Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Foundation Budget Review Commission

came in a minute late to a presentation by Karla Brooks Baehr on benchmarking using the state's data resources: comparing like districts, spending, and MCAS scores; this is going to be tough to blog without the charts
(I should also point out that I was sitting behind the Chairs, and sometimes didn't catch all that they said; apologies for what I missed)
limitations on this benchmarking: limited school-level data, grant expenditures too aggregated, student performance not aggregated enough, DART not flexible enough, EDWIN difficult to master
Recommending that studying benchmarking: look at limitations, and provide what is needed to overcome them
Commissioner (who is here!) answering a few questions about the database that's being used for these comparisions, how long they've had it, what they're working on with it
superintendent commenting on use: go in with a theory, looking for data to see what data responds to that
Suggestion from Baehr: chart with left verticle of student growth and performance and bottom would be student spending (yes, really!)
"And you'd look for example for high growth, low spending districts"
"you'd look for low growth high spending"
"create networks where you could take the questions that are prompted by the benchmarks and use them for levels of state involvement
suggest a continuum: level one: local control progressing to more state involvement depending on level to level 5 with no local control
gradations suggestions to low growth/high spending districts in terms of how much state intervention you could have (she puts this in terms of "hands": heaviest hand, lightest hand)
"and the heaviest: you could make access to funding dependant on the use of the benchmarks"
promoting collaborative and regional services: department could require all districts to be part of a collaborative; if they are not, they must show that they have a more cost-effective alternative
suggests that health insurance level could be adjusted based on median spending base per pupil based on districts in GIC with employee contributions with 75%
ELL & low income allotment: state could REQUIRE use of additional allotments to go to ELL & low income schools
chart comparing percentage of workday therapists spent with students: internal benchmarking within a district
Not just looking at common planning time, but how it is used, for example
Baehr cautions:there are no panaceas: just practical steps districts can be supported to take towards more effective allocation
Q from Verdolino (this from MASBO's rep): what is the optimum district size? "My contention is that there are districts that are too small to achieve efficiencies and some that are too large to do so"
Baehr: has been some national research on that
Verdolino: and should this be something that the state should be promoting?
Baehr: "I'm just in the practical" districts that need access to collaboratives and the services that they provide
Peyser: "seems as if an underpining as to getting to applying many aspects...is the granularity of the data"
Baehr: don't know enough about it
Hatch: MASBO a great partner: to me the question is to put tools in the hands of those who make decisions about resource allocation in the state; district level and the school level
"time available to school and district leaders to do this kind of work"
would take time and resources
could only take work from MASBO and leaders
"to the degree that they're frustrated with the lack of granularity of data" would be how much work could be done
department would be in a better position to know what data is in the accounting software at the district level is available (if they were hearing this from MASBO & business officials)
"would need to be a balance of calling for better information and getting people in the field" to volunteer what data they already have
"much muddier answer"
Commissioner now asking questions about a scattergraph chart that I mostly can't see
Chester: if I'm a district of 1000 students spending $4000 on fixed benefits and charges, if I could make that $1000 per student, I'd free up $3000 times 1000 students 
(I'm not clear where this was going; I think the muliplier effect of any cost savings that could be realized if all districts had lowest cost?)
median size is 17-1800 students
a quarter are at less than 800 students per district
Jehlen: we also need to think about local goals, that aren't ELA and math, about socio-emotional growth, about other achievement
"to the extent that we measure and require things, we limit other goals"
"I would hate for this commission to accept that there's such a limited number of things in how we measure success"
"there are a lot of heavy hands...making information public is good...would be surprised if state telling districts" would be acccepted
Madeloni: other pieces that speak to other goals
Baehr: whole suite of DART goals: ratio of art teachers to students in the district, for example
Madeloni: what can we learn from high growth high spending? What are they doing to add other things?
doesn't always look at the broader political systems: "systems that have more money already are not going to have heavy hand of state"
Chang-Diaz: will be more sessions for more discussion
superintendent: this is a start to investigate, not necessarily to draw conclusions

