“Mission Creep:” Has It Reached the Mountaintop?
By Joyce Rankin, Colorado Board of Education
What’s the fundamental mission of K-12 education? It’s to offer students essential information and knowledge free of charge. At its very basic level, it’s reading, writing, and arithmetic. Questions arise. Who makes the decisions and provides the money necessary to carry out the mission. Does this come from the federal government or state government? And who makes the decisions?
Checking with the Constitution, always an interesting beginning point, we find that the Federal government has no control over education. The responsibility for educating our K-12 students rests with the states. And in Colorado because of ‘local control’, more directly with the districts and local schools. The federal government, through the legislative process, may provide money to the states and schools through grants; however, this money is only to supplement, not replace local programs. There are no unfunded federal education “mandates.” Every federal education law leaves it up to the state/schools to accept the funding. Any state that does not want to abide by a federal program’s requirements can choose not to accept the associated program’s funding. While many states, including Colorado, decide to receive funding, as we do through the Every Student Succeeds Act, ESSA, a few states have decided not to accept any federal funding. Most of the financing, therefore, comes from the states and local government. In Colorado, the curriculum is determined by the local school districts.
So how do local control, funding, and the fundamental mission of reading, writing, and arithmetic intersect? An interesting article in the NY Times stated, “FORGET for the moment why Johnny can’t read. Consider instead why Johnny can’t tell right from wrong.” In other words, should we first be teaching moral values and bring this into the school curriculum? Or does this open up a whole new realm of consideration about what should be taught at school?
Over the years, we’ve seen “mission creep” or other curricula interjected into the school districts. Some of these include media literacy, social-emotional learning, active shooter drills, mental health training, suicide prevention, sex education, bullying, cultural knowledge, to name a few. Many new programs also have grant money attached, which can make them more desirable.
So, as a taxpayer and community member, is it any wonder why our third graders aren’t all reading at grade level? Could it be that our teachers are overwhelmed with other programs that have distracted them from their fundamental mission; reading, writing, and arithmetic?
It continues to be an honor to serve on the State Board of Education. Thank you and have a safe and Merry Christmas!
Joyce Rankin is on the State Board of Education representing the Third Congressional District which includes Leadville and Lake County. She writes the monthly column, “Across the Street” to share with constituents in the 29 counties she represents. The Department of Education, where the State Board of Education meets, is located across the street from the Capitol. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legacy Holiday Party Marks 36 Years
The children from The Center were treated to Christmas presents in Leadville Today as Santa and Mrs. Claus visited with the very smallest in America’s tallest city. This special day is made possible by the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation. Here’s their holiday message . . . in their own words:
For over 35 years the Leadville Trail 100 has been supporting the Leadville community. When the Climax mine closed in 1982, families in this small mountain town were left devastated with jobs gone and identities lost. For many families, it was a bleak Christmas.
From the very first year of the Leadville Trail 100 Ken and Merilee hosted a holiday party for local kids. For many of these children, this party provided the only gifts they would receive. Local police officers were asked to join in the gift-giving, so the kids could see them in a kind and caring role, rather than the knock at the door, coming to deal with some trouble at home.
Here we are 36 years later, and kids in Leadville still benefit from a holiday party with funding support from the LT100 Legacy Foundation and Leadville Race Series. Class teachers compile the gift lists, then go out and shop for gifts. They spend a whole day prepping and wrapping to ensure that every little boy and girl gets something they really want.
The local Fire and Police departments still come to help Santa and Mrs. Claus give out the gifts. And the sweetest part is watching as each child is called, and quizzed by Santa ‘have you been good this year?’ They take their gift and then patiently wait as every little person in their class gets their turn with Santa. It is a special day for all involved and a sweet reminder of the good things that are possible this time of year. It might a small thing, and maybe some kids don’t need another gift – but there is a long history here, the legacy of a community supporting a community and working to make things better.
Thank You! To each of you who have generously donated throughout the year and throughout the history of the Leadville races. You have made a real and tangible difference to so many kids in this community, and you have even helped make a few dreams come true. We are grateful for your gift and hope you know how much we appreciate having you a part of our Leadville Family! Happy Holidays to you & yours! ~ The LT100 Legacy Foundation.
CMC’s Hauser Joins American Council on Education
Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser, president of Colorado Mountain College (CMC), and Dr. Tom Stritikus, president of Fort Lewis College (FLC), were elected to the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education (ACE), the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities. Selected on December 12, their terms will begin in March 2020.
“ACE works every day to convene, organize, mobilize and lead advocacy efforts that shape effective public policy and help colleges and universities best serve their students, their communities and the wider public good, and we value the commitment of these leaders to help us fulfill this mission,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell.
Since 2013, Hauser has been president and CEO of Colorado Mountain College, a public dual-mission institution with 12 campus locations serving 12,000 square miles of the central Rocky Mountains. Through her innovative leadership at Colorado Mountain College, since 2012-13 the college has seen the enrollment of Latinx students increase by 52% and credential completion rates of all students rise 33%, all while annual expenditures per student decreased by double digits.
“It is an exciting time to join the ACE Board of Directors,” said Hauser. “Higher education is at a critical crossroads. As the pipeline of high school graduates is expected to decline, and the population of historically underrepresented and nontraditional students increases proportionally, colleges and universities must consider entirely new operational paradigms and prioritize inclusivity and success strategies for all students to compete in such a highly competitive workforce and knowledge-based economy. I look forward to working with my colleagues across the country to determine better ways our institutions can deliver the outcomes our states and nation need.”