Monday, July 16, 2018

And on the House education funding bill?

Lively Worcester School Committee agenda for July

Not a dull agenda for July!

First, note that there is a Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meeting on Thursday immediately preceding the full School Committee meeting at 3:30 pm at City Hall; it appears as though this is only to approve the four new courses listed, 'though they persist in just listing every item that has been referred there on the agenda, which is not okay.

The full Committee meets at 4 pm (it's summer) at City Hall, but note the "now they're here, now they're not" schedule:
  • 4:00 p.m. - Regular Session 
  • 5:00 p.m. - Executive Session 
  • 6:00 p.m. – Regular Session and Proposed Strategic Plan
The message appears to be that if you're there for the strategic plan, you should come at 6.

There are recognitions and congratulations.

The superintendent's midcycle review opens the meeting; this appears to be a 46 page PowerPoint (which is sideways online) in which Superintendent Binienda has filled out the rubric required of school committee evaluators, marking herself as "proficient" in all standards save human resources; law and policies; all of the family and community engagement section; commitment to high standards; communication; and managing conflict, in which she has rated herself "exemplary." Per the state, an "exemplary" rating means quite literally one could be used as an example of this standard and could teach it. Appropriately assessed, it is quite rare. This appears to be followed with what looks like an update on district work--changes and updates in curriculum, required implementation of changes in standards, continued PD and such--as evidence of goals.  
If you think this is what a superintendent self-eval should look like, I'd urge you to look at what superintendents and school committees in other districts set as goals and discuss as evidence. This is really troubling.

The pre-meeting TLSS meeting will report out.
The Superintendent has posted: School Bus Service Manager, School Bus Router, Acting Transportation Operations Supervisor, Transportation Liaison, and School Bus Driver - Full Size Bus as non-represented (non-union) positions.

The strategic plan, as above, is on the agenda. From the agenda, it looks as though the Research Bureau and Worcester Educational Collaborative are going to be presenting a sort of summary (?); there is no public hearing session, and the committee is meeting in regular formal session, so it isn't clear how or if things are going to be deliberated formally in order to refine, amend, or develop the plan.
As part of the same item, there is a presentation on the WPS rebranding effort, which would look like this:
You can see the PowerPoint for the process of development.
Did anyone ever ask how much any of the previous parts cost?

Miss Biancheria is requesting the number of staff on leave.
The committee needs to select their represenatives to the MASC Delegate Assembly.

Mr. O'Connell (supported by the rest of the committee save Mayor Petty) has submitted the following item:
To discuss projected litigation as to the obligation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assure an “adequate education” to Massachusetts children, including potential plaintiffs, litigation funding sources, and a timeline.
This is of course the push for a new foundation budget lawsuit, which you may have read more over the weekend.
The new crowdfunding and educational surveys policies are up for review.
Apparently, the $7.4M in revolving funds weren't approved during the budget deliberation, so they--and the updated budget total--are now.
There's a--quite good!--appropriate school response to immigration activities policy memo for approval. It appropriately centers on the child, requires district response for ICE activities at schools, and reinforces the district's non-involvement (as per requirements) in enforcement. My only complaint is we should have had this years ago. Nonetheless...

There's a prior year payment to College Board for testing and to an instructional technology coach.
Mr. O'Connell wants to be sure there are sufficient AEDs.

There's a request that the committee approve the student handbook; the changes are here. Interestingly, this is being added to the "student access" section: "Certain individuals, including school personnel, police, and employees of certain state agencies may be granted access to students in the performance of their official duties." That seems...troubling. They're also cutting inclusion of the actual due process language on student discipline, putting it only on the website, which also seems troubling.
In the homework section, what was a minimum per-subject homework policy of 45 minutes is now being amended to add "or 1 hour for AP." The homework policy was already ridiculous in being time-based; this just makes it 15 minutes worse.
Also, the non-discrimination policy doesn't have "pregnancy and pregnancy-related" added yet and it should.
The entire policy manual of the Worcester Public Schools is also up for approval.

Mr. O'Connell wants to review indirect costs again.
Miss Biancheria has asked that the "Accountabilty and Student Achievement" subcommittee be renamed "School and Student Performance" which is apparently what the office is being renamed, as well.
There are donations to be accepted:
- $8,000.00 from SME Education Foundation/General Motors to Worcester Technical High School Advanced Manufacturing Program
- $250.00 from WEDF to Woodland Academy
- $500.00 from Metso USA, Inc., to support the Exhilarate Worcester Initiative at Woodland Academy
- $250.00 from WEDF to Tatnuck Magnet School
- $250.00 from WEDF to Lake View School
- $2,000.00 from Saint-Gobain to Lake View School
- $738.82 from Lake View School PTO to Lake View School
- $2,000.00 from Furniture Trust Organization, Inc. to Worcester Alternative School
- $600.00 from Sunbelt Rentals Inc. to South High Community School Diesel Program
- $250.00 from WEDF to Lincoln Street School
- $250.00 from WEDF to New Citizen Center
There is an executive session for Plumbers, Steamfitters and Tradesmen.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Take notes

As I've been following the discussion around the House bill, I had this haunting sense that this discussion--do we move forward with just sped and health insurance? do we need to do all kids?--seemed familiar.
So I checked my notes.
As I think I've said before, I started this blog lo these many years ago as a record for those who couldn't make it to Worcester meetings around school finance, as recognition that the Telegram & Gazette was never going to cover everything. And then I started going to state meetings. And here we are.
Thus, to my knowledge, no one else has notes out there that follow the discussion that was happening three years ago May about what the Foundation Budget Review Commission was going to do. The FY15 budget (passed in June 2014) had given the Commission a June 20, 2015 deadline. They had begun meeting in the fall of 2014, had held hearings over the winter, but as of May, had come to consensus only on health insurance and special education.
In order to get an extension, they had to get legislation passed by both parts of the Legislature.

My notes from that May 5, 2015 meeting are here; if you scroll down to "Chang-Diaz and Peisch offering proposals to discuss about moving forward," you'll see what I mean: Representative Peisch wanted to push ahead and get the proposals they had for those two items out there for the deadline. She argues that there is a clear interest in those two proposals, that it sends a clear message to the Legislature to come back on deadline with those two items. (I'll note that Peisch was consistent in this, as she said the same in speaking to MASBO that same month.) She doesn't talk a lot about anything else needing to be in the report.
Senator Chang-Diaz notes the concern that leaving off other recommendations lessens the urgency for them, and others argue that the report doesn't fulfill the charge of the Commission in only doing special education and health insurance, particularly given what they had heard at public hearings.
Interestingly, Commissioner Chester argues for the need for greater deliberation, 'though he says he isn't sure they'll come to consensus.
Eventually, on a motion from former Secretary Paul Reville, the Commission votes unanimously to issue an interim report in June that not only reports out special ed and health insurance, but lists the issues to be resolved, to request an extension from the Legislature, and to issue a final report by November 2015.
Which is what happened.
This was enough of a heated disputed, however, that it came up at the following meeting on June 9, 2015, when then MASC President Pat Francomano asked that the minutes be clarified to include specifically that the report would include a list of items still to be dealt with, which was not included to his satisfaction. At that meeting, there was an extensive discussion on potentially tying any new funds to specific requirements, which disturbed me enough that I wrote about it the next day. I noted elsewhere this week that this argument has also come back:

Thus while the positions of who is arguing to move ahead and who is arguing to stop have changed, the "why" has not. The urgency of the needs BEYOND those of special education and health insurance haven't, it seems, gotten any more traction than they had three years ago, when they wouldn't have made the report had it been left to Rep. Peisch. There is, of course, irony that somehow we're going to magically have the comprehensive report some think we haven't gotten in four years of work in six months, but I suppose it's easier when that work has already been done.
Additionally, much of the conversation of this past week has been the same parties making the same unsuccessful arguments that they made three years ago. Those arguing just to move on special education and health insurance, leaving out ELL and low income, and on tying districts that are owed hundreds of millions of dollars already under the current system somehow needing to prove worthliness are old, tired, wrong, and privileged.
It's a shame the House bought it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

House on the foundation budget

I've been tweeting coverage of the House taking up bill H4730, implementing some parts of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.
Rep. Peisch in her address said, among much else, that there was no specific recommendation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission on English language learners. This is not the case; if you read page 10 of the report, there is a specific dollar amount included. If she was concerned about a full statewide calculation, that is easy math. We don't need more study for that.

Both Rep. Sanchez and Cabral spoke in other languages (Sanchez in Spanish, Cabral in Portuguese) while addressing English language learning.

Most notably, Rep. Vega, who had proposed a bill that would fully implement the recommendations, withdrew his amendment, so no rep had to take a position on it.

UPDATE: At 4:20, the House adopted a technical amendment with no debate and began a roll call on the bill. The technical amendment requires the report they're requiring on ELL and low income students to come back with specific actions in time for inclusion in the FY20 budget.

UPDATE: Bill passes 147-0

The bill thus goes to conference committee, where House and Senate members will attempt to come to an agreement over the bill's particulars.

Commissioner says no new Level 4 or 5 schools this fall

Breaking news from the MASS Executive Institute this morning:

You can follow the rest of what's happening there at their hashtag #MASSUPTEI18

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The House is leaving the most vulnerable kids out: UPDATED WITH WHAT'S IN

Sure enough, per State House News (paywalled):

The bill, which is being polled by the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday afternoon, would specifically make adjustments to the formula in how it accounts for special education and health insurance costs.
The five-page bill also directs the Department of Education to conduct a study on how the formula meets the needs of low-income and English language learner students with the goal of making recommendations to the legislature on ways to serve those populations.

We did a study. Three years ago.

Time to call your reps and tell them leaving poor kids and kids learning English out is not fair, equitable, just, or okay in any way with you.


I've put the bill in my Dropbox here for your perusal. I also just did a Twitter thread starting here on what's in it and what's not. Here's what it looks like:

  • On in-district special education, the House bill bumps the assumed enrollment to 4% for most districts, 5% for vocationals. That's more than the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendation of 3.75% of regular districts, 4.75% for vocationals. Better than recommendation.
  • On out-of-district special educaton, the House bill multiplies the statewide average per pupil foundation budget by THREE before subtracting the average plus the out-of-district cost rate. The Foundation Budget Review Commission multiplied by FOUR before the subtraction. Worse than recommendation.
  • There is then a very, very long (longer than the funding section) section on data collection. This was part of the FBRC recommendations, but is also already being partly dealt with through MASBO working with DESE. The final section allows for a researcher "subject to appropriation" to do this. Meh.
  • On ELL and low income, the House bill sends them to DESE for study, calling for an independent reseacher (which the bill does not fund), to report back in December of 2018. The House bill calls for precisely what the Foundation Budget Review Commission researched and responded to, plus work DESE has already been doing on capturing all low income students in the count. THIS STUDY HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE THREE YEARS AGO (check page 9 and following) and continues to kick the can on our most vulnerable student populations. Much worse than recommendation

What should you do now?

  • Call your reps.
  • Tell them you appreciate the House taking action.
  • Note that this bill DOES NOT implement the recommendations of the Commission.
  • Ask them to propose and support amendments to IMPLEMENT the already-studied-and-vetted-and approved recommendations on English learners and low income students.