Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What happens now?

Yes, I know Commissioner Chester just died. It's also been so long since we've needed a new commissioner--Chester was appointed in 2008--that I'm sure most of us don't remember how this works. Thus, your answer.
We're now operating under MGL Ch. 15, Sec. 1F:
Whenever a vacancy occurs in the position of commissioner, the board shall by a two-thirds vote of all its members submit to the secretary, for the secretary's approval, a recommended candidate to fill that vacancy. The secretary may appoint the recommended candidate as commissioner. If the secretary declines to appoint the candidate, the board shall submit a new candidate for consideration. The secretary may appoint the commissioner only from candidates submitted to the secretary by the board.
Thus, Secretary Peyser makes the appointment but may do so only from candidates submitted by two-thirds of the Board.
In terms of the Board itself, note that currently there is an open seat, to be filled by Governor Baker, due to the resignation of Roland Fryer. The student representative, who does get a vote, will also join the Board this fall. The Board members, with the exception in this case of Chair Sagan (who has a term coterminus with Governor Baker) serve five year terms, subject to a single renewal. I believe--and if you know otherwise, please correct me here--that Member Noyce is currently serving her second five year term and thus will leave the Board in October, leaving another seat to be filled by Governor Baker.


Commissioner Chester has died

Giving this its own post
Appointed in 2008, he was the longest-serving Commissioner (/state superintendent) in the country. He was 65.
More from WBUR here.
Requiescat in Pace 

June Board of Education meeting: ABBREVIATED MEETING

The Board of Education is having their June meeting in Malden this morning at 8:30. The agenda is here. 
Posting as we go.
Chair Sagan just took a call and has gathered the rest of the board (not a quorum here) around him; members of staff coming in teary-eyed and exchanging hugs. 

Chair Sagan opens the meeting by announcing that Commissioner Chester died last night "after a short but difficult illness."
They will conduct an abbreviated meeting.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Feed their stomachs and feed their heads

Two sets of Worcester schedules for you:

SCOTUS finds for Trinity Lutheran; expect to see cases on the Blaine (anti-voucher) amendments

I'll update this post as more comes in. 
The Supreme Court has decided in favor of Trinity Lutheran on a case that involved access to recycled tire scraps (for playgrounds); you can read the full decision here. The case was decided 7-2, Sotomayor and Ginsberg dissenting. The decision was written by Chief Justice Roberts and reads as follows:
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion. And the result of the State’s policy is nothing so dramatic as the denial of political office. The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.
Why do we care? As has been bandied about repeatedly over the past few months, there is some connection between this and the argument over school vouchers; thus allowing access to state grants for a religious institution could clear the argument for state support for religious schools.

As always, I'm not a lawyer, but I'm seeing some disagreement with our reading that direction in the decision itself; note for example this footnote:
This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.
One should note, however, that Justice Gorsuch dissents specifically from that footnote.

The larger dissent, written by Sotomayor, is well worth reading:
To hear the Court tell it, this is a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground. The stakes are higher. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government—that is, between church and state. The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church. Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.
Sotomayor does see this as opening up the possibility of further cases; see the footnote:
The principle it establishes can be manipulated to call for a similar fate for lines drawn on the basis of religious use.
And the conclusion:
If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship. The Court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment. I dissent.
More as I find it.

Peter Greene comments that churches will "rue the day" of this, as money usually doesn't come without strings:
The separation of church and state doesn't just protect the state-- it protects the church, too. When you mix religion and politics, you get politics. And where federal money goes, federal strings follow. Sooner or later the right combination of misbehavior and people in federal power will result in a call for accountability for private schools that get federal money-- even religious schools. And as the requests for private religious vouchers roll in, folks will be shocked and surprised to find that Muslim and satanic and flying spaghetti monster houses of worship will line up for money, then the feds will have to come up with a mechanism for determining "legitimacy" and voila! That's how you get the federal department of church oversight.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekend reading

A lot of this I posted either on my Twitter feed or on my blog Facebook page, but for those who don't go to those locations, some recommended reading:
But, in what is supposedly the age of data, the data on school integration is almost completely overlooked. We have solid evidence of its benefits, and we have over a century of evidence that “separate but equal” is harmful. In everything from the policies that are made to the everyday conversations about school integration, this doesn’t seem to matter. Decisions to segregate are made in the gut or maybe (sadly) in the heart, but not in the head. It touches core beliefs and unexamined social assumptions that are wrapped up in fears of being labeled a bad person or a bad parent.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Board of Education has their June meeting on Tuesday: UPDATED

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets for June on Tuesday at their offices in Malden. You can find the agenda here. 
A couple of things that are not on the agenda, but are coming in as reports:
  • The annual survey of superintendents and principals is back. You can find a lot more breakdown of the results here
  • An update on the revision of the social studies and history standards is included. The short version is we're done with the initial stakeholder engagement and moving on to the drafting of draft standards.
  • The annual non-operating school districts (that tuition out all of their students) report is included. Note that a number of these are small towns that run K-6 and then tuition out their high school students (choosing not to belong to a regional school district).
On the agenda:
  • proposed Early College Program Designation process and criteria for discussion and vote. This is essentially formalizing and creating new versions of the linking of high schools and colleges for high school students to gain college credit and experiences in high school. I continue to feel as though this misses the major point, which is that no one seems to know what to do with high school anymore. Shoving them all into college early misses some growth that ought, I think, to be happening in high school.
  • a presentation on the Safe Schools for LGBTQ students program
  • a discussion and vote on proposed revisions to teacher licensure. The only bit that's particularly new here from earlier discussion is the removal of what was proposed as broadening language around removal of licensure; if you skim down the link, you can see the discussion of what was the section most objected to by the state teachers' unions. Note in particular this comment: " The removal of some of the proposed amendments to 603 CMR 7.15(8) does not affect, change, or narrow the Commissioner's legal authority."
  • There will be an update on the four Level 5 schools, of which two are in Boston, one in New Bedford, and one in Holyoke. With the return of the Dever to operation under Boston Superintendent Chang, three of these schools will be operating under the authority of their superintendents as receiver, though in those cases not reporting to their school committees (with the exception of Holyoke, where the entire district is under state receivership).
  • The Commissioner has his annual performance review, done by subcommittee. You can read the full report here. He is being given a 4.95 rating out of 5. More than anything, this reflects to me just how far removed the Board is from most of education in the state.
  • The Board is being asked to waive the week's notice of charter school lotteries in the case of three schools that had to reschedule due to a snowstorm in March. 
  • The Board is being asked to do their usual summer delegation of authority to the Commissioner. 
  • And the Board is being asked to vote their schedule for next year.
Liveblog/tweet coming Tuesday. 

UPDATE: Today (Friday) they added:
Executive Session to Discuss Litigation Strategy