Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Liveblogging the Foundation Budget Review Commission

live from a well-refrigerated fourth floor room at the State House (which still doesn't have wifi)
posting as we go 

UPDATE: Because it becomes relevant, a partial cast list: Pat Francomano is Mass School Committees president; Dave Verdolino is MASBO (finance people)'s Executive Director; Barbara Madeloni is the Mass Teachers' Association (union) president; Melissa King does some finance things for DESE;Tom Moreau is there for the Secretary of Ed; and Ed Moscovitch wrote the foundation formula originally.

in approval of minutes, Q from Francomano: preliminary report was going to lay out remainder of things that will be discussed beyond sped and health insurance; not reflected in the minutes
motion to add consensus report will innumerate "all of concerns"
Chang-Diaz: recollection not crystal about this, recall discussing it in the workplan
thought preliminary versions of findings included?
Francomano: that they would be listed, "that it was essential that these be dealt with as well"
Peisch: told that third paragraph on second page, essentially verbatium from that
by notes he's right; the suggestion was made by Sen. Jehlen
Jehlen: we all understand that it's going to be the case; would that be sufficient in your view
Francomano: I don't want to have a preliminary report be issued with other items that are equally valid
Peisch: I don't think there's great disagreement about what needs to be addressed over this month
varying recollection of what was produced
minutes are not a transcript, a reflection of actions taken
Francomano: would not have voted for compromise item if it did not include other items
MBAE member expects other items
EEC: today's conversation will be included in preliminary report in some way, "captured" in some way
"I think whether it's reflected in the minutes are not" that's consensus
Chang-Diaz; include in minutes for THIS minute that catagories that will continue to deliberate on over the session in preliminary report
Francomano agrees
minutes approved

review and discuss feedback on health care and special ed
vote was "subject to input from advisory members"
comments have been submitted and distributed
chairs have reviewed comments and have in packet a proposal
under health care benefits: adjust health care to reflect average group insurance rate, separate health care cost adjuster
Peisch: in reviewing comments from advisory group, this is the proposal that reflected the majority of the comments that were received
Madeloni: recommend blended rate, not just GIC
some municipalities don't wish to shift costs to employees
acknowledge that not everyone is using the same rate
MBAE: into details of what the average is and what the average means
not clear it's being driven by actual cost, actual numbers
have to consider that
"it is not clear...what the average means here, is there some weighting, are retirees in there...what average means versus what other factors are included"
whether or not we take into account a weighted average versus the cost of all plans or as Mass Taxpayers suggested the highest enrollment plan
a little more understanding what just what we mean by average
Melissa King (DESE): average employer share of the premium
"to do any refinement of that primarily relies on getting good data"
MASBO: might be helpful to know, back in '93, what was the basis of this rate
"I have trouble trying to blend something with other providers who may come and go"
assuming that GIC being used because many are in GIC
anything from how number was derived then? (this to creator of formula)
met with five superintendents, who shared their information
at the time thought of having several inflation rates
why are we looking for a different rate? You want something that goes up at whatever rate the cost of health care goes up
Is our purpose to fund whatever health costs are occurring or a reasonable rate?
Edward Moscovitch: Don't just want to fund what everyone is spending
"I was thinking last night about the politics; it isn't so much what we're going to vote on but what's going to pass the Legislature"
important to understand what made the conservative Governor to fund a $2B increase in education
business community pushed for proposal: "It was the business community's proposal"
the other thing that gave it legs was a number of other things having to do with schools: charter schools, testing increase
"they believed that built into this were things that were going to change schools"
"if we don't include those sorts of things it this, I don't think we're going to be successful"
regional schools: have to find a benchmark people can live with
"I think there have been a number of legsilative" measures with GIC
think retiree part is excellent
also some cost of living
"we're never going to come to a perfect solution"
brings $684M to the table to begin to address some of the areas we've all heard about
another: think average will be nailed down (later)
send a bad message (if use something other than GIC)
"presumably that money has gone back to schools in varying fashions"
Chang-Diaz: Q on costs of insurance (family/individual)
Madeloni (MTA); most of our districts are not in GIC; even if we could look at BC/BS, get a more realistic view of the costs
Peisch: some may not be part of GIC but costs are in same general rates
"I think it's a reasonable benchmarks"
motion to amend using Mass Taxpayers recommendation of average of GIC rate
"rate has to be multiplied by something"
"most widely used GIC program weighed according to the way it's actually used in family and individuals"
MASBO: "I don't disagree with what Ed's saying, but isn't that farther down the line?"
"in two lines, there's a lot of work to do of what's captured in that sentence"
I'm making the assumption that they're going to look at split at family/individual and range of copays
"if we were to try to capture all of that in here, we wouldn't get anything else done today"
Peisch: thinks number is embedded in calcuation
King: it's the statutory staff (not actual employees)
Peisch recommends that people think about the time
Tom Moreau: you're picking up the average, you're picking up the commonality of usage
of reforming health care: "like this, these things don't come down from Sinai"
Peisch asks if there are any further comments
motion seconded by Francomano
Madeloni: using MassBudget, this proposal will leave a gap in funding
MBAE: does this give leverage to municipalities to have 'is this a good conversation to have or not'
"it certainly is directionally covering part of the gap"
regionals point out that the conversation has to happen every year, anyway,as they need to show gap between most common and plan used by district
Chang-Diaz: don't know that we can get there today
"worry a little bit about volitility"
Reville: incumbent upon us as we set benchmarks to create "maximum efficiencies" at the local level
aka: districts may spend more, that doesn't mean it's right
Reville: review of history of standards applying to everyone, some periodic measures of accountability
Peisch: any comment on other two components as related to health care
now onto retiree health insurance
One way or the other, it has to be in for everyone or other for everyone
MASBO: had it be included in 93, wouldn't have the gap we have now
could be most significant part of proposal
Mass Taxpayers wants to include retirees health insurance in NSS
argument is that there's no formula that would captured it
assume that towns actual costs would be included, can't come up with any way to do it
Peisch: recommendations are intended to be general for those who will actually draft legislation
"how municipalities deal with unfunded liabilities they have in the past is not part of this"
MBAE: some capture of inflation has to be in here, some thing that has to be in here is frequency (of taking this measure)
actual drafting of report should include; montior for volitility
like Mass Taxpayers' argument on leaving it out; how it can be part of mandated spending
Peisch: draft report will be circulated for comment
Moreau: concern about crowding out happens currently, as it isn't included in all but is included in that
"expenditures towards that are being counted as expenditures towards education"
"has been a thorny, troubling problem that no one has been able to resolve"
regionals: remember that if we take it out, communities will pick it up as an additional assessment
those towns it does impact will not be supportive
consensus to move forward on using "most common" versus "average"
Reville asks what the difference is; Peisch "we don't know" as the calculation hasn't been done
staying with average, rather than most common

