Change in the Wind: Common Good Helps Overhaul Teacher Tenure in Colorado and Tackles Government Paralysis

Government Fiscal Crises Provide Momentum For Change

Jun 01, 2010, 16:14 ET from Common Good

NEW YORK, June 1 /PRNewswire/ -- Common Good, the nonpartisan group that has led the coalition to create special health courts, recently endorsed by President Barack Obama, is now leading a similar overhaul of encrusted bureaucracy in schools. Resulting in part from leadership by Common Good Colorado, a new statute signed into law on May 20th replaces teacher tenure in Colorado with an ongoing teacher evaluation system.  

The new Colorado law, sponsored by State Senator Michael Johnston, a former school principal, ties teacher evaluations to student achievement and, according to The Los Angeles Times, "could help build momentum for a national movement that seeks to overhaul how instructors' tenure and pay is earned." Under the law, 50 percent of a teacher's evaluation will be based on students' academic growth.

The law, under which tenured teachers could lose their jobs, passed with bipartisan support and ultimately with support from the American Federation of Teachers. Similar legislation is pending in Louisiana and Minnesota, and in New York a deal brokered by the teachers' union and the State Education Department was just passed by the Legislature. State budget crises and the threat of teacher layoffs, as well as the incentives of the federal Race to the Top grant competition, built pressure for overhaul.  

Common Good Colorado has strongly advocated educational overhaul, focusing on reducing the overwhelming number of laws and regulations that burden public schools and prevent teachers and principals from making daily choices.

"This legislation is just the beginning," said Elaine Gantz Berman, President of Common Good Colorado and a member of the state Board of Education. "We must make sure that the new teacher evaluation program allows practical judgments, and continue to change the laws and regulations that stand in the way of school improvement."

Former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm, a board member of Common Good Colorado, also played a pivotal role, joining with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. and two other former governors, Roy Romer and Bill Owens, to write an op-ed in The Denver Post, urging passage of the landmark legislation.

"This is a crucial law for Colorado – and potentially for the nation," said Lamm. "Our nation's economic future depends on the quality of our education, and our children deserve laws that will support the best school performance possible."

To advocate further the tackling of government ineffectiveness and paralysis, Common Good will be convening on June 15th at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia a discussion of prominent government officials, former government officials, and academic experts. The forum, with support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, will expand the debate on government paralysis from partisan finger-pointing to the structural flaws of a mature democracy. It will address how the accretion of law and entitlements has spawned armies of special interests, and how political structures have become virtually inert. Among the government officials who will speak at the event are:

  • Richard Ravitch, Lieutenant Governor of New York
  • Joel Klein, Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education
  • Richard Riordan, Former Mayor of Los Angeles
  • E. Donald Elliott, Former General Counsel, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Elaine Kamarck, the Clinton White House official who created and managed the National Performance Review 
  • Isabel Sawhill, Former Associate Director, U.S. Office of Management and Budget
  • C. Eugene Steuerle, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary, U.S. Department of the Treasury

"Governments are increasingly unable to make the sensible choices needed to meet current goals," said Philip K. Howard, Chair of Common Good. "Part of the problem is that governments make laws but almost never go back to amend or eliminate them. Now is the time for a real spring cleaning.  Recent successes in Colorado, and President Obama's endorsement of pilot projects for special health courts, show that change is possible."

Common Good ( is a nonpartisan legal reform coalition dedicated to restoring common sense to America. The Chair of Common Good is Philip K. Howard, a lawyer and author of Life Without Lawyers and The Death of Common Sense.


Jessie duPont – Goodman Media

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SOURCE Common Good