Chang-Diaz and Peisch offering proposals to discuss about moving forward
Chang-Diaz proposing to be sure "meaty, important work" has sufficient time; that they use a five month extension: November 1 deadline
also make some crisp decisions today about areas and pockets of potential recommendations today
time to give substantial deliberation
would propose to no more presentations at this time: time to those appointed to deliberate
would meet June, July, none in August, September, October to review report
Peisch proposing push for June deadline
"I would like to point out that we are not able to extend ourselves" need Legislative approval
would not know until end of June that extension was possible
believed focus on few significant items: special education and health insurance
Peisch: "could take up health insurance and special education today" then take up others to narrow focus of others to those that have received a broad base of support from the group
think it's necessary to have report by deadline
Jehlen: have served on many commissions that have not reported out by deadline; also that report comes out to Joint Committee on education (and chairs of commission also chair that committee)
seems that Senate chair has laid out a good way that this could be influential
"have put a significant amount of time into this"
low income and ELL, for example, need to be included
"would be reluctant to report out" that doesn't include that
has not seen any recommendations from advisory groups; would want to hear from them first
Reville: sympathic to extention, but "feel a sense of urgency"
"have a pretty clear forceful message" about sped and health insurance
"have worried in general that if we try to do too much to do the perfect rather than the good that we're setting up a target that is so large that it makes it easy for the Legislature to dismiss"
Reville wonders about middle ground: issue report by deadline, but Commission will supplementally deliberate then issue a supplementary report
another: has been no deliberation involved, issuing a report without any substantial deliberation would be frustrating
letting them know that the recommendation is coming would give them plenty of notice
"think the Commission would benefit from the discussion on this [foundation budget] and that people will walk away frustrated" without that
need a majority of the Legislature to vote this
need to give them some kind of confidence that this is a good use of money
"I don't think there's time to make a proposal about this, let alone make people comfortable with this"
then "you might as well not have the report, because it's not going to happen"
Rep. Ferguson: "I do think we need to produce something"
"gives us that credibility"
do we think at making two sets (of recommendations)?
districts looking not at FY16, but FY17 and beyond
tight timeframe
Peisch: think that that we can make honest recommendations and at the same time be complete
can circulate proposals without meeting
Francomano (MASC rep): looking for a comprehensive proposal
"I'm hearing that people are saying 'it's already been decided that it's health insurance and sped'"
that wouldn't be sufficient
need to address all of the issues, not just the two that were decided early on, that the Legislators really want to know
AFT: teachers in urban areas of the state: wouldn't want this commission to be characterized as one that was directed by the two chairs and only did the issues that they raised.
all of the issues that are brought up need full deliberation
Suggestion from another that discussion of two areas under consideration be dealt with first, then this decided
Chang-Diaz agrees that we're close to an agreement about those two proposals
looking at the spread of other issues that were circulated by email
thinks that deliberation by email would be of lower caliber
questions around requirements and strings, levels of reporting, levels of funding direction at district versus schools
"how do we answer those questions between now and June 29?"
Chester: additional time would give us time to explore those things more deeply, but not sure how quickly anyone would come to agreement
for example, ELL funds following child
would find it valuable to publish report that there are agreement on
flagging areas for other and further discussion
Q from Verdolino (MASBO): outcome? bill that goes to Joint Committee
if report is issued by June, bill goes to Joint Committee, testimony brings out other issues during hearings..."would that give us our cake and eat it, too?"
Chang-Diaz: people of good will can disagree on this
two part report "harness urgency best by keeping urgency on us to deliver the report"
spread of attention: I worry about handicapping those (2nd) set of recommendations relative to the first
Peisch: don't think in any way lessens...clear interest in health insurance and special education students
way to get to a recommendation that gets a report in June
"time does matter"
getting report out in June that does address priorities as well as how money should be allocated
"clear message to our colleagues" about importance
argues that "it's far more likely to result in action"
(someone else) would like to give time necessary
far too important to not give time and attention
(another): going to take time across the state..."agree substantially with Alice"(Peisch)
"because there's not enough money for health care, there's not enough money for anything else"
a billion and half dollars isn't there "of course it isn't enough"
"I think we need time to discuss this...go through these allowances" so people can see that those two areas are enough or there aren't
"I can't go to the Legslature and say 'this will be enough' because there aren't teacher coaches in there" and we don't know that without going through how much we're short by catagory
Madeloni (MTA): "will be perceived as a quick fix" rather than we've looked at it deeply
(from someone else): "we don't come to this stage in isolation"
"needed to be approved to come together"
"put those together to me...have some pieces that even with the blunt recording instruments we have"
"I think that we get down to is this ratio right, is the floor right...I think that if we get down too deep into the details..." will get bogged down
appreciate reminder of charge of committee
"there's more work to be done...Legislature is going to need to put this in context"
contribution and aid side have been left off the table
Peisch suggesting that group vote
looking for clarification on Reville's proposal
wondering if report can be issued as interim: Chang-Diaz recommends that permission would need to be granted on that
Madeloni: asking for clarification
Reville: motion to issue a preliminary report for June deadline, then a final report for November
Jehlen: suggest that preliminary report include other issues that are needed to be considered
Reville: at some point need to be strategic for a few two or three things
be sure that we're relatively clear and transparent about what we're campaigning for
will be disagreement, but at some point we just need to call the question and move on
Verdolino asks if co-chairs are pleased with proposal
Peisch agrees
Chang-Diaz: would be important that final report be comprehensive
commission looking at consensus...voice vote is unanimous
(in other words, it will be a two part report: sped and health insurance, with list of other needs, for June deadline; comprehensive report in November)

