Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Baker goes for round two on urban education EDITED AND UPDATED

Governor Baker released is FY16 proposed budget today, and BOY is there something in there that districts need to know about!
At the press conference, Baker said that they were combining eleven educational grant programs to support underperforming schools.
So I went poking around, and I found the following.
Baker's budget zeros out the following grants:
  • ​ELLs in Gateway Cities
  • Gateway Cities Career Academy
  • Bay State Reading Institute
  • Literacy programs
  • Reading recovery
  • early intervention tutors
  • Educational quality and accountability
  • innovation schools
  • MCAS low-scoring support
  • statewide college and career readiness
  • alternative ed
All [UPDATE] eleven of those are gone. Those are $19,023,852 in FY15 grants, most targeted at cities, at groups that need particular assistance, or at early ed (again).
>He then has merged those programs into what was the Targeted Intervention program, which he's terming "Partnership Schools Network." 
That account is being funded at $17,484,000 for FY16. Thus it's an $1.5M cut.

In order to GET the grants, a district has, not just to apply for the grant, BUT: 
no money shall be expended in any school or district that fails to file a comprehensive district plan pursuant to the provisions of section 1I of said chapter 69
 ...those are the annual district improvment plans...
provided further, that in carrying out the provisions of this item, the department may contract with school support specialists, turnaround partners and such other external assistance as is needed in the expert opinion of the commissioner to successfully turn around the performance of the school and/or district with preference given in such contracting to entities with proven records of success in establishing scalable and sustainable reform programs
So bring in the outside agencies. And who gets to pick them? The Commissioner. And it isn't just so-called underperforming schools:
 provided further, that preference in distributing funds shall be made for innovative and ambitious proposals that coordinate reform efforts across multiple schools, including schools that are not underperforming, within or across the jurisdiction of local education agencies, in partnership with other educational and social service agencies, including higher education, early education and care, and charter schools, and for proposals that demonstrate the support of local municipal leadership;
So reforming EVERYone (and you noticed the charter schools reference in there, right?)...They'll be judged, not surprisingly, on:
provided further that preference shall also be given to proposals that focus on promoting a high-level of student proficiency at fourth or eighth grade or college readiness at the completion of high school, especially with regard to low-income students; 
Hello fourth and eighth grade test scores (and college readiness? Is that a PARCC reference?). All of those grants above will be swept away and:
provided further that the department shall develop a consolidated grant application process to facilitate the coordination and integration of various other grant programs administered by the department, and other agencies of the commonwealth, in support of the innovative and ambitious reform proposals prioritized in this item
Block grant and it doesn't stop with this one:
 provided that up to 25 percent of funds from such other grant programs may be reallocated by grantees in support of the reform plan described in the consolidated grant proposal if the commissioner determines that the objectives of the reallocation are consistent with the general purposes and objectives of the original grant program and the reform proposal advanced in the consolidated application;
Up to a quarter of other grants you're getting for other stuff? You can toss them in, too.
And the funds won't all go to districts:
provided further, notwithstanding any general of special law to the contrary, funds may be expended from this item to conduct a sufficient number of school and district reviews to support the purposes authorized in this item;
DESE can use them to pay for things like Holyoke's review! And they want to know how many they got to:
 the department shall issue a report not later than October 1, 2017, and biannually thereafter, describing and analyzing all intervention and targeted assistance efforts funded by this item including the number of school and district reviews conducted in support of those efforts; 
The report goes to the Governor and the usual list of Legislative leadership.
And you can't have the grant at all unless you're prepared long term to pick up the costs yourself:
 no funds shall be expended on recurring school or school district expenditures unless the department and school district have developed a long-term plan to fund such expenditures from the district's operational budget at the conclusion of the grant funding period
And the state can have $1.3 million of this:
 further, the department may allocate funds from this item for the administration of the programs authorized herein, including no more than 7.5 percent of these funds for purposes of establishing a Partnership Schools Network support team 
There is a very good chance, if you are in an urban school, that you are getting and planning on some of these funds. In Worcester, we receive and depend on nearly all of them.

UPDATE: earlier I had included the Kindergarten Expansion in this. That was incorrect: that grant has been CUT ENTIRELY. In Worcester, that's nearly a million dollars, and it's how we pay for 19 kindergarten IAs.

This budget goes to the House. Make sure they hear from you! You can find out who represents you by using the search function at the top of the page here
Friday update: Here's the Mass Budget and Policy Center on this:
The Governor proposes consolidating eleven student support programs focused on academically struggling schools and students into the Targeted Intervention in Underperforming Schools line item, which would be renamed the Partnership Schools Network. The Administration proposes funding these programs at $17.5 million, $1.5 million below the current levels and $4.2 million below what the legislature originally adopted for FY 2015. These services include literacy programs, initiatives in the Gateway Cities, and supports to those scoring low on state tests.
MassBudget also found the missing eleventh grant (which wasn't listed on those consolidated): it's Reading Recovery, previously at $295,000. I have updated the above totals to reflect that. And this is evidence, yet again, that MassBudget is a fantastic aid! 


Mary Lewis-Pierce said...

Hi Tracy,

Thank you for parsing through the state budget. I am happy to post this information to my parent groups and asked them to contact their House Reps. I just want to make sure that I understand. So the governor is proposing to consolidate 11 grants, and instead of grants being based on need, they will be given to districts with proposals that aggressively partner with outside agencies (like charters) chosen by DESE.

Is this right? Or am I missing something?

Tracy Novick said...

No, you have that exactly right. It's not clear entirely how much they would plan to base on what aspects of the plans, but it does sound quite a bit like district turnaround plans would be competing with each other.
Thanks so much for spreading the word and contacting Reps!