Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MASC Day on Hill: updates from legislators

Posting as we go (once we start) Twitter hashtag is #MASCDoH

House is meeting in caucus this morning, then deliberating budget this afternoon

First up, Senator Chang-Diaz, Senate chair, Joint Committee of Education
priorities in the education committee for the term ahead
work is just getting under way: first hearing of education next week
issue of funding is something that doesn't end up coming through Education, but comes through Ways and Means, but leadership provided; provides priorities
Ch. 70, special ed circuit breaker, reimbursement for charter schools, McKinney-Vento, regional transportation, wraparound services, regional transportation...all budgetary priorities
Foundation budget review commission held hearings, now meeting
"What is the cost to educate a child in Massachusetts?"
then how do we divvy up the pie? who pays for it?
"what are some of the things we know now that we didn't know in 1993?"
have heard you loud and clear: appreciate "the years of difficult work you have done" in dealing with foundation budget that hasn't been keeping up with your costs
impact of health care costs
grappling with poverty, social emotional things that come with that
report is an interim step; will be taken up by Legislature and Governor
making sure that views of SC's are represented
"specific and actionable"
priority of early ed: can really move the dial in costs and in outcomes
expect to see some work on that
reducing regulation: state mandates, being conservative with new ones, looking at old ones
"I know that there's some fist shaking that goes on with Department of Education" in terms of reports required by them; "you should know that they feel the same way about the Legislature"
eye on regulations that have happened in the past few years and how implimentation is going
Q: charter cap? (This question from Devin Sheehan, vice-chair, Holyoke)
"it's a big unknown...17 bills before the committee that have to do with charter schools with one way or another"
"ongoing vivid debate"
"I don't see any major shifts in this building"
"my district is even divided over this...I'm willing to consider targeted way to raise the cap, if we can do in a way that doesn't harm children" in the system
Q: support for METCO?
Goes through budget, not through education
budget is a competitive process, have to come in and advocate
Chang-Diaz points out that tax credits don't have advocacy around budget time; worth considering

Senator Benjamin Downing being recognized as Legislator of the Year
"have to say I think this is rigged" as he represents 32 communities "which is a lot of school committees"
"if I have one plug on the policy side..." Demographics of Berkshires: poorer, older..."how to figure out how to get from where we are to where we'd like to be" isn't easy
Getting over that first hurdle isn't easy
"should be a process by which we can come up with regional plans...districts that make sense for the future"
will add to Chang-Diaz: benefit of income tax cut went predominately to highest earners
in next few years will have cut most progressive tax and majority of benefit of that will flow to top income earners

Senator Karen Spilka, Senate Ways and Means
(former Ashland School Committee member)
"I know how hard your job is...I know those who are on the front lines, I know how hard your job is."
some of the same guiding principles she worked on that we're working on today (on the foundation budget)
"proud that our education system leads the nation"
"acknowledge that we can always do better"
"do need to provide the tools and resources to provide for kids to prepare for future careers"
"education I can tell you remains a top priority for me" on budget
"it's what got me in the door here"
making families more self-sufficient
"make sure that it's a compasionate budget"
make targeted investments to get returns on investments
Q: school infrastructure: MSBA funding
"aging buidlings..."
Spilka: "I think where the School Building Authority is now is a vast improvement"
Q: lack of broadband...rurality factor in foundation budget
Spilka: one of the major reasons I got involved is equitable funding
even "separate from schools, we need to just do it" [broadband]

Rep. Jay Kaufman
"fair share" commission: wealthiest paying smallest share of income in tax
will be on 2018 ballot
"we have a very unfair tax system"
"my understanding of economics, we have a regressive tax system"
whenever we have
working to create a more fair tax system: invite you into the conversation
"there's enough money out there, but" not coming after it the right ways
"this is by way of asking for your help"

Rep. Alice Peisch, House Chair, Joint Committee on Education
passionate advocacy for public education: how to get there and how to address some of the persistent problems that we have had over the years raises at times some conflicts
hope that the legislation that comes out of the Committee lies where the consensus lies
"nothing more important than communication"
"more challenging budget year than anticipated"
hoping that Foundation Budget Review Commission will have "practical implications," though she cautions that she doesn't know where the money is coming from (interesting: no mention of the above from Kaufman, Chang-Diaz, and Downing)
Joint Committee on Education starts meeting next week (which I've posted here and will also post as a separate item) and they hope to get through most of the bills filed with them by summer break; if not, they'll finish in the fall.
Q: kindergarten grant
Peisch notes House funded Quality K grant at end-of-FY15 levels (thus after the midyear budget cuts). Was intended to increase access to full day K and improve quality; more than 90% of districts now have K, districts should plan to transition out
Q: preK
Peisch: looking at ways to increase access across the state. Mixed delivery system shows promise

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