Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Senate Ways and Means amendments on education

I've been asked to take a look at amendments that the Mass Senate is considering as they take up their budget debate. The Senate Ways and Means budget can be found here.
As per always, there are location specific amendments; I'm not tackling those here unless they have some effect beyond that community.
If it is starred * I recommend it!

Amendment 462 is parallel to that passed by the House that would call for a cost-benefit analysis of the PARCC test; amendment 465 would call for pausing it. The primary sponsor of both of those is Senate Minority Leader Tarr, who also is calling for an independent "Common Core curriculum" (463) assessment; I suspect the phrasing alone is going to kill that last one (as we've heard: it's not a curriculum, but a set of standards). 
Also from Senator Tarr is a process for districts to petition the Department for a waiver for any state mandates that are unfunded (amendment 470); interesting language on that one:
The department shall grant the waiver unless it determines that the absence of the mandate will lower the quality of education provided; provided, however, that the petition shall be deemed granted if the department fails to respond within 90 days of the submission of the petition request.
 I can't imagine that the department would ever come back and say, "Oh, no, we didn't really need that one!" One wonders if he would include unfunded charter schools in this! Senator Chang-Diaz is calling for organizing a task force on those unfunded mandates (amendment 519).*
Senator Joyce has an amendment raising the funding for full-day kindergarten (amendment 480)* from $20 million to $27 million (as does Senator Chang-Diaz [522], as does Senator Elbridge [565]), as well as striking the language that limits it to 75% of the prior year (I need to check that last bit, because if that's in the budget, that's a problem; it is also not mentioned in the other two amendments, which only raise the funds). If we're going to keep saying that early childhood is important, we've got to fund these programs accordingly.
Senator Downing has two on Gateway Cities: $500,000 to establish career academies (amendment 481) and boosting ELL funding to $3.5 million (amendment 482)*. I'd prioritize the second over the first, particularly as $500,000 is not a lot of money in a state context. 
Amendment 484 adds $1 million to the universal pre-K program. 
Senator Moore is proposing going from $75,000 to $2 million for dual enrollment (that's amendment 490). I'm not going through them here, but, as Senator Moore chairs the Higher Ed Committee, he has several higher ed ones that might be of interest.
Not strictly K-12, but of interest: Senator Donoghue proposes the state looking at the John and Abigail Adams Scholarships covering not just tuition but fees (amendment 513 *proposes studying this); those scholarships to state universities for high MCAS-scoring students have been worth less and less as fees go higher and higher.
A massive boost in alternative education grants is proposed by Senator Chang-Diaz in amendment 515 (" by striking out the figure “$146,140” and inserting in place thereof the following figure:- "$4,783,360"). 
She's also proposing a slight ($500,000 or so) boost in funding for underperforming schools (amendment 524). 
Amendment 527 proposes a boost (from $1 million to over $4 million) in innovation school funding, 'though if you're interested in that, you'll want to take a look at the language, as there are some specifics attached.
Senator Brownsberger is proposing a language change on circuit breaker (I'll take a look later and see what that is).
Senator Lewis proposes allowing districts to have a special education stabilization fund to carry from year to year (amendment 537).
Senator Tarr proposes adding more funds (from $70 million to $73 million) to regional transportation (amendment 545). Recall that $70 million is 90% reimbursement.
Amendment 547 raises expanded learning time grants from $13 million to $15 million.
Senator Welch's amendment 548 allows the count of homeless students who enroll anytime until March 1 to count towards the foundation budget of the next year (hey, good one!).*
Amendment 556 from Senator McGee more than doubles the amount of funding for after school programs.
Amendment 560--which has a STUNNING number of co-sponsors!--is the foundation budget review commission. *Definitely push for this one!
Likewise, amendment 561 is full reimbursement for charter schools!*
(hat tip to Worcester's Senator Moore for being among the co-sponsors of both of the above!)
Amendment 564 expands the Parent-Child Home program (including that one for you, Charlie!)
Cheers to Senator Elbridge for amendment 567, raising McKinney-Vento transportation funding to $14 million (possibly fully funded?)!*
Senator Ross proposes amendment 568 to cut down on DESE's use of paper.
Amendment 567 proposes an expanded learning time allotment to be added to schools' foundation budget in particular conditions (looks like high poverty, low MCAS scores).
Senator Ross FIXES THE SPECIAL ED ASSUMPTION! Amendment 567 would substitute an average of the preceding five years for both in district and out of district special education numbers for the state's current assumptions. This is one of the most underfunded parts of the foundation budget, and I'd imagine that it totally won't pass, because Ross is the minority whip. C'mon, Dems!*
Senator (Richard) Moore is concerned about student data protection; amendment 573 says it can't be sold or used for marketing. *
Amendment 574 calls for a report on the implementation of McKinney-Vento.
Amendment 577 is one time foundation reserve funding for districts with big growth this year.

Debate starts TOMORROW, so get in touch today!

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