These posts are the opinions of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of A+ Colorado.


Stay Sharp newsletter 10.28.20

By Mary Willson

Good morning Colorado,

We wish we didn’t have to be here reporting what educators, parents, and students already know – that remote learning will be with us for longer – and there is a large COVID-19 spike upon us.

Catch up on the reopening plans at Aurora Public SchoolsDenver Public Schools, and Jeffco Public Schools.

According to the New York Times in the article Schoolchildren Seem Unlikely to Fuel Coronavirus Surges, Scientists Say“researchers once feared that school reopenings might spread the virus through communities. But so far there is little evidence that it’s happening.”

The safety of students and teachers is vital during this public health crisis. We know that full-time remote learning is detrimental to learning, and that administrators are doing the best job they can to support students and teacher health – there are no easy answers.

What we’ve been up to this week

Research, reporting, and writing from A+ Colorado

‘Todos necesitamos de todos’ (It takes a village): How student engagement with remote learning is a shared responsibility for working families 

Valeria Contreras is the Advocacy Director at A+ Colorado. During the pandemic, she has been working from home and supporting her niece and nephew with online schooling. This is a first-person perspective. 

I’m on the phone with my coworker Hayley, and my niece is upset, pleading to me to help her find her crayons so she can be prepared for her art class. She’s 5 years old and starting kindergarten in an Aurora Public School, remotely. I tell Hayley that I have to hang up and follow up with her later.

Don’t worry. We found her crayons and she successfully filled a white sheet of paper with colorful rainbows. You might be wondering where are her parents? I’ll tell you, they’re working. Like many essential workers they have not stopped working since COVID-19 showed up in Colorado. I am in a position of privilege and have the opportunity to work from home since I can do most of my work from my computer and over the phone. My sister, and a like many other folks across the country, do not have that privilege.

My sister is not the only person that has had to figure out how to support her children in school while also having to continue working to provide financially for her family. In our house and family, we truly live by the saying, “todos necesitamos de todos.” It’s a proverb that my mother constantly says to us and it’s similar to the African proverb, “it takes a village.” While my sister is at work, I am supporting my niece and nephew with their online schooling at home. We’re doing what we can to make sure our students are successful. And I know that we are not alone.

Historically, family engagement in schools from families of color has always looked different.

Continue reading Valeria’s perspective here

ICYMI – Election day is Tuesday. Here’s your last-minute guide to filling out your ballot with Colorado students in mind // Education issues on your Colorado ballot

You have until Tuesday at 7 p.m. to return your ballot (or vote in-person). We put together a guide to voting with student’s in mind.

Education in Colorado has been funded in the same way since 1994, when the Public School Finance Act was adopted, which dictates how schools are funded. For example, DPS receives, on average, $7,400 per pupil per year. According to the US Census, the average 2018 nationwide funding per pupil was $12,612 – almost double Colorado’s funding. In short: The current funding system for education in Colorado is failing students.

You can help change this. On your ballot are four measures (and a mill and bond if you’re in Denver) that directly affect student funding. We put together a guide about what we support and oppose, and why.

Hear from a Transform Education Now teaching fellow for KIPP and a DPS alum, Amalia Espinoza Ochoa about how supporting 4A & 4B (DPS Mill Levy and Bond Measure) will help students and teachers during the pandemic in this Westword Op-ed. 

“Denver voters are being asked to approve a new tax that will support teacher salaries, mental-health support and technology — which is important as we continue to build schools responsive to student needs, which is why I am supporting 4A and 4B in this upcoming election. Families need grants to support them as they navigate finding safe child care for essential workers and tutors for students who are falling behind.”

We also include a guide to the State Board of Education, where three district seats are up for reelection.

All of this in our comprehensive voter’s guide here.  

Plus, last week we put on a webinar with experts on the State Board of Education as part of our election initiative.

A huge thank you to our panelists for sharing your knowledge with us. For an hour, these guests answered community questions about the power the State Board has, how to engage with the Board, and more.

Hear from these guests in the recorded webinar below.

•Stephanie Carillo at Colorado Children’s Campaign

•Sam Battan & Students at Colorado Youth Congress with students Sandy Battulga, Olivia Batist and Daijah Mijares-Morales

•Dan Schaller at Colorado League of Charter Schools

Watch here⬇️

Updates from A+’s advocacy and research teams

New Aurora Coalition
Valeria, A+’s Director of Advocacy is involved with starting an Aurora Coalition, with the goal to holistically support Aurora students.

“We want trust and strong relationships in the Aurora Coalition. This space is for folks to be able to share updates and ask/get support and or feedback, a time to brainstorm. We also want to be aligned and work on things that organizations and folks are already working on vs. creating a new campaign and possibly duplicating or co-opting current efforts. Our goal is to holistically support Aurora students.”

If anyone has any ideas, and or suggestions for the Aurora Coalition please reach out to Valeria at valeria@apluscolorado.org

Speaking on education of students with learning differences
Stephen, A+’s VP of Research and Policy is speaking to the Georgia State University’s College of Law students who are taking an Education Law course. “I am discussing the legal implications of the Endrew F Supreme Court case as well as legal issues involved in the education of students with learning differences.”

Are you interested in having Stephen speak to your organization? Reach out to Stephen@apluscolorado.org.