting votes for contested races down ballot, suggesting changes to the county platform, and joining the precinct committee responsible for voter outreach in your neighborhood. You can also run to serve as a delegate to your county, congressional, or even state assembly, where you’ll have the ability to ensure the issues you find most important are represented by your elected officials.

Please invest an hour to help shape your party, let your voice be heard, and engage in the Democratic process we're so lucky to be a part of!

To find out where your local caucus will be click here.

Jennifer Walmer is the state director of DFER Colorado (DFER-CO). Prior to joining DFER-CO, Walmer was the Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Tom Boasberg, where she helped pass a $500 million bond and mill initiative in November 2012. Walmer also was the Superintendent’s primary strategic liaison with a divided Board of Education; managed government affairs for the district; and led strategic partnership efforts with community organizations. Read more about Jen here.




Student Success Act: A Win for Colorado Kids
February 21, 2014

By Jen Walmer, DFER-CO State Director

No one can dispute the funding needs of Colorado schools, which is why DFER-CO was excited to hear of the new K-12 bipartisan education package announced at a press conference at our Capitol on Thursday.

The Student Success Act targets our most underserved students and system-wide shortcomings. The new bill, expected to be introduced in the House next week, aims to utilize existing revenues and one-time investments up to:

  • $80 million to go directly to districts to reduce recession-era budget cuts, which can be used to eliminate late-start days, professional development reductions and other cutbacks.
  • $35 million for English-language learners, one of the most underfunded and fastest-growing groups in our state education system.
  • $20 million for programs to address the growing number of struggling readers and to meet Colorado’s new literacy standard.
  • $13 million for public charter school construction.
  • $100 million in a one-time investment to assist schools with teacher evaluations, reading proficiency programs, improved achievement assessments and school safety.
  • $10 million in one-time support to move away from the outdated “single day count” toward an average student-count formula that rewards districts that enroll students after the current Oct. 1 count date.
  • $5 million in a one-time investment toward a publicly-accessible website to track how our districts and schools spend taxpayer dollars, increasing transparency.

“We understand that these changes will require work at the district and school level, so we are building upon what Colorado’s districts are already doing and backing up these changes with dollars to assist districts to implement these critical reforms,” said Representative Millie Hamner (D), one of the sponsors of the bill.

DFER-CO Advisory Board member and Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino stated it best when he said, “This isn’t a Democratic or Republican priority - it’s a Colorado priority.”

DFER-CO will keep you informed as the Student Success Act winds its way through the legislature. Let's begin the work of ensuring a win for Colorado’s kids.

Jennifer Walmer is the state director of DFER Colorado (DFER-CO). Prior to joining DFER-CO, Walmer was the Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Tom Boasberg, where she helped pass a $500 million bond and mill initiative in November 2012. Walmer also was the Superintendent’s primary strategic liaison with a divided Board of Education; managed government affairs for the district; and led strategic partnership efforts with community organizations. Read more about Jen here.




Colorado’s Battle for Good Teachers
February 3, 2014

Gov. Ritter signs Senate Bill 191 into law in 2010.

By Jen Walmer, DFER-CO State Director

School reform in Colorado is under attack— and we want you to understand how important this battle really is.

Senate Bill 191 (also known as the Great Teachers and Leaders Law) passed in 2010 and addressed a few critical flaws in Colorado’s public education system. Prior to its passage, excellent teachers were not being recruited, rewarded, and retained; average teachers were not getting the feedback and support they needed to improve; and ineffective teachers were staying in the system, to the detriment of our children. This common-sense law put strict accountability measures in place, giving teachers and school leaders the power to choose who works in their classrooms and rewarding educators for effective performance.

Despite overwhelming public support for this model tenure reform law, the state's largest teacher union, the Colorado Education Association, chose to file a lawsuit last Wednesday to attempt to overturn SB 191. We can’t afford to let that happen. So, a broad, bipartisan statewide coalition of leaders in the business and education communities is fighting back.

