Monday, January 18, 2010

What the Governor signed today: CORRECTED

Today Governor Patrick signed the Ed bill that came flying through the House and Senate last week. I've been waiting to get something more than a summary; now that it's finally up (the Ed bill link, above, takes you to what came out of conference committee, all 73 pages of it), here's what is in it:

  • School districts and/or charter schools can form educational collaboratives for the purposes of purchasing and/or education (Wiser heads than mine: what's the change here? We've already got educational collaboratives.) That's all Section 1 and 2.
  • The commissioner can deem schools chronically underperforming, according to standards (of which there must be multiple measures; keep an eye on that!) created by the Board of Ed and sent to the Ed subcommittee of the Legislature which may hold hearings on it and make changes (watch that one!). Schools have to have had 2 or more consecutive years of not making progress before they are deemed underperforming. Once that happens, the superintendent convenes a group of stakeholders to create a turnaround plan. That plan has to address not only academic performance, but also social service, child welfare, health and other "wraparound" needs of students.
  • There's an exhaustive list on page 10 of what the superintendent can include in the turnaround plan. It includes things like changing the length of day or year, changing the budget, requiring teachers to reapply for positions, creating common planning time, adding kindergarten, suspending parts of the teachers' contract...
  • the superintendent, within 30 days, submits the plan to the stakeholder group, the school committee and the commissioner. Any may ask for changes. Within 30 days of that, the superintendent comes out with a final plan. Within 30 days of that, the union or any school committee member may apply to the commissioner for further change.
  • among the changes made can be turning a school over to an "outside receiver."
  • the turnaround plan has to be reviewed annually. Changes can be made to the plan if it appears not to be working.
  • underperforming or chronically underperforming schools with a significant population of limited English proficiency students may create a "limited English proficiency parental advisory council" (let's watch how that one plays out)
  • the Commissioner has to report to the Legislature annually on how all this is playing out
  • And DESE figures out how a school gets out of chronically underperforming or underperforming status; they can leave in place various measures even after the label has been removed
  • a district can also be deemed underperforming, and the above all also applies to districts: stakeholder group, turnaround plan, parts of the plan, annual review, etc. And so ends Section 3!
  • a district may make a good faith effort to sell extra school space to charter schools (the verb matters)
  • Section 5 is the flag part: schools now must teach flag etiquette
  • A town can vote to get out of a union to participate in an innovation school (Section 6)
  • Section 7 is the charter school section. Among the changes to former state law: charter schools now will be provided with the names and addresses of all current public school students in the district UNLESS PARENTS REQUEST THEIR CHILD'S NAME BE OMITTED (I'll find out who one opts out through);
  • districts with the lowest 10% of student performance may spend up to 18% of their budget on charter schools (that means charter schools will double in the cities);
  • charter schools must have a plan to "attract, enroll, and maintain" a comparable population of ELL, special ed, and low income students to the district(s) they serve; if a charter school ends up with 20% or more students from a district not included in the original charter, their charter must be amended; charter schools must update their numbers with the district by April 1 (for the following year);
  • charter schools can now be given building assistance funds by the state; charter students requiring out-of-district special ed services will have those services paid for by the district; transportation to and from school is provided by the district
  • Innovation schools are run by the district, but with "increased autonomy and flexibility." They may have differences in curriculum, budget, calendar, staffing policies, district policies, and professional development. It can be a new school or a conversion of an existing school. The "innovation plan" can be developed by an outside group, or by faculty and leadership (there's a list on page 63). A screening committee (superintendent, member of school committee, member of union) will review submited applications. An innovation plan committee will create an innovation plan for those approved. There can be a public hearing at this point, and then the School Committee votes on the innovation school. (this incidentally is where some of the state's Race to the Top money may go, as the Commissioner is given responsibility for giving grants for this).
  • And now the amendments: it's 12% (up from 9%) for next year, and then goes up by 1% a year until 2017, when it hits the 18% of net school spending. This still allows for double charters for next year (this is the correction)
  • the Legislature wants to know what DESE is doing with Race to the Top funds
  • the state needs a policy on how to place kids (by grade level) who leave charter schools for district schools
  • even current charter schools have to have a retention plan for the 2011-2012 year
  • districts will be reimbursed for charters 100% the first year, 60% the second year, and 40% the final year (I know that isn't what it said anywhere else, but that's what it says in the bill; check page 71)
  • regional transportation can't be cut by more than Ch.70 is cut in any given year
  • the Legislature wants a report on the current state of education in the Commonwealth to be filed with them by December 31,2011.
  • And they want the Commissioner to report to them by January 1, 2011.
As of this morning, it's the law of the Commonwealth. Keep an eye on it!

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