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News Release- Commissioner Anthes shares her commitment to equity, racial justice and improving access to quality education

June 11, 2020

Commissioner Anthes shares her commitment to equity, racial justice and improving access to quality education

State board approves BEST projects for schools around Colorado 

DENVER - At this week’s monthly State Board of Education meeting, Commissioner Katy Anthes shared her thoughts on the pain, sadness and tragic consequences of centuries of racial injustice and how ensuring access to equitable quality educational opportunities is a crucial part of the solution. 

“CDE’s mission is to ensure equity and opportunity for every student, every step of the way,” Anthes said. “It has always been and continues to be the right work, but the truth is, the system is still falling short. The events of the last several weeks, and before, highlight how much work we have to do and how much learning we have yet to realize.

“We must do more to concentrate on equity as a foundational construct of our work at CDE; we must do better to empower schools and districts in their efforts to increase access and opportunity and ultimately change the systemic structures leading to inequities in student success.

“While we don’t have all the answers to break these long-held barriers, and it will certainly not be easy, we are committed to learning more and advocating for change to create a more equitable school system, where regardless of skin color, students have access to equal opportunities in their lives.”

You can read more of Commissioner Anthes' thoughts on race and education here

Individual board members took time at the end of the board meeting to share their thoughts and reflections about racism and equity issues. To hear their individual statements, watch the end of the June 11 meeting.

Board approves BEST projects pending state budget decisions

The board approved a prioritized list of 66 school construction projects for the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program.

With the state’s budget not yet final, the total amount of projects to be funded is still unknown. Projects were ranked 1 to 66 based on safety hazards or health concerns, including security issues, as well as projects designed to improve educational technology. The goal is to fund as many of the 66 projects as possible. Staff will work with the Treasurer’s Office to finalize the list of awardees once the budget process is finished.

Projects range from roof and boiler replacements to constructing entire school buildings at school districts, BOCES and charter schools from throughout Colorado. BEST is funded by income earned from the Colorado State Land Board, marijuana excise taxes, spillover from the Colorado Lottery and interest on the assistance fund.All school districts, district charters, BOCES, the Charter School Institute and Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind can apply for the competitive grants.

See the full list here (PDF)

The grants are intended to improve health, safety, security and technology in public schools. Schools apply for the grants and the Capital Construction Assistance Board reviews the applications, prioritizing them and submitting their recommendations to the state board for approval. Since 2008, BEST has funded $2.5 billion worth of projects at 525 schools in almost every school district in the state.

As required by statute, the state’s Capital Development Committee reviews and approves all projects recommended by the state board that are selected for lease-purchase financing. Twenty-six projects have been identified as eligible for lease-purchase financing.   

Board extends conditional approval for University of Northern Colorado’s elementary and early childhood educator preparation programs 

Following a year long review of the University of Northern Colorado’s educator preparation programs by CDE and the Colorado Department of Higher Education staff, the State Board of Education fully authorized the majority of the university’s traditional educator preparation programs. However, the board extended the conditional reauthorization granted last year for the university’s elementary and early childhood education programs. The board directed CDE staff to conduct an additional review next spring of the university’s continued work to improve its teacher training on scientifically based reading instruction. 

CDE receives feedback on the Framework and Toolkit for Planning the 2020-21 School Year

During a discussion about the draft Framework and Toolkit for Planning the 2020-21 School Year, board members requested staff prioritize information and support that will help schools return to normal in-person learning in the fall, citing how important it is for students to attend in-person school so they receive the highest quality education possible. Board members also requested increased clarity around legal requirements versus considerations, as well as more clarity on expiration of requirements. Additionally, the board encouraged the staff to add more information about the role and authority of local boards and districts in shaping the coming school year. Lastly, the board asked staff to add information in the toolkit encouraging districts to communicate with and ask for feedback from their families. 

The draft toolkit will continue to evolve as feedback is received and as public health orders respond to the most up-to-date data on the status of COVID-19 in communities.

Board hears about ESSER funds for districts

CDE staff updated the board on the process for distribution of the Elementary and Secondary Education Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund from the CARES Act. Colorado received about $121 million with 90% ($108,894,404) going to districts based on the Title I formula. States may use up to 10% ($12,099,378) of the remaining funds for state-level activities for emergency needs due to COVID-19. 

A CDE survey asked what state-level options should be considered with the remaining 10% of funds. Respondents supported the state purchase of resources to support safer in-person learning (e.g., hand sanitizer, face masks, thermometers), statewide investment to expand broadband access for underserved communities, subgrants to districts to catch up students who need additional support due to loss of in-person learning time, and subgrants to support student well-being. Board members shared their preference to make sure the funds are used for a targeted priority that can demonstrate a noticeable impact on educational opportunities based on demonstrated needs.

Board learns about cuts to the budget

The board heard a presentation about education-related budget reductions in the School Finance Act and Long Bill for the 2020-21 school year. As of June 10, the Joint Budget Committee proposed approximately $123 million in cuts to education programs.  

Currently, 12 programs are slated for elimination, with reductions to another 12 programs. The School Finance Act includes an increase to the Budget Stabilization Factor of $601.1 million, to a total of $1.17 billion. This would result in a $411 average statewide per pupil reduction. The budget is still being finalized in the legislature. With federal funding coming in through the CARES Act, the net result of the cuts are unknown at this point. 

Rulemaking Hearings:

The board approved the following rules:

As a result of the suspension of in-person learning, the board approved amendments to the following:

CDE staff also provided information to the board about its upcoming rulemaking concerning the Rules for the Administration of the Colorado Preschool Program. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the board will reconsider the section of these rules that pertain to adult-child ratios for the 2020-21 school year. A vote will be considered at the board’s July meeting.

The State Board of Education approved Expelled and At-Risk Student Services (EARSS) grant recommendations, Early Literacy Grant Awards for professional development and grant stability, the Distribution of Special Education High Cost funds and updated administrative procedures for the accountability clock hearings

The board declined to reconsider its May ruling in a legal dispute between the Town of Windsor and Colorado Early College over whether a turn lane should be constructed in front of the Windsor school.

For a complete list of actions, discussion items and materials during the June 10 and 11 State Board of Education meeting, visit the CDE website