Monday, February 29, 2016

Ways and Means hearing on Education

I'm at the lovely new Everett High School today ("five floors and a basement," as the student in the elevator told me) for the Ways and Means hearing on education. 
The hearing starts at ten; posting as we go (once we start)
The superintendents of Brockton, Fitchburg, and Chelsea are here (and that's just the ones I recognize); maybe a push on the needs of urban districts?
In his welcome, Everett high school principal calls out change from low income to economically disadvantaged and what that has done to their measurement
first panel is Secretary Peyser, Commissioner Weber, Commissioner Santiago, Commissioner Chester

Peyser: "budget writing is not an easy process"
difficult choices to be made
approached with openness
committed to closing structural deficit
"another tough budget year"
"present a sensible plan that keeps expenditure in line with revenues"
"disproportionate share" nondiscretionary
"protects core services for those who need them the most"
"very difficult but necessary choices"
keeping commitment to sustain core programs
better coordination and use of existing resources
strategic investments "to scale what's working"
"have not shied away from making needed reforms"
"at or above this year's level" for ch70 and reimbursement
consolidation of several line items in early ed and early literacy
"to yield the most bang for the buck"
"scale what works...prepared for college and career"
grants putting a premium on partnerships: vocational schools
House 2 increases ch70 funding "making further progress in moving to target aid levels"
addresses low income change due to Community Eligibility
"further increase...based on concentration of low income students"
over $14M to low income early childhood care
"sharpen and deepen focus on...improving workforce"
competitive grants for literacy for ELL, managed jointly with Early Ed and K-12
tuition retention for UMass
performance management set aside for "new less costly models for completing a college degree"
"fairer and more sustainable" charter school reimbursement
more than 2/3rds of growth in charter sector last year represented in 9% over communities
"I'm sure we will not agree on each and every choice represented in House 2"
"responsible, fair, and strategic budget"
Weber: "development of life-long families"
"comprehensive education system must include most formative" early years
must be sustained
"ideals and responsibilities embodied in the Massachusetts state constitution"
on average 56,000 children daily
"system of standards and supports"
heart of such system is its educators "key to closing the early achievement gap"
new consolidated early ed line item, department requested this development
licenser's caseload remains well above national levels: "absolutely essential" positions to ensuring safety and quality of programs
"does not provide for an new vouchers" for children on waitlist for care
reauthorization of childcare block grant program (federal funding)
reimbursement rates well below standards: 50% most places, 25% in some
expanding early ed programs for all
"continue to work with all of our partners"
Chester: next generation MCAS, state receivership of schools and programs, training teachers in ELL program, implementation of ESSA
"high bar for excellence...not only performing at a high level, but continually improving"
citing stats here on testing and graduation
Massachusetts outpaced all other states in proportion of students scoring a three or better on AP exams
ID schools in need of assistance
PISA scores
"I'd be the last person to be complacent about what we have accomplished"
"news on this front is encouraging" in turnaround schools "as cited in a recent program evaluation"
three districts under state receivership
"but we don't stop there and our efforts extend beyond the lowest performing schools and districts"
frameworks adopted in 2010, ELA and math; recently updated science; reviewing history/social studies and computer science and technology
"time to update our assessments as well"
districts choose PARCC or MCAS this year; develop and implement "next generation MCAS"
"world class education...strengthening, emotional, mental health needs"
"maintain the Commonwealth's position as a leader in education"
"strong commitment to public education" in budget $5.2 billion
"almost 99% of that budget will be distributed to school districts"
pursuing federal "and third party funders"
"investing in tools and resources to assist school committees use their resources as effectively as possible
Santiago: access, affordability, and college completion
"this year seems destined to fall in the 'lean' category"
"must find ways to address shortage of college graduates"
post secondary opportunity for every student
"in light of changing demographics of state...changes necessary" to maintain state's status as "highest number of adult degree holders"
incentivize improve college access and college completion rates and maximize savings through group purchasing
"leveraged to produce meaningful change on our campuses"
move on from our community colleges to earn four year degrees
"looking to create a unified system of transfer"
dual enrollment partnership: strategy that we know works: expanded funding for FY17
programs that we know have a proven track record
working on a program that would create a discount across programs: community college student transfer to four year state college or university

Di Domenico: question about change in low income measure
"even those things that you're using still don't address the difference in the funding levels"
"what do you say to those communities" who have made that loss?
Peyser: "what you've said is of course very true"
"There are some districts where some of the negative effects have shifted"
tried to mitigate that with the progressive funding on concentration
"base aid and minimum aid" mitigate that
different between what would have been expected and what is
"there's no perfect solution"
"we think we've established a workable framework"
looking forward to working with Legislature
"don't pretend we have the perfect solution or the only solution to this"
Chester: not collecting low income forms anymore
increase assurance that kids who need food service, maximizes their benefits
"the piece that's driving this has a beneficiary side to families"
DiDomenico: "looks to me as though districts that were doing a good job" are being hurt
unfortunate that communities that need it the most are being the most hurt
Chester "also concerned that some of this may be driven by families that are undocumented"
"absolutely committed to figuring out how to make this workable"
overall across the state, workable, 'though that doesn't hurt the 6, 7, 8 communities hurt
DiDomenico: early access piece verus quality?
Weber: high level of quality
about 25,000 children on wait list
"nothing speaks to high quality like the early educator in these programs"
"on $22-25,000 annually, it's impossible to make this work"
Rep. Brodeur would any lines have less focus as a result of consolidation?
Weber: designed to fund as done in FY17
"these funds would permit us to fund these programs as we are doing right now"
Brodeur; you talked about licensure piece, does this budget contemplate putting more folks into the field?
Weber: no, maintain existing workforce
"we were already working really hard to keep the pace for best practices nationally"
Brodeur echoes "similar concerns in Malden" around change to economically disadvantaged
Rep.Cronin: did you realize how significant the difference would be?
Peyser: several districts have been using it for some years, did know that there would be a reduction overall
increased individual student allocation, "don't actual decline as a result of low income changes"
then applied "a very progressive approach" to increasingly low income factor
"creates some dislocation in some communities"
Cronin: Brockton will have 6000 students who are not counted
twice you've said "a more consistent way" of counting; we should be looking for accuracy rather than accