Monday, March 9, 2015

Foundation Budget Review Commission hearing: Boston

Commissioners are just coming in now: light crowd. I'll post once it starts.
And there is a ridiculous bright TV light shining at the audience...
Apologies in advance for missed names, schools, districts, etc.
Chang-Diaz: common themes across different regions
"increasing cost of health care most common theme"
Commissioners have a strong understanding of
"instead of using your three minutes to describe that problem to us with our mission in the context of the politics of twenty-two years ago"
"no one anticipated that after such a massive influx of money that we'd still be struggling with the issues that we're struggling with"
looking for assurance that if the massive investment is double-down on that it will be worth while

Superintendent McDonough (Boston Public Schools)
Fromer CFO of BPS
drop of state aid has become a major issue in our schools
does not accurately reflect special ed and ELL students we serve, nor true cost of serving them
true costs of health insurance
does not differentiate between high and low need special ed students
non-regional, non-vocational transportation was originally funded; was cut in 2003
"please be wary of unintended consequences"
any adjustment made to the underlying components would not impact Boston aid (I think? if I heard that right?)
would need foundation budget to increase $56 million to receive an increase in Chapter 70 aid
"does not fairly balance Boston's aggregate wealth against Boston's need"
and dang, they're going to let him go with this!
reviews needs of Boston Public Schools
comparing target shares of urban districts, which have lower municipal wealth, which is why their target share is lower...
so basically his whole argument there was about the aggregate wealth formula, which was not part of the committee
Senator Chang-Diaz says that she is full of questions but they are beyond the scope of the Commission (as they're on aggregate wealth)

someone speaking on behalf of the urban superintendents (the acoustics here are AWFUL)
"our students are at risk before they reach our doorsteps"
"increased foundation budget, not simply a reallocation and redistribution"
"witnesses to the growing disparities"
families living in extreme poverty, homelessness, hunger
"not all ELLs are equal" yet funding is equal
propose a weighed formula takes into account need, including poverty
Q: what would you look for in intensive interventions for immigrant families?
domestic situation of children who just got here: PTS, adjustment, not speaking English

speaking on behalf of a resident of Springfield: grandfather of a six year old
"take into account the increased cost of education English language learners"
"I want to be sure both my grandchildren will receive a quality education"

Parent of a child at Orchard Garden Public School
"help make sure that funding for" schools like hers will continue
Orchard Garden is a turnaround school, federal and state fundings running out
"I know the programs at Orchard Garden are helping my daughter" and other children as well

Stand for Children staffer: ELL, special ed, poverty

Chang-Diaz asks what programs she sees as key
children's grades, we have music, art, extended day program

Tom Gosnell, AFT-MA
"overwhelmingly urban locals"
teachers deal with low income and poverty-stricken students all the time
substantial increase in students living in poverty
guarantee those students are in the public schools
"have increased enormously in number"
"frequently not only not knowledgable about English, but illiterate in their own languages"
special need programs "not common back in the early 90's"
"impact on a regular classroom is absolutely enormous"
"unless you deal with the opportunity gap first, you will not be able to deal with the achievement gap"
Q, Barbara Madeloni: sense of sort of resources that would be necessary to close gap?
"I would say an absolutely critical resource is the wraparound services"
"have an inclusion gap" need for training and resources and needs to be ongoing

Generations Citizen: advocating for "an actions based civics organization"
a civics mission that we must provide
"crucial moment for Massachusetts to regain" leadership in this field
must provide salaries, professional development
concerned about combined humanities program

Walpole School Committee: "Legislature prioritized education"
minimum aid cities and towns didn't receive much aid
statewide was 11% increase; some recieved none
just going to interrupt here to say that Walpole funds schools at 25.9% over foundation, $10M more than required...

Reminder from Chang-Diaz of charge of commission

Citizen Schools: expands learning day
expand beyond small number of kids
"need to double down on expanded day"
should fund the models that work and avoid more of the same models that aren't proven to work
Chang-Diaz: other things that don't work so well
"just tinkering around the edges, just adding time around the edges"

teacher at Joseph Lee : testimony around Citizen Schools for longer day with other people testing
"more time in school gives more kids more of a chance to do these things"
"offer teachers and school leaders additional district capacity"
"students ready to start a second shift of their day"

National Center on Time in Learning and 20/20
"Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states in the country with a 14% child poverty rate"
many lessons learned on expanded time
"twice as likely to be high growth in mathmatics"
all high performing charter schools are expanded learning time, some with as much as 60% more time
more opportunities beyond test scores
"we believe the state should consider"
back and forth about if expanded time was required or intended in original foundation formula
which is fun, because it's coming from the guy who wrote the foundation formula
Q from Madeloni: do you mean test scores?
more time for teachers to collaborate, other activities for children, as well as measurable

parent/grandparent of children in BPS: Quest
"committed to building stronger public school systems by engaging community forces"
"educate the whole child"
recess and PE equipment, art and music
creating more robust wraparound services
more counselors, nurses,
safe and affordable transportation to school
"growing two-tiered system"
age-appropriate, not test-driven education
"partner with parents, teachers, and the community"
fully fund education

Comment by Madeloni on the differences of school buildings based on socio-economics of community school is in
response from parent "every piece of a child's development should be taken into consideration"

Chang-Diaz comments that they have to be out of the building by 8 am

"We need schools that our children deserve; we need schools that our communities deserve"
"what does a foundation budget mean? Sounds strong, sounds loving"
"never experienced a foundation budget"
"my children never experienced a foundation budget"
"there's been a desertion and abandonment by the federal and state government of what our children need"
"always or almost harmful and destructive budgets"
"let's have a foundation budget that's really strong, that's really loving, that will really take care of the children that we love"
"let's tax the rich"
"our children's lives matter, our children's education matter"

per MassBudget would require $2.1B annual
"costs have gone up"
"state needs to generate more revenue for educational purposes"
get rich to pay their fair share
Boston could use an override
Boston has 50% of real estate occupied by non-profits
maybe take another look at non-profits
"city of Boston needs more money and our schools need more money"
"first priority should be our children"
"Bring it back to the 1993 funding level"

senior at Dorchester Academy: believe that lack of support has triggered closing of school next year
see negativity, non-nutritious breakfast with expired milk
400 students sharing one guidance counselor
sharing books, 4 kids per book, books are outdated
"have become an advocacy for change in our community"
"you're not investing in a building, you're not investing in a book, you're investing the future of your children"

senior at sorry, I don't know the BPS names well enough to catch them
"I'm younger than this budget, but I make changes every day"
extracurricular activities, A/C, better food, more options, working bathrooms
working water fountains
nurses, guidance counselors
"I live in Boston. Why don't I have these? Why don't all students have these basic needs?"

Senior at Dorchester Academy:
didn't have a schedule for the first few days of school of 9th grade as the school moved
moved again this summer, significantly smaller space
now school closing
weren't categorized as Level 4 school until they moved into this building

Junior in high school: breakfast and lunch
don't have healthy or options for things to eat
"how do we expect students to give 100% in classes if they don't have the food they need"
"outdated lack of school supplies"
have Windows 98 computers "Why do we have Windows 98 computers? My phone is smarter than my computer!"
thanks coming from Commissioner to students who came "but you've gotta keep coming!"

Madison Park student: bring it down to the level of interventions
"its not really all about budget"
"I don't want to see my little sister go through what I've gone through"
"make it more of a democracy and open it up more to parents and teachers and students"

Student: increase in our budget "so we can end the plague known as failing"
end the crimilization of our youth
"less money for our youth"
harrassment by police over non-violent offenses every day
"the dreams of being the scholars we want to be die"
hard to walk back into the building where you've been accused of being a criminal
"it's not about the test scores; it's about us"

Sen. Jehlen: "very different conversation than we've been hearing"
"as a member of the Education committee, I am disturbed that we are holding schools accountable (without these resources) and I want to know if that's happening more in some poor communities than others"
"Some people in Boston are getting a good civics education, and they're giving it to us."
Madeloni thanks students for their testimony "of what they need"
Chang-Diaz "please know that your testimony is not falling on deaf ears"
Chang-Diaz "please don't ever believe that budget don't matter. Budget calendars don't lie. Budgets are a written expression of our priorities."

teacher:spent $3000 over four years
pencils, scissors, carpets
didn't include a carpet or an easel from Donors Choose
didn't include $750 for books and blocks for second graders in indoor recess
or clothing for student who just came to the US
or groceries for a family that's just arrived
students do not arrive with skills they need
"when our school budgets cannot meet our students' needs, we teachers have to pick up the slack"
could only afford these expensese because family sent her through college and grad school
"pains me to think of what their (classmates still paying college loans) classrooms still lack"
how can schools recruit teachers from backgrounds like their students when these are the lacks in the classrooms? Teachers can't afford to make up the difference 
"giving a fighting chance to students"

2nd grade teacher in East Boston
given $500 by Cambridge (when she taught there) and $500 from parents organization
"this year I have no money"
book donations from friends and family
spent over $600 of own money
pencils and paper are necessity
change in poverty reporting level means her school will lose $70,000 (I should point out here that this is due to how BPS, not the state, allocated funds)
"an undocumented family is far less likely to be" recorded as being in poverty
"want the budget my students deserve and the schools my students deserve"

teacher in Roxbury
really proud to be part of pioneering a new practice school
"have all walks of life...we don't have resources, don't have specialized resources"
"remarkable to see the compassion and the respect of all our children"
20% of children are living in homeless shelters
have a slab of cement to play, about five hulahoops and three balls

Jessica Tang, BPS teacher, BTU organizer
share stories from teachers: leaks, holes, crumbling walls
"well-kept facilities affect learning abilities"
consider facility costs when considering foundation budget
history and social studies being cut; happening to science, arts, music
aren't getting health, PE
amount of money spent on testing: $35,000 for an achievement map to prepare for MCAS (!!!)
spent over 25 days a year testing
fully reimburse charter schools expenses; creates resentment
money going to outside consultants
"how do we create revenue? with us so all students are able to have the schools they deserve"
"must find a way to do so"

parent: "i can't understand the budget system" having moved here from elsewhere
"it's like my kids are falling in the cracks"
"son has to get up at five o'clock to get to school at nine" (that would be transportation)
affects not just students, but parents as well, due to stress
"if this is a budget issue, it needs to change and it needs to change fast"