Jehlen: asks when advisory groups will be heard from; "would like to see their comments"
Peisch: suggests a preliminary vote on this, subject to comment from advisory members

And onto the actual proposals for sped and health insurance:
DESE comments after looking at average GIC costs of municipal health plan; compared it to what foundation budget provides
in addition looked at what is actual expense for retiree health care
foundation budget never included anything on retiree health insurance
when you look at difference between what is being spent by districts on employees, a huge component of that is the retiree health insurance which was never included
would add a new foundation category from retiree health insurance
also a separate inflation adjustor for health insurance
"pretty straightforward"
up for discussion of health insurance inflation adjustor: recommendation "that it be developed" rather than specific be recommended
suggestion "really important not to leave this in the abstract..should be related to the GIC costs"
"normally things in the foundation budget are related to something" concrete
don't think retiree health insurance is really in control of local district
"have to work out how you would normalize that"
"really have to avoid having district being able to control its foundation budget that way"

Peisch: special education: would use recommendation received from various groups to raise assumed from 3.75% to 4.0% (in-district) and raise assumed out-of-district costs within budget to that number that would capture district's costs such that when you add the average per pupil expenditure...up to four times the foundation budget...

Aha! This added later: increase out-of-district per pupil rate to capture full cost to district prior to the circuit breaker kicking. In other words, increase by:

  4x foundation per pupil-(statewide per pupil+out-of-district cost)

calculating out how that works:

For health care (using FY14 numbers):
$684M increase in foundatoin budget, assuming a one year increase
required local increase $42M
$406M increase in chapter 70
(note that the above do not add up due to excess aid being in there)

Q: what does this do in terms of if the retirees health insurance is municipal budget or district?
Peisch: outside the purview of the commission
note that there is "a certain amount of excess aid" in the budget

I believe I got these numbers right; I'll double-check them as soon as I see anything else
on special ed : change in assumption of in-district
$55M increase in foundation budget
$29M increase in ch. 70 aid

on special ed: change in out of district
$46M increase in foundation budget
note that anything that raises foundation will lower circuit breaker

all told (of those together, using FY14 numbers)
bottom line for state: change of $515M in chapter 70

note from Hatch (? I think?) giving out aid ahead to those who don't really need it?
Peisch: assume that we'll entertain some discussion on views to legislature
1993 was a seven year implimentation

Q: confused on how you take the average GIC number by policy and convert that to students?
by the expected number of teachers

Q: do we start to include contributions to OPEB moving forward?
current policy is they can't count as transfers now, as they can't count twice

Fifty municipalities and regional districts are in the GIC
back and forth about if this will drive people to the GIC
will keep costs within benchmark

Verdolino: does it impact circuit breaker?
response: it all drives up the foundation budget
districts will lose some circuit breaker money

Q: what about the local share?
"you're not putting in the foundation budget the difference between actual and projected"
(this on special education out-of-district)
remark by Peisch that this is beyond the purview of this

MOTION to accept
Jehlen: always look at impact on equity
haven't seen these numbers until a half an hour ago
"I want to know how this effects that question" before voting

motion passes, 'though not unanimously

Chang-Diaz: draft workplan, summary of proposals made
asking for response to those ideas, what you want to prioritize moving forward

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