Monday, March 19, 2018

speaking of the foundation budget

Here's a piece I wrote for the Globe as a parent in the Worcester Public Schools.

A few notes that I tweeted out on this:
One thing we are not talking about in Massachusetts is population and demographic shifts.
Most districts in the state are getting smaller; Gateways are not, largely. They're growing. Since 2008, non-Gateway districts have dropped 2.5% in enrollment; Gateway cities have grown 3.8% in enrollment.
What our student enrollment looks like is also changing. The fastest growing demographic in student enrollment is Latino students; from 2008, they went from 13.8% of our student population to 20% of our student population. Over the same period, African-American students went from 8.1% of our enrollment to 9% of our enrollment.
Because of how our districts are defined, no single district looks like the above. Either you're seeing a shift or you aren't, possibly at all.
Per pupil increases, as I've said before, don't touch (usually) the Gateway cities. But per pupil increases pass. The foundation budget findings which would help the Gateway cities the most (no question, 'though don't you believe it when someone tells you only they would benefit) don't pass.
That doesn't say anything good about our bastion of public education, equality, and democracy, does it?

Yesterday was the last Ways and Means hearing for FY19. The ball's in the Legislature's court. As Matt Murphy said in State House News Service yesterday, "The House and Senate, where Democrats hold super majorities, will have an opportunity to set their own education funding levels when they pass their own budget bills in April and May." We'll see what those priorities are.

FY19 Joint Hearing on Ways and Means

Coming to you today from Peabody City Hall...the hearing begins at 10 am.

Opening this morning with the National Anthem and other music from the Peabody High School Chorale and welcome from Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, who notes that the building was an opera house.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Globe NAILS IT on Brockton funding!

Teachers from across the city descended on the high school where 80 yellow ribbons had been fastened to seats throughout the auditorium. Superintendent Kathleen Smith, in a grim voice, told everyone to look to the left and to the right: Each ribbon represented a colleague whose position had been cut over the summer in a painstaking effort to plug a $16 million budget gap.
Many teachers, though, needed no symbolic reminders of the departed: Years of painful cuts have left many of them with more students in their classrooms than they ever imagined, in many cases far exceeding acceptable levels in the affluent suburbs. Resources are running thin, too. Brockton was able to spend just $1.28 per student on classroom supplies during the 2016-17 school year, while Weston, one of the wealthiest towns in the state, provided $275 per student.

And there are charts!
Read, share, quote!

Oh, and note, by the way, how much the words of Superintendent Smith echo those of her predecessor:
The superintendent in Brockton is of the opinion that "the Brockton Public Schools are unable to provide the programs, services and personnel that are necessary to meet the needs of its students"; that "Brockton is not adequately teaching its students to read"; that "shortcomings in the history and social studies programs in the Brockton public schools . . . have severely undercut the system's capacity to educate its students to understand the society in which they live and to help students become enlightened participants in the democratic process as they become adults."
That's from the McDuffy decision.

Friday, March 16, 2018

It's time to talk about Doherty

The good news last month that Doherty was invited into Feasiblity with MSBA on their renovation/rebuild means it's time to start paying attention to this project. Feasibility is the part  where renovation is considered, and locations of a rebuild are considered.

South High was relatively easy: the school department had enough space at the Sullivan/South campus to build a new building onsite while continuing to use the current building. The city did this at Nelson Place as well.

There will be no such solution possible at Doherty. The footprint of the school, the parking lots, and the practice field are all that the school department has. The rest is parkland.

Those who watch green space in the city have every reason to be concerned: Worcester Tech, of course, was built on Green Hill Park land, after a protracted legal battle. A quick glance down the list of current Worcester schools shows that this was a standing Worcester practice: Belmont Street and Wawecus both have nice granite posts outside not because the school is there, but because they are on what was parkland. And they're hardly alone.

A year ago, Mayor Petty tweeted out this:
There are other answers possible. It isn't, for example, as though Worcester lacks space in buildings that can/have been schools that can be acquired and renovated. There are also schools of significant size--Everett High comes to mind--that have been built on small footprints for many kids.

Worcester tends, though, to quietly do things behind the scenes unless public process is demanded. Time to start speaking up.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


Responsibilities take me elsewhere tonight, but if you are NOT planning on being in Holden with me to hear about advocacy, can I suggest you check out tonight's Worcester School Committee meeting at 7? Maybe more like 7:15ish.
You can find the livestream here.

Here's why I say that: Worcester has been talking about the inadequacies in the foundation budget since...2013? Brockton was the city that brought first McDuffy and then Hancock against the state. They're two of the three (the third is Springfield) largest victims of the state's continued inaction on this. And both Brockton and Worcester are at the table tonight.

I hear there's new numbers.
If you're following the foundation budget, I'd watch Worcester tonight.
Regrettably, I will NOT be able to liveblog this, but I'll catch up as soon as the video is posted!

UPDATED: Brockton couldn't make it, so this report was POSTPONED, I'm told.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

S. 223 is now S. 235

Don't miss that the Foundation Budget Review Commission bill, up until now S.223, NOW HAS A NEW BILL NUMBER: S.235:
h/t to Mike for the note! It is now in Senate Ways and Means, which has been urged to pass through with a favorable recommendation QUICKLY!