Thursday, January 28, 2016

Governor Baker's FY17 budget

with apologies for this taking this long, with thanks to everyone whose work I am sharing, and with notice that this may be updated!
Note that MASC's response to the Governor's Budget is here. 

Yesterday, Governor Baker submitted his FY17 budget proposal to the state legislature. You can find the K-12 line items here.

First, the chapter 70 aid to schools is up by 1.7%, as had been released earlier in the week. This not only, as noted by Senator Chang-Diaz in the Globe today, means that Baker doesn't fulfill his pledge that such aid would go up by the same percentage as state revenues; it also means that it doesn't come close to keeping pace with actual cost increases!
Foundation budgets, as noted on DESE's website, are calculated on a negative 0.22 inflation factor. So yes, the budgets of schools this year are being calcuated by the state as having lower costs than last year.
The state has also moved ahead with the change from low income to economically disadvantaged. Practically speaking, that means we went from 376,810 students being counted as poor statewide this current year to 312,203 being counted as poor this coming year. In an attempt to ensure that districts can still provide needed services, DESE has changed the rate at which districts are aided based on the concentration of need. DESE has put together a PowerPoint on this; the redefinition (remember, low income is part of chapter 70 in the law!) is here in the "Local Aid" section and reads as follows:
Each district shall be assigned a low income decile based on its low income percentage which shall be calculated as its number of economically disadvantaged students over its total foundation enrollment. Each decile shall be assigned a low income rate, where the rate for the lowest percentage decile shall be $3,775 and each subsequent decile shall increase by $40 up to the highest percentage decile rate of $4,135.
So the more economically disadvantaged kids a district has, the higher the dollar amount per student in their calculation.
There is a minimum $20 per pupil increase in state aid.
For districts whose required contributions are coming down, it's worth noting that they're getting a 70% effort reduction this year. (That's for communities that were over their minimum required contributions back at the beginning of this adventure and have had their required contributions coming down over time.)
And, as noted above by MASC, there is nothing done about the Foundation Budget Review Commission at all.

On all of the following, I will start by agreeing with this:
Regional transportation reimbursement is level funded from last year (which was not fully funded).
The circuit breaker reimbursement (which kicks in for special education tuition over a particular level) is literally $1 more than last year.
Recovery high schools are level funded.
METCO is level funded.
The Quality Kindergarten grant has been level funded BUT there is a language change. Last year, the language was (Emphasis added):
For kindergarten expansion grants to provide grant awards to continue quality enhancement of existing full-day kindergarten classrooms; provided, that the department shall administer a grant program to encourage the voluntary expansion of high quality, full-day kindergarten education throughout the commonwealth; provided further, that grants funded through this appropriation shall not annualize to more than $18,000 per classroom in subsequent fiscal years; provided further, that preference shall be given to grant applicants with high percentages of students scoring in levels 1 or 2 on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam and school districts which serve free or reduced lunch to at least 35 per cent of their students, as determined by the department based on available data
This year, it reads:
For kindergarten quality enhancement grants to school districts; provided that grant awards shall be made on a per enrollee basis, as reported under thechapter 70 school aid program, so called, for each full-day kindergarten student not paying fees; provided further, that the commissioners of elementary and secondary education and early education and care shall jointly develop grant requirements for this item to ensure that funds are used to promote improvement of early literacy outcomes 
From what I'm hearing--and here's a place for an update as I hear them!--this is going to change how Quality K operates. Note that DESE and EEC are TOGETHER developing new granting requirements and that it specifically calls out early literacy. So if you've come to depend on Quality K, you're not out of the woods yet!

There is an increase of over $5 million in student and state assessment; I assume that's the MCAS 2.0 development.

Dual enrollment (high school and college) is doubled from $1 million to $2 million.

DESE's budget itself is cut by $1.2 million. And as much as we all complain about Malden, there's no way that a cut of that size doesn't impact some things we care about and want to have happen.

$4.6 million in MCAS student support has been zeroed out; that's extra help for the kids who'd struggled to pass.

There are also a further series of accounts that were zeroed out:

There's also the much-ballyhooed $20 million increase in charter reimbursement. Yes, that's an increase. No, from the percentages at which previous years were reimbursed, not to mention the increases in charter seats being considered, that isn't enough to fully fund the charter reimbursement owed districts.
Thus the changes proposed in charter reimbursement. Currently, districts are supposed to get 100% of increases the first year, and 25% for four years after. The Governor's budget proposes 100% the first year, 50% the second year, and 25% the third, for (and this is key) "any district whose total charter school tuition payments exceed 9 percent of net school spending in fiscal year 2017" That's Boston. That's Holyoke. I'm not sure how many others it is, but it isn't many. 
That matters because the line still is insufficiently funded, and here's how the money gets allocated: 
(1) reimbursement of the per-pupil capital needs component; (2) the tuition payments for which the commonwealth is responsible under subsection (i)(2) and the fifth paragraph of subsection (ff) of said section 89 of said chapter 71; (3) the 100 per cent year-one reimbursement; (4) the 50 per cent year-two reimbursement to districts with charter payments exceeding 9 percent of net school spending as described above; (5) the 25 percent year-three reimbursement to districts with charter payments exceeding 9 percent of net school spending as described above; and (6) all other reimbursements authorized under subsections (ff) and (gg) of said section 89 of said chapter 71
The 9% communities come before any community that hasn't hit 9% once the first year communities are paid.
But they don't just get paid; they have to prove how they're using it:
Any district qualifying for the 50 per cent year-two reimbursement as described above shall submit to the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, by October 1, 2016, a plan for using its reimbursements to ensure that the district maintains and improves the level and quality of educational services it provides to its students, notwithstanding reductions in enrollment and increases in charter school tuition, and shall also submit a year-end report to the commissioner by September 1, 2017 on the implementation of said plan. 
The House does their budget next, and House members are meeting with Ways and Means over February. The Senate goes next. If any of the above isn't what you'd like to see, get in touch with them.


Chris said...

It's interesting that before charter reimbursement was 100/25/25/25/25/25 it was 100/60/40. So now we're going back to a three year reimbursement plan, but with lower percentages.

Also, what comes after the 100% for the first year isn't really all that relevant unless chapter 46 is closer to being fully funded, because (unless I misunderstand things) the way that this gets funded is that they provide as much of the first year reimbursement as they can, then if there's anything left over they start funding the second year, etc. I think recently the funding has been at less than 100% of the first year funding, though.

Tracy Novick said...

We are. And the argument over switching to the longer years of 25% was to give districts more time to adjust, but, as you correctly point out, it's never been fully funded, anyway, so it's been something of a moot point. It probably will remain so with this plan, should this clear the House and Senate.