In a recent poll, 94% of voters agreed principals should not be forced to hire a teacher they don’t think is a good fit. Seventy seven percent supported “mutual consent” policies requiring the consent of the teacher and principal before a school district can place a teacher in a school. And, 82% supported eliminating “last in, first out” policies that take teacher quality out of the equation when it comes to district layoffs. These numbers clearly demonstrate Colorado’s commitment to progressive educational policies, and we’re proud that voters, regardless of party affiliation, are united over this critical issue.

It’s disappointing that the Colorado Education Association chose litigation over collaboration. We strongly oppose this lawsuit and such tactics, and we are working with this coalition to defeat it and promote the cause of excellence in teaching.

Former Governors Bill Ritter (D) and Bill Owens (R) agree that Colorado can't step backwards. (You can read their recent editorial here.)

With the Great Teachers and Leaders Law, Colorado told the nation that it was committed to putting students first. Let’s not ruin that legacy by undoing critical reforms that our children—and educators—truly need.

Jennifer Walmer is the state director of DFER Colorado (DFER-CO). Prior to joining DFER-CO, Walmer was the Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Tom Boasberg, where she helped pass a $500 million bond and mill initiative in November 2012. Walmer also was the Superintendent’s primary strategic liaison with a divided Board of Education; managed government affairs for the district; and led strategic partnership efforts with community organizations. Read more about Jen here.




Mayor Hancock Lights It Up on C-SPAN
January 23, 2014

by Jen Walmer, DFER-CO State Director

Denver’s Mayor Michael B. Hancock was on fire when he spoke about education reform at the U.S. Conference of Mayors last night - and I’m not just talking about when he introduced himself as “the mayor of the next Super Bowl champions.”

In front of a national audience and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mayor Hancock, who leads the Conference of Mayors’ task force on education reform, laid out his vision for reform, framing the discussion outside the divisive politics that too often inhibit real progress. Check out the video. Mayor Hancock speaks for the first 10 minutes or so.

“What we’re finding across the country is that the word ‘reform’ is being defined as the end game. The whole objective or goal of having our kids prepared to compete in the global economy is getting lost or muddled in politics,” Mayor Hancock said during his opening remarks to the task force.

Hancock encouraged his fellow mayors to think of reform as a means to an end, with the goals being the elimination of the achievement gap in our education system and young people who are prepared to lead our country forward.

Mayor Hancock laid out four pillars to focus on in order to reach that goal:
1. Increase access to high quality early childhood education
2. Increase the number of high-performing seats in classrooms
3. Keep kids on track to graduate, including re-engaging dropouts
4. Give students the skills they need to complete a postsecondary pathway and get a job after graduation

Mayor Hancock called for improving teacher performance, ensuring schools have high-quality principals, and expanding afterschool and summer programs that stop the summer slide and keep kids engaged. He insisted that reforms focus on first-generation Americans and that they help students in whatever path they choose after graduation - be that attending college, finding a vocation or something else entirely.

“Yesterday mayors from across the country agreed that they can’t stand on the sidelines when it comes to the quality of the public school systems in their cities. Regardless of their level of direct control of local school districts, mayors can and must play an increasingly active role in education,” said Lindsay Neil, Director of Children’s Affairs for Mayor Hancock and a member of the DFER-Colorado Advisory Board.

Mayor Hancock’s final message was to remind everyone in the room that when it comes to education, there is no such thing as “one size fits all,” and as such, school reform must use multiple strategies that support all types of students. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Jennifer Walmer is the state director of DFER Colorado (DFER-CO). Prior to joining DFER-CO, Walmer was the Chief of Staff for the Superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, Tom Boasberg, where she helped pass a $500 million bond and mill initiative in November 2012. Walmer also was the Superintendent’s primary strategic liaison with a divided Board of Education; managed government affairs for the district; and led strategic partnership efforts with community organizations. Read more about Jen here




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