When Innovation Means Eliminate Unions & Public School Systems

While reading articles about Arne Duncan, I came across this new law for the state of Colorado. As Duncan school visits focus on charters, I was curious about the two schools highlighted by Duncan earlier this month. The Bruce Randolph School was highlighted, and as it turns out, is authorized under the following law. News reports offer the euphemism “autonomous” in place of charter, but appear much in line with Paul Hill’s idea of “contract schools.”. From the CDE website:

Colorado Department of Education – Schools of Innovation

Overview: The Colorado State Legislature passed the Innovation Schools Act in 2008 (Senate Bill 08-130). The law is intended to improve student outcomes by supporting greater school autonomy and flexibility in academic and operational decision-making.

The law provides a means for schools and districts to gain waivers from state laws and collective bargaining agreements. The law includes procedures and criteria for a school or group of schools within a school district to submit to its local board of education a proposed plan of innovation. A local school board may initiate and collaborate with one or more public schools of the school district to create innovation plans or innovation school zones. From the

The law:

  • Allows a public school or group of public schools to submit to its school district board of education an innovation plan to allow a school or group of schools to implement innovations within the school or group of schools. The innovations may include but are not limited to innovations in delivery of educational services, personnel administration and decision-making, and budgeting.
  • Requires the local board to review each submitted plan and approve the school as an innovation school or the group of schools as an innovation school zone or reject the plan.
  • Allows a local board to initiate creation of a plan in collaboration with one or more schools of the school district. The law specifies the minimum contents of a plan, including the level of support needed from the personnel employed at the affected schools.
  • Encourages schools, groups of schools, and local boards to consider innovations in specified areas and to seek public and private funding to offset the costs of developing and implementing the plans.
  • Allows a local board to submit the plan to the commissioner of education and the state board of education and seek designation as a district of innovation (following creation or approval of one or more plans by the local board).
  • Directs the commissioner and state board to review and comment on the plan, and directs the state board to make the designation unless the plan would likely result in lower academic achievement or would be fiscally unfeasible.
  • Requires the state board to provide a written explanation if it does not make the designation.
  • Directs the state board to grant any statutory and regulatory waivers requested in the plan for the district of innovation, however, certain statutes may not be waived by the state board.


  • Implementation procedures, guidance and the statute are currently on the CDE Web site.
  • CDE staff has worked with several school districts interested in submitting District of Innovation applications. One district application is currently pending action as of March 2009.

Next Steps

  • Collaboration with numerous stakeholder groups continues – Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Association of School Boards, Colorado Common Good, Donnell-Kay Foundation and Metro Organization for People. The groups are in the process of developing technical assistance materials including, for example, model school board policies and procedures, schematics and other helpful information.
  • Some stakeholder groups are interested in holding forums and workshops for interested applicants.
  • Include school and district personnel in future stakeholder meetings to determine technical assistance needs and what organizations (CDE, foundations, or non-profits) can best assist applicants with specialized needs.

More Information; Innovation Schools; Contact
William Windler, Colorado Department of Education, 201 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80203 [email protected]

(Added: 11/26/2008 | Last Modified: 3/12/2009)

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