BPS parents: chair of Citywide Parent Council
decline amount of Boston Public Schools budget that is state funded
"my choice is to be in the Boston Public Schools, but I feel as though that choice is being taken away from me."
would endorse notion of base rate being raised to $100 (this is the $25/pupil budgets are raised by (at least) each year; Baker's budget is $20)
"equal funding is not the same as equitable funding"
points back to MASS proposal on special education, health insurance, inflation rate

MASS Executive Director (I think?)
thanks Commission for having this happen
"believe exceptionally in Chapter 70 framework"
about $2B short of that requirement
about 44 municipalities have exceeded 120% of foundation budget
many urban districts, poorer districts cannot exceed foundation
have had several studies of this issue
going bak to 2007; inequities
health insurance and sped
correct assumptions and calcucations
recommend a seven year plan, increasing $200M per year
get to 70-80% of actual expense in that time
1/4% increase in assumption of special education
increase out of district tuition by $10,000
regular ed has suffered, as a result of these two areas being funded
consider extending commission
"continue the grand bargain" of increasing funding, increasing education
Q: no requirement that districts spend money for special education that are provided
should there be more strings on categorical funding?
answer: individual districts need to make some determination within categories, should provide backup, then state benchmarks
superintendents want to help out

"elephant in room is health insurance"
"other money in the wings...OPEB...that needs to be budgeted"
also 132 munipalities that are counting retirement towards foundation budget
recommend that you fund those huge deficits"
could he be MMA?
could allow a shift in funding over seven years to get those other things right
begin to fund the real needs for supplies and materials for our students

can't come close to eloquent testimony of students; would recommend having a student in future such commissions
comparison with students in suburbs
"Why is the Newton school so much nicer than mine?"
"it's not just how much money, it's how you are allocating it"
differences among ELL students (given family background and such)
"complex needs in urban districts"
"funding is equal, but even with adjustments, it is not equitable"

student at West Roxbury Academy (which is being closed)
state has turned its back on us
"we are proud of our had made above target grades in reading and math...isn't that what school is about? Growth?"
every year we're told we have to cut
"it hasn't been updated since I was born"
"make it work for all schools"

Lisa Guisbond, Citizens for Public Schools
"I want the schools our communities deserve"
need less testing and more time for learning
testing is not only taking time and less resources for learning
doesn't give education provided for by Mass Constitution
"focus on testing is actually undermining public schools...misrepresenting our schools as failing"
could turn that around
court set out broad guidelines for sufficient education
testing is not one of those goals
have instead been narrowing and constraining learning
need to have other ways of measuring what we're doing
"need to stop putting our valuable resources into high stakes testing"

student at Madison: here to ask for state to fund Madison
cites BPS budget cutting Madison budget
vocational programs at Madison don't have the equipment needed for the program
"I am in welding and we haven't done any welding"
asks for increase in vocational increment

Deputy Superintendent of Lawrence Seth Racine: perspective of Gateways Cities
can only fund at foundation
cannot go to voters to ask for more, minimum is what has been funded
increase comes down to inflation in foundation budget (which he just cited from memory!)
what's that look like over town
average funding used to be over suburban districts; now has fallen below or at
compares with Andover
compares Fall River with surroundings
"how are we to compete and keep the best teachers?"
would be reluctant to tie strings to particular parts of budget
"what is the baseline budget of the district? then it comes down to school committees and districts deciding how the money will be spent"
Q: if foundation budget increased sections, how can districts prevent from having that measures from going to health insurance?
other measures available to district: GIC and such
strong baseline budget
Q about comparison he's making
average per pupil spending not near surrounding districts as others fund over foundation
Q: grant buckets tend to be more politically grants still recommendation
grant funding can provide an opportunity to get a program off the ground
then assess if it's working, bring it in house if you can find the funding and its working

Mass Business Alliance for Education : original assumptions made in foundation budget has not kept pace with what our students need
increased funding has not lead to student achievement "in a straight line"
recommend targeting specific needs of students: fundings should follow student to school
which is what Boston does and part of what's causing the concerns from parents and teachers tonight
should focus on outcomes not inputs: reward success when people do
productivity reviews as recommended by Center for American Progress
Q: about pass through
would like to see schools ultimately decide on what district to go to for services
Q about growth scores
need better measures
also recommends rewards for positive outcomes (which is sounding a lot like providing more for districts that "succeed"?)
my battery is about to die
Madeloni: how do you talk about outcomes if you've never controlled from inputs?
Q: not making decisions based on that
dispute from Madeloni on funding for inputs and not doing that yet

Kenny Jervis: parent of BPS students
"every time I hear from students, I hear what they don't have"
"it pains me, it pains me to hear this, day in and day out"
"when it comes to the funding of our schools, it's obviously not working!"
"if someone has a need, you need to address that need: you don't wait around twenty years!"

Final testimony of the night from a librarian regarding libraries being recognized as a necessary part of education. 

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