Friday, November 6, 2015

State legislative update at MASC

in a standing (and sitting-on-the-floor) room only session
Rep. Alice Peisch, Rep. Steve Ultrino and Senator Pat Jehlen here

Rep Peisch: slow start, new governor, new state president
weather this winter really postponed focus on anything other than transportation and weather-related issues
hearings on most things not even held til this past fall
hope to get something through on:
  1. early education: build on partnerships with districts and community-based programs, focus on most needy students
  2. vocational education: objective of assuring that all students interested in it have access
  3. teacher preparation: benefit from some study
  4. commission on foundation budget: adjust health insurance, special education, ELL (increase high school number), low income increment particularly with high concentration
  5. charter school: due to bill to lift the cap. "much more modest"
also concerned about Common Core ballot Q; "not sure how that works" as there is not law that establishes Common Core; "curricular issues should not be voted on"

Sen. Jehlen (who will be inducted tonight as a life member of MASC)
think people underestimate the power of school committee members "and we need your help"
"most interested in your questions and comments"
"our story is a hard one when we go to people...people are happy with their schools, generally"
Massachusetts schools are doing a good job "so why do we need more money?"
"we're going to have to make that case to people"
Foundation Budget: "found out that everyone is uniquely mistreated"
correlation between low income and achievement on MCAS scores "very, very tight correlation"
know that quality early childhood education is a boost for low income kids in particular
testing "reveals the achievement gap...that low income children are not learning the same things, are not getting the same high test scores"
but also "causes people to think their schools are failing"
"think that that is a very dangerous idea"
charter schools related as image of low income schools as failing 
Boston is driving the conversation
"There is no change in the Senate in our opinion of charter schools; there is a discussion of strategy"

Ultrino: not on education
disappointed that charter school reimbursement and extended learning weren't properly funded in budget
voted against extended day when he was on SC: how will fund long term
"now at a time that that money has gone down"
got some money through for extended day
charter school not being funded "was a tough thing to go home to"
supplement wasn't passed til a few weeks ago
"have serious concerns about any of the charter school cap: if we're not funding it now, and the Governor wants to add 12 a year, I don't know how you do that"
should be a vote by the school committee of some sort
"one important thing that MASC does is lobby, and that's something you really need to continue to do"
children without health care, usually poor, connected to learning

Q: vocational study go to Rules; "sometimes we feel they go to the dead letter office" Sense of where you feel it will go from Rules?
Peisch: "hard to predict" bills that don't go to the floor sometimes don't have as high a priority of the body of the whole; "the way to change that is to lobby"
"most effective way is to deal directly with your own legislators"
"there's no question since we have to be re-elected every two years, we have to care" about what our district does
and be short and clear, as they get a lot of mail
"and get as many people as possible to get in touch with their legislators"
"at the end of the day, we don't hear from that many people"
Jehlen: if you have personal experience, share it

Q: vocational schools (I can only sort of hear the question)
Peisch: object was to look at current system to support
and to expand opportunity so the children needing the services get them

Q: concerned about new definiton of low income that's come out from federal government
citation of Worcester's numbers that is wrong (more on that here)
Peisch: know department is looking at this directly, ensure students you're talking about are not lost
touched on in Foundation Budget report
"be sure to capture all of the needy students"
Ultrino: in the meantime, kids are still going hungry, uninsured

Q: ESEA renewal
"not going to take any action based on what we think might happen"

Q: "please do something to get DESE on our hands"

Q; middle school transformed into an innovation school
why aren't we pushing and supporting idea of innovation schools
Peisch: meant to encourage innovation schools, number of grant line items designed to help schools
need resources to succeed
Jehlen: connection with funding: limited pot of money, and what goes to either charter schools or otherwise is gone
DESE is able to created unfunded mandates: "unilaterlly, unelected they can put a charter school in without looking at the impact on the rest of the district"

Q: any recommendations from FBRC on special ed transportation reimbursement through circuit breaker?
Peisch: no, circuit breaker is a different model (not in foundation budget)
has been discussion elsewhere

Q: lottery funds for education: can that be looked at
Peisch: highly unlinkly they'd divert funds from local aid
Ultrino: lottery aid is unrestricted local aid; want to ask if they can put more to schools, but will fight rest of municipality

comment from Berkshire: number 1 in wealth; 26 in education; every session is on poverty
"how come we have incredible brain trust here"
should be putting children first
did FBRC pay attention to Bump's audit on charter schools?
Peisch: familiar with auditor's report; commission charged with only foundation
believe 2010 law deals with issues; "just reaching the point that those charters would come up for renewal"
uh, anyone else remember Mystic Valley's mysterious nonexist ELL students? And they got their renewal anyway
Jehlen: unintended consequences of 2010 law: have been very few innovative charter schools

Q: foundation budget: how could the formula be better was charge
people see this that districts are underfunded in particular areas
"how can we light a fire, raise a sense of urgency" around foundation budget
Jehlen: say "we're doing a great job, your kids are getting a great education, but at the same time, here's what they're missing"
"I am skeptical that we have the willpower in this state" to fix it in any timeline
"I think it's going to take another lawsuit" (and there's the quote of the session)
Peisch: going back to the earlier conversation around lobbying, you need to educate your constituents about this and the changes it would make

Q homelessness does impact districts with hotels and motels
impact to students that we have (around new Board of health restrictions on motels and hotels)
"they're no longer coming to us, where are they going?"
Jehlen: another example how schools are required to solve a problem that isn't your responsibility
"we need them to find permanent homes immediately"

Q if we're honest about needs, lose kids to school choice
Q we need convey a sense of urgency

Q: early education initiative, yet we still don't have mandated kindergarten
really would love for legislature to support mandated full day kindergarten
Peisch: districts that do not have high poverty, may not have full day kindergarten of schools have changed
whole child has to be the focus "we're in the business of human development"
"we have a bigotry of uniform expectations"
"support myriad of highly necessary services in front of us"
understanding the true mission of our schools

Q (from Dave Verdolino, ED, MASBO) "I think the best words you heard today were by the Legislators at the table who said you have to communicate this to your legislators"
go to your district business administrator, ask him or her how much we're spending on instruction and how much the foundation budget says we're supposed to be spending on education
"now you've got some fuel to go to them"
if your business administrators don't know how to answer that question for you, "have them call me"

No comments: