Friday, April 29, 2016

The Worcester City Council inquires on the missing $12 million

If you followed the discussion at Monday's Joint Committee, Councilor Bergman (in particular) was intrigued about this missing $12 million, from the 2010 calculation of the foundation budget, in which the state used a different quarter to calculation the inflation that year.
And yes, the difference would be $12 million.

This Tuesday's City Council agenda has the two orders coming out of that meeting that resulted:

FROM THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION - Request City Manager request the City Solicitor render an opinion as to legal options in recovering the 2010 miscalculated foundation education formula dollars ($12,000,000.00) and whether or not there is an applicable statute of limitations.

 FROM THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION - That the City Council does hereby go on record requesting the State Legislature to include in the final FY17 Chapter 70 state budget an adjustment to the 2010 skipped quarter for the foundation budget inflation factor, as referenced in the final Foundation Budget Review Commission Report, that would provide the Worcester Public Schools an additional $12,000,000 in state aid.

Note that the latter would be for THIS budget being discussed now: FY17.

Calling out school reward systems

It's a great relief to see this article in Rethinking Schools calling out school reward systems:
In fact, rewards distance all of the relationships in a classroom, especially those between teachers and students. What our students (and we) crave is human connection. Our relationships are the heart of our classrooms. Yet, instead of a conversation, a hand on the shoulder, a word, a look—students are given a token. Like a slot machine: stickers in, correct behavior out.

What happens when parents refuse tests?

Good read from New Bedford this morning:
According to DESE spokesperson Jackie Reis, individual schools must maintain a 95 percent participation rate in assessments, the consequence for not doing so being that the school would not be eligible for a level 1 accountability rating. If a school gets less than 90 percent participation, the school cannot be higher than a level 3.
“Generally a district’s accountability level is that of its lowest performing school, so it could have implications on the district’s level based on that,” Reis said when asked if there were any opt out-related consequences for whole districts. “And for tenth grade, it’s still a graduation requirement.”

California may reverse their monolingual bill...and they're going to need teachers

Excellent article from the Hechinger Report on California's effort to reverse the ridiculous Unz law that ended bilingual education, except in particular cases.
This does mean, though, that California is going to need more dual language teachers, of which there already is a shortage.
Both, incidentally, are true of Massachusetts, as well: we are WAY overdue on reversing our parallel law, and we already have such a shortage. We need to step it up in getting the kind of education and support dual language teachers need.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

And as we go through testing season

It's worth giving Jersey Jazzman's post with testing reminders a read.

McDuffy redux? (or Legal Action? What Legal Action?)

In response to this section of last night's joint meeting in Worcester--

--I got some questions today on just what was meant by "legal action."

Note that I am going to elide a whole lot of history here to get to the basic outlines.

Historically, schools in Massachusetts have largely been funded (as schools across the US) by local property taxes. Thus the taxes on property within a town were the source of revenue for schools within that town. That has the result, of course, of towns that have more property wealth having more money available to them to spend on schools, and of schools in different (and sometimes adjoining) towns having schools that look very different.
As a result, there were a series of cases filed by districts against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over the 1970's and 80's. These gained some urgency once Proposition 2 1/2, which limited the growth of local taxation to no more than 2 1/2% per year without an override, passed in the state, as that limited the amount that towns could increase their funding of schools (among other services) every year.
Why sue the state?
John Adams!
Yes, (the perpetually quoted by me) Chapter V, Section II of the Massachusetts Constitution explicitly makes education the "duty of legislatures and magistrates" in the state. Magistrates are the town officials; the legislatures meet, as they always have, on Beacon Hill. And Beacon Hill wasn't doing as much as they could to ensure that kids across Massachusetts were getting a good education.
The cases were consolidated into McDuffy v. the Secretary of the Executive Office of Education, and the Supreme Judicial Court decision was handed down in June 1993. Essentially, the districts won: the state was told to make sure that kids across the state were getting an appropriate education:
...the provisions of Part II, c. 5, Section 2, of the Massachusetts Constitution impose an enforceable duty on the magistrates and Legislatures of this Commonwealth to provide education in the public schools for the children there enrolled, whether they be rich or poor and without regard to the fiscal capacity of the community or district in which such children live. It shall be declared also that the constitutional duty is not being currently fulfilled by the Commonwealth. 
The decision is dated June 15; on June 18, the 1993 Education Reform Act was signed into law. While most know it for it (ultimately) being the reason we have the MCAS exam, it also set parameters for the creation of statewide standards of education, and it created the foundation formula that funds K-12 education in Massachusetts.
The foundation formula is progressive in two ways: it allows higher amounts of funding for greater student need, and it requires the state to provide for greater amounts of the funding needed in less wealthy districts.
The state implemented the foundation formula on a seven year rollout, but a number of districts felt that progress wasn't being made quickly enough and that the results weren't bearing out what was required, so another round of lawsuits were filed, which resulted in Hancock v. the Commissioner of Education in 2005. The results of this case were much more mixed, as the SJC found:
The Governor, the Legislature, and the department are well aware that the process of education reform can and must be improved...The amply supported findings of the judge reflect much that remains to be corrected before all children in our Commonwealth are educated. The Legislature may well choose to rely on these findings as it continues to consider efforts to improve public education. Her findings are also a testament to the many educators, teachers, parents, business and community leaders who insist that, until that goal is reached, they will continue to demand improvement and will seek the help of our elected officials to ensure that meaningful reform is ongoing.
"The presumption exists that the Commonwealth will honor its obligations." Bromfield v. Treasurer & Receiver Gen., 390 Mass. 665 , 669 (1983). I am confident that the Commonwealth's commitment to educating its children remains strong, and that the Governor and the Legislature will continue to work expeditiously "to provide a high quality public education to every child." G. L. c. 69, s 1.
The Hancock decision did, however, leave the door open for the districts to come back if, as time went along, the state was not keeping up its end of the bargain.
And that brings us rather neatly to the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which found precisely that. That's why, as I've heard him say multiple times now, Mr. Allen told the joint committee last night:
...and the FY16 benchmark is, for Worcester, over $90 million underfunded by the standards of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.
Thus, if the state doesn't come through on action, there is an argument for re-opening Hancock...a McDuffy redux.
And the state handed us the strongest evidence themselves last November, when they issued the Foundation Budget Review Commission's report.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Massachusetts House passed the consolidated budget amendment on education last night

The amendment is here. While there is a sizable list at the beginning of which amendments are included, most are not actually included in the bill that passed. To figure it out, you have to go account number by account number. Any chance we could possibly make this more user-friendly, Legislators? It is our money. 
Many of those that are in the consolidated bill are local items, rather than statewide items.
There is no change to McKinney-Vento reimbursement, to Quality K, to regional transportation, to district determined measures, to the special education circuit breaker.
The reversal of the current Massachusetts standards is not included.
The dual enrollment line item increase did go up to $2M. The $10M pothole account also passed, and it stayed an item specifically earmarked for districts hit by the change to economically disadvantaged.
There is a commission on the rising cost of college included, and there is a commission on low-incidence disabilities.
More as I have it or find it.