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11th-hour change to charter-school funding prevents unanimous vote on budget

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By Daniel Laverty

A disagreement over charter-school funding prevented the Jeffco school board from giving unanimous approval to the 2014-15 budget at last Thursday’s meeting.

Board members John Newkirk, Julie Williams and Ken Witt approved the spending plan for next school year, while members Jill Fellman and Lesley Dahlkemper voted no. 

Fellman and Dahlkemper opposed the board majority’s addition of $1.85 million to $3.7 million earmarked to equalize funding for the district’s 14 charter schools.

“(Fellman and I) are with (the board majority) on the $3.7 million (for charter schools), but I’m asking you to not change the dollar amount at the last hour,” Dahlkemper said at Thursday’s meeting.

The board originally earmarked an additional $3.7 million for charter schools during budget discussions in April, as charter schools — with 8,000 students, or about 9 percent of the district’s total enrollment — receive less funding per pupil than neighborhood schools. It would have required $7.4 million to completely equalize funding.

“Why are we moving the bar tonight?” Dahlkemper asked. “The past few months have been at $3.7 million. Can we come together on this and leave tonight with a 5-0 budget?”

“This (money) says that charter-school students count,” Newkirk said. “I’d like to see full equalization, but a good compromise is to move incrementally.”

The board voted 3-2 on the increased charter-school funding, and ultimately 3-2 on the budget overall.

Teacher pay

Last Thursday’s meeting started on a positive note.

In a rare unanimous vote, the board approved a $4.8 million earmark for Jeffco’s teachers for next school year.

Exactly how the $4.8 million is spent will be decided after the district and teachers union enter fact-finding with a third-party mediator. The union declared an impasse earlier in open negotiations.

Public comment

More than 25 community members addressed the board before the final vote on the budget. 

“Restore a collaborative and cooperative school board,” Erin Murphy said. 

“The best and brightest (teachers) will not apply to a school district in turmoil,” said Anne Bitsie, a Jeffco parent. “They will not apply to a district that does not respect its teachers.”

“I urge you to fully close this charter-schools gap to $7.4 million,” said Nathan Drake. “It’s been a fundamentally unfair treatment to Jeffco’s charter students for years.”

McMinimee accepts contract

The board announced that new superintendent Daniel McMinimee had agreed to the terms of his three-year contract and will start work July 1.

The superintendent position was originally advertised at $280,000, but the board voted to reduce the base salary to $220,000 at its June 5 meeting.

McMinimee also is eligible for $40,000 in performance-based incentives and will have his $20,000 cost for retirement benefits reimbursed.

The Jeffco Board of Education will take the month of July off and will resume meetings in August. A retreat with the board and McMinimee is scheduled for Aug. 23.

For more information, visit www.jeffcopublicschools.org.

Contact Daniel Laverty at 303-350-1042.