Thursday, November 7, 2013

MASC 13: Chapter 70 aid (20 years in)

Dave Tobin, MASS School Finance
Luc Schuster, Deputy Director, Mass Budget and Policy
Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner of Education

Tobin begins:
"a few communities, it appears, appropriates only what they are required to appropriate...most appropriate more than the minimum"
20 year profile of Chapter 70 (for state, or community by community) available on DESE website
all districts in the state were required to spend at least the minimum of Ch.70
in 2004, there was a falloff in aid
enrollment and inflation determine Ch.70 aid each year
actual spending for foundation budget items has grown steadily; 20% MORE than the foundation budget is the average in Massachusetts for components of the foundation budget
about 25 school districts in the state are just at the "dark dash line" which is the minimum
I've just been elbowed by a colleague from a surrounding district, who jokingly asks"Do you know who does that?"
Chapter 70 aid determined by need of community; spending increase is determined by increase of revenue growth each year
to pay for a targeted percentage of Chapter 70
Q: how is the foundation budget determined? Amount set for each pupil (not that it hasn't changed that much, 'though the spending patterns have changed); added up by number you have is the foundation budget
amount town can (in view of state) afford, rest is Chapter 70 aid
"we also have to pay for equipment...spending is total appropriation"
really easy for the budget wonks to plough in to the budget really quickly
work that MassBudget has been doing recently around "why investing in education is so important"
state economic debates have focused on the tax side; test how important taxes are in the economic development of a state overall
plotting median hourly wage against taxes: chart is basically meaningless
plotting bachelor degrees against median wages gives a really strong coorelation (exception is oil wealth)
states are at their base basically a collection of individuals
there was a positive relationship thirty years ago, but it was much weaker; you no longer (largely) can get a great paying job without a college degree
"our recognition of the centrality of education has lagged behind"
"what we have is the skills of our workforce"
June report on 20 year trends since Chapter 70 started
increase in state aid controlled for inflation: almost a doubling of state aid over the first decade; down by about $600M since 2002
and now for some favorites:
comparison of what districts are actually spending on health insurance, special education WAY out of whack with
Actual health insurance understated by $1.1 B, sped by a combined (in and out of district) nearly $1B
just on those two (really three) areas, understating by $2.1B A YEAR
what is the effect of this on the classroom?
regular education teachers still being funded at the level needed: how?
wealthiest districts raising additional revenue from local area to fund adequate baseline level
least wealth are spending 1/3 below on regular ed teachers
actually not a rich versus poor story, as everyone in the middle is not funding regular ed teachers at required level, either
These last are from Cutting Class
Q: countries that spend more on children of the wealthy than on children of the poor: Turkey, Israel, and the US per NY Times earlier this week
Q: does the legislature come to you to see these numbers? MassBudget's attempt to start to answer these questions. Challenge is getting leadership involved, as they know they'll need more money. Suggestion from crowd that lawsuit is needed

important to look at what's good, too: compared with Illinois, where he recently was testifying
(fun fact: Wulfson was on the Brockton town finance committee when they had to lay off 25% of their teachers, and joined the suit that forced the foundation budget)
municipal side
speaking here about the report that DESE put out this summer
Chapter 70: adequacy for students, equity for taxpayers
 charting required contribution as % of foundation versus target contribution
state aid making up at least 17% of every community's foundation budget: Wulfson comments that this is a political compromise, as some communities do not need the aid
relationship between spending and student achievement: Wulfson says no real coorelation on spending
low income percentage is a big determinate of student achievement
student growth percentiles by in-district spending
Q: spending more at low-income students was one of the goals of Chapter 70: has there been any comparison of what that spending does for those students and their educational attainment?
short version, not really...hope that adequacy study would
follow-up Q: seems you have the information to answer the question of spending versus student attainment
another assertion of no connection
Please go look at this report from the Shanker Institute for evidence of quite the contrary.
Recommendations from the state: increase employee benefit rate, include retiree health insurance in NSS, increase out of district SPED rate, eliminate cap on pre-school enrollment
recommendation: fund reductions in excess effort, cap local contributions at 100% of foundation, bring below target up to target, codify local contribution provisions in statute, create incentives to encourage better resource allocations
Wulfson notes that he is no longer getting low-income information from Boston, due to the universal lunch program, so he has no numbers for the foundation budget
Q: calculating foundation, averages foundation. Doesn't calculate actual costs. Push back from state that districts are spending too much (essentially)
Q: upper target question, state aid tapers off above a certain level? MA has decided against doing so
Q: Title I seems to assert that low income students need more to do better; you seem to be disputing that. Students that don't reflect the town. Wulfson says that he doesn't dispute that. Payment reflects town's fiscal capacity, not the students.
where do we go from here? Tobin says they've reconvened the School Finance task force (with MASBO) including all the types of districts from across the state
MBAE is conducting a study that spending more money "without some sort of control on where it is spent"

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