Friday, February 6, 2015

Weighing in with the state and the fed

I did something unusual (for School Committee) last night and submitted several items under suspension ("under suspension" means that we've suspended using our rules and going by the agenda). Submitting items under suspension without violating the Open Meeting Law requiring public posting 48 hours prior to the meeting can only be done if the item is time-senstive and could not "reasonably be anticipated by the chair."
In this case, everything I submitted happened early this week, mostly on Tuesday, so it couldn't be foreseen, and it all involves things that happen before our next meeting, so they're time-sensitive.

First, as you read here and here, Governor Baker published his FY14 budget cuts on Tuesday. That is THIS fiscal year. They are very tough on education, particularly in the cities. While we received a budget memo last night (which will be my next post!), we'll have more specifics coming, and I asked that we share those with our delegation as soon as we have them.

The state Board of Ed next meets on Tuesday, February 24 (we next meet on the 26th), and they'll be taking up the proposal for charter schools in Brockton and Fitchburg. We also have seen the ongoing saga of "will they or won't they" on the possible takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools. I asked therefore that we ask for support urban districts that are doing good work for their students, and urge the state to collaborate with, rather than takeover or impose measures on, urban districts. This passed, and I plan to testify to that at the Board of Ed meeting.

As was mentioned elsewhere today, we heard directly from Rep. Kline of his interest in fully funding IDEA. IDEA--the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act--was passed 40 years ago with the expressed intent of funding 40% of the avereage of special education cost per student in the country. It has never gotten to half of that, and currently stands at 16%. In Worcester, where we currently receive $7 million in federal IDEA aid, that would be an additional $10 million a year. We're thus sharing that infomration with our Congressional delegation.

Finally, and also as mentioned by Rep. Kline, the Elementary and Secondary Act seems to be moving in both the House and in the Senate ('though news on that today: Alexander's bill has been tossed out, and they're starting with something bipartisan). As such, we've got to weigh in on ESEA reauthorization now. I created the following principles that I thought were something the Worcester School Committee could agree on:

-that local control means state, not school district, control in Massachusetts.
-that creating block grants of federal funds would be harmful. 
-that freezing federal grants or subjecting them to sequestration would be harmful. 
-that charter and voucher expansion don't work to improve public education.
-that absolute protection of students' rights to a quality, equitable education need not mean overtesting or overregulation.
That passed, and will be sent to our delegation.

And thanks to my colleagues for their tolerance. We had a long meeting last night, and it was coming up on ten by the time we got to these. I'm glad we're going to get our voice in on these issues in February! 

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