Peisch: special education
moves it up to the level of what actually is
16% receiving special education services 25% of the time
Jehlen: I know that it's about 17% receiving services; I don't know that it's 25%
Peisch: number was put forward by superintendent
Jehlen: is number based on what's typical, what's average?
MASS: based on "what's typical"
Francomano: have heard that this number has varied
does MASS argue that this is a realistic representation of what currently exists?
MASBO: we've not done the math to quantify
I don't know if data was available to support 25%
"some districts are going to overrun 25% on average"
"I think for the purposes of what we're doing here you have to have a benchmark"
"I don't think that has come from the administrative group; I know it didn't come from MASBO"
Francomano: if it's merely better than what we have, that's not a benchmark for what we should be striking for
DESE: state average for sped is 17% head count
MASS: don't collect under federal
"it's a benchmark to start from"
Francomano(MASC): don't want to start from, concerned about grabbing something while we can
Moreau: there was a time when we had better information
information we need
"you want to base it on practice rather than what we've been doing"
Francomano: want to be sure we all know that and include that in the report
reminder that the assumption was low
if the assumption was low or if the costs were low
running through what the assumptions of the costs were when foundation budget was constructed
Ferguson: year to year it looks different
different program may have different models
"we're not going to be able to do it" (in getting a standard)
"you could have a great program for autistic program in one district that isn't replicable in other districts"
"what you look at staffing and things, it's a whole other ballgame...we aren't going to investigate it without" much more work
Jehlen: recommend that it is an inadequate measure and should be revisited in three years
"I believe that 25% is too low...know a lot of kids that have one on one and I don't want those kids outsourced"
this assumption should be revisited after three years of data collection of actual amount of time students are being served
Madeloni: is the rate adequate accurate?
MASBO: really have to get one of them right, recognizing where only one of them lies
"I think there should be something aspirational to this rate"
in other words, he's arguing that the state should be pressuring districts to drive this cost center down
"there's two components to sped: an in-district component and an out-of-district" component
MBAE: modest movement in the direction of actual costs
'there is a difference with special ed" versus health care
Peisch: out of district cost to eliminate gap between
some back and forth about mathematics of how it works
MassBudget: still has a comment on in district
in-district may have a problem "and we just don't know yet"
set current staffing against previous assumption
"I hope moving forward there's room" to discuss
"I didn't hear an amendment to the language that's being adopted"
Peisch: no, there wasn't
MassBudget: so statement of the problem isn't what's being dealt with right now

