Friday, November 9, 2012

Legislative update

posting as we go...
Legislative update from Representative Alice Peisch and Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, chairs of the Joint Committee on Education in the Massachusetts legislature.

Finnegan, MASC General Council praises them for their work, particularly on the collaborative bill.
"virtually no opposition to it at all at the end, says a lot about the work that went into it"
Peisch: commission set up to look at collaboratives; expect recommendations in spring 2013
training for special education transitions out at 21
medical emergency response plans: making sure districts have thought about how to deal with such emergencies
compromise bill on teacher evaluation: question on the ballot "was somewhat extreme"
student discipline bill: in effect in 2014: students suspended or expelled have some access to education
"will not actually impact as many students as people think it will"
third grade reading proficiency
Chang-Diaz: collaborative bill "spent a substantial amount of time trying to get right...did a solid job"
"to not throw the baby out with the not sacrifice" what we were doing right
"had been immersed in this subject matter"
"we take as a point of pride...votes were unanimous...doesn't happen all the time"
election night: imagine if there had been a ballot initiative...what a more divisive debate it would have been, and what a different feeling it would have been on Tuesday night
"glad we were able to avoid having that ballot question"
conversations around the student discipline bill
"people of good intention and good faith do disagree...more than the average in the State House...people..are earnest good people who are trying to figure out the right thing to do..."
Budget: looking at some of the numbers over the past four years
"you know how difficult it's been out there for the past four years"
maintain increases in those line items, even control for inflation: that number is still an upward slope
bills that are pending: informal sessions still happening
virtual schools bill: rigorous system of requirements that virtual schools will need to meet to be approved in Massachusetts
sitting in Senate, having passed House
infrastructure and an opening for virtual schools
Peisch: many bills that have come out of the committee that may go through
very hopeful that bill relative to background checks for school employees
Massachusetts only state in the country that does not require national background checks for school employees
"if they have a record anywhere in the country" it will come up
"like anything, once you bump up against the details"...who is going to pay for it?
fee for the person being hired intended to cover the costs, kept as low as we can
fingerprints taken, sent to FBI database
school districts can exercise some discretion
Chang-Diaz: bring more opportunities for alternative forms of education for students not being safely educated within the school building
Question: third grade reading proficiency?
creates an advisory group to the department: intent is to have experts in literacy looking at curriculum, ensuring is that students are reading at grade level
"to provide resources for the districts" not to lay on another level
need for some professional development as districts are struggling with this issue
"not another mandate, a group that can handle this problem"
Question: "employees are only going to last so long, next it will be volunteers...when everybody puts the label of 'safety' on it, nobody questions ain't the 50 bucks, it's the principle of it"
Peisch: "I am very appreciative of that...only state in the country that does not provide this sort of background check on our employees"
Points out that this is for employees NOT for volunteers
meetings with groups affected...recommends call office
Finnegan: employee costs, not districts
standard is "unmonitored contact with school children"
There was a push to have the costs borne by the districts; Legislature did not do that; costs borne by the applicant
Cost is $55/applicant
Third grade reading commission makes recommendations, not requirement
Question suggesting that volunteers be Googled
Peisch points out that Google searches have no quality control: due process
Questioners : Volunteers are the big piece: not going to pay for it
$55 goes to costs of having fingerprints being taken and having the search done
Note: there's some misunderstanding here in the back of the room that this applies to volunteers. It does not. It also has not passed both houses; it is currently in the Senate.
Peisch: much time spent working at what would be a fee that's reasonable that would allow the work to be done
Chang-Diaz: constantly at great pains to reach constituency groups
Question: update on last year's MASC's resolutions
charter schools approved at local level as done in other states
Finnegan: the bill was placed in a study
Question: MassBudget has indicated that districts are laying off staff as a result of health care costs and special ed costs. Studying adequacy of funding formula, can't get out of committee...we are dealing with it every year
Chang-Diaz: politically very contentious issue
familiar with MassBudget study; hopeful that health care costs control with help with the issue
cost containment bill: hopeful that it will take a significant bite out of health care costs eating all the money
ongoing debate in the legislature
foundation budget review commission, part of Ed Reform bill; foundation budget is supposed to be reviewed
maybe it's another way to see about parceling resources out correctly
did not make it into the final version of the budget (made it through the Senate)
Peisch: "not inaccurate" to say that people don't want to know the answer
"a real, very thorough look at the foundation budget...likelihood is very high that the number would be higher.." This also includes the calculation of how much comes from which place (state/district)
attempted to deal with this in other ways, including dealing with the circuit breaker, which was fully funded
"I think that it is inevitable that we are going to be looking at this. The can can't be kicked down the road much longer."
Likely that we will see money directed to particular uses
Question: unfunded mandates. Evaluation system really not funded.
Peisch: need more money in order to do that; look at it as part of the broader system
asks how many people would support an increase in income tax or sales tax for education: nearly every hand in the room goes up
"it's going to require a tremendous amount of adequacy on the part of all of you"
Questioner continues and mentions inadequate funding of charter school reimbursement
Chang-Diaz: conversation around transportation funding opening in new session
"really cannot do it alone"
"your consituencies need to hear it from you!"
vocal messengers of that outward, not just inward to the Legislature
"please help us be messengers"
Questioner: "We're getting killed...hopeful that the money is coming"
Questioner: are you planning to refile "An Act To Invest In Our Communities"?...I don't think we got an answer on that
Questioner: superintendent's should have it to see what we have to submit each year
suggests a statewide contract
Questioner: teacher salaries: should look at it
Questioner regional transportation
I asked about the intent of the legislature to fully fund charter reimbursement but the money not being there due to increasing numbers of charters allowed by state board. Peisch responds that in this budget cycle, she intends to ask that question

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