Colorado Department of EducationIt’s for the students, right?  In a clear case of political retribution, the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) has moved to withhold $4.2 million from the Douglas County School District (DCSD) based on technicalities surrounding the definition of a full-time student.  According to a DCSD press release published earlier this week, the CDE is attempting to withhold this money because it objected to how some classroom minutes were calculated, resulting in full time students being counted as part time.

Some of the students that CDE deemed part time were allegedly short in their classroom time  by “a few seconds,” according to the press release.  Furthermore, these supposed part-time students actually went on to graduate with high honors and were accepted into well regarded universities such BYU, Colorado School of Mines, and Emory.

The staggering $4.2 million penalty amounts to a 50% reduction in annual funding for the students who were alleged to not have met the required “seat time.”  What makes the amount of this penalty so audacious is that the students who failed to meet the “seat time” requirement logged 97.6% of the required minutes.

This is obviously a shot across the school choice bow from the big union guns of the government-educational establishment.  With family and student-focused policies such as pay-for-performance and school choice, DCSD has already placed students first and earned success by making meaningful education reforms that are anathema to big government teacher unions.

And what are those results in DCSD:  it is one of the best performing school districts in the state.  In December 2014 it was awarded the CDE’s Accreditation with Distinction rating, which is the highest accreditation rating given bu CDE.  DCSD was the only large district (more than 30,000 students) to receive this award.

Luckily, DCSD is not going going down without a fight in this $4.2 million punitive measure.  The CDE commissioner declined the district’s request to waive or reduce the penalty, although he has done so for other school districts in this situation.  DCSD’s response to that decision:  see you in court.