and everything else. They have a list. I haven't seen it.
Peisch: proposal preschool adjusted from half day to full day for those who provide full day
particularly for those who can most need full day
Chang-Diaz: mention of early ed has been woven in
demonstrated best practices
Edward Moscovitch concern that preschool could be expensive
"you could have every district in the state do it!"
if every district does half day does full day
"are you saying that every district could have as much preschool as it wants?"
Melissa King: don't think you'll see a rush, but a slow take-off
Moscovitch: full day K is more important
Peisch: percentage of fullday K is very high
Chester: up over 90% for full day K
Moreau: delivery system, bringing up to speed, it's a robust conversation
think it's an item to get discussed over summer to November
Madeloni: important that we don't do this just piecemeal
question about what works and what we want our young people to be experiencing
Reville: don't think a lot of districts do it, don't have space
not worried about a stampede
Peisch: straw poll on preschool in for June versus putting it off
most want to put it off
Chang-Diaz: wish to say something about early education even without a high level of detail
if we are putting it off, are we signing ourselves up for a more complex consideration
Francomano: think could develop a bulleted point, this is a priority for us, yes it needs to be looked at comprehensively
Moscovitch: thought always seems to be that you can do so much for these kids in preschool, neglect K, 1,2
Reville: so late in dealing with low income factors, seems to me that this is one
some inclusion in June report, more detail to come in November report

Peisch: to go into some accountability measure that we might be able to include in the report
based on something from superintendents proposed and others
also run through list of other items to be included
Moreau: to look at data in three years, either as part of discussion or otherwise
staffing and budgeting information from districts
Peisch: discussion in late June meeting for district data collection
Verdolino: because of information of special ed, to have some wording to put up front
"remains unaddressed by the really good comments that make up the report to this point"
Chang-Diaz: how much of this is knowable at this point?
Could we over the summer get really numbers
Moscovitch: asks teachers and superintendents to nominate ten schools that are 'good' and ten that "aren't"
look at actual special education spending
"we heard some testimony about school buildings in terrible condition...I'm curious if they're spending what the foundation budget calls for in custodians"
actual numbers on if those numbers are about right or not about right
Moscovitch: including instructional coaches
MASS suggests including PD as part of language
suggestion that mental health and wraparound services be separated
what if a strong mayor cuts the school budget: could ten taxpayer suit be brought?
Peisch: three or four more meetings ;can't put everything in
five more catagories, have added two more
Chester: real concern about low income or ELL: have a real concern if those increments really benefit the kids that they're intended for
concern about small district
"staying solvent by stripping away offering for kids and incentives for teachers"
incentives offered efficiencies for scale
Jehlen: would make low income separate from extended learning time
Chang-Diaz: slash marks mine
extended learning time presented as one way of helping low income students
not saying that the thing on one side of the slash is the solution for the other side of the slash
Moreau: discuss what we have, what we do
MBAE: if discussion is going to be about increment, also tracking of it
adjustment about technology: "don't envision how we come up with a number"
Moreau: will low income include a discussion of how the students are counted?
Peisch: yes, since change in technical count is problematic due to federal government change
Chang-Diaz: would hope that technical discussion of how we count does not need to be more than ten minutes, technical discussion of how we count them is more broad
Francomano: need to look at western part of state
they have particular issues delivering services, as they are scattered about
(not that they don't want to work together; there's so much space!)
Verdolino: no one wants to take anything off, would it be helpful to prioritize for discussion?
Peisch agrees
Jehlen: how we're going to make decisions about what these numbers are going to be
"who is going to do this work?"
took all the categories they had and made an expert judgment in 1993
either we can take what exists and update it
or we can take what an adequate education is, which is our charge
"there are studies that we can look it, but I would settle for expert judgment on what we should do in each of these categories"
Francomano: part of it is methodology, but it's beyond methodology, it's validating the assumptions
MASS: similar to previous, recommendations on all these particular areas
Moscovitch: would suggest that numbers of special ed
"I think there's a sense that because the health care is too low that everything is too low"
"is eight to one reasonable?"
"you'd have a better idea of what's underfunded if you see the staffing levels"
Peisch comments that they think they've seen that
Schuster: think that would really interesting
having trouble picturing the four to six topics on the agenda
could think through, for example, eight to one, and why there's still a really big gap
similar discussion on low income and what those supports and staffing look like
Chang-Diaz: one version of what this could look like is the work plan is the superintendents' working group
do work, put that out to group and respond, then August compilation going on
September group reviewing collated responses
maybe categories of districts to be part of the working groups
could also focus on studies, without casting out, working groups
Peisch: seems to me that we've exhausted what we can get out of these topics
back with recommendations about how we will analyze the topics
Chang-Diaz: remainder in bullets? or some paragraph
Peisch: put together some language for rest of group by next meeting

accountability for how funding is spent
in order to access additional funds, districts would have to submit a plan on how those funds would be spent
areas (UPDATED with full list): low income, ELL, professional development, ELT, instructional coaches, common planning, "hiring staff at levels that support student improvement," technology and instructional materials, wrap-around services,
recommend some plan on how those areas would be addressed be submitted
Francomano: have a problem with the concept
foundation budget has been underfunded, but comment is that somehow districts have been mismanaging their funds
"I've had to cut things in order to meet my obligations in special ed and health care"
"you're increasing the foundation budget...but it's just reflecting my actual spending"
"maybe I want to restore art or music...maybe I want to deal with overcrowded classrooms"
there has been nothing to indicate that districts have been mismanaging funds
MBAE: state and local contribution
original grand bargain, results, whatever those results are giving
fix to the foundation budget: is acknowledging gap
"it's just the reality"
perhaps regionalization, perhaps getting dollars to follow the student
Reville: how will it go to a cause that it's been targeted for
"I don't think the main feature is second-guessing locals"
MASS: don't see this as strings, as ties
Verdolino: don't see an option in one or two that we're going to spend special education and health insurance
"tell me from what we've heard in the public hearings...where else would you spend it on?"
MMA: there are so many needs on local level
"there are things that we've cut, things that we've gone without to take care of the most basic needs"
"to be handcuffed to a specific list of the needs and the responsibilities does a disservice to the 6000 students I'm responsible for"
Peisch: to clarify: asking districts to submit a plan
there may be districts were any number of these particular items are not being funded
I don't anticipate
Francomano: but if it's not in numbers 1-8, I can't spend it
but if I want to add money for a music teacher
argument that you can add staff "to improve student performance"
DESE is going to tell me that a music teacher doesn't do it
"the way that we measure student improvement these days is MCAS or PARCC; music isn't included"
Peisch trying to get to general agreement on some accountability measure of some kind
Jehlen: this commission is supposed to say what's adequate
we are supposed to be fulfilling the grand bargain "and we haven't"
many more measures than there were in 1993
there's the wrong message in putting these limits
"to say that Boston can't spend money to put in water fountains...I don't think that's our intention"
districts at foundation are spending less than they're supposed to on class size and teachers
"it's insulting"
If it's submitting school improvement plans, that's fine.
"I think that's moving away from something...we should not both be controlling the outputs and the incomes"
Moreau: reminded of Reville's phrase: loose and tight concept
McDuffy: constitutional obligation does fall on state and local
Moscovitch: this money isn't going to happen without people voting for it
senior legislators won't vote for it without some assurance it will go to
my thought was a broad area that most likely effects the way teachers teach
can't only spend money, you have to report on it
Madeloni: I think this is a huge decision and a major change in thinking
needs a lot more thinking
in a particular social-political context: micromanagement is the wave of the day
a shift to this kind of accountability is dangerous
"I like a lot of things on this list...but what's not on this list...I can't even tell you, because I'm not going to be able to tell you until I'm putting my budget together"
(sorry, didn't catch who this was)
we need to also justify our budgets: for us to simply ask where is this money going
reconvene on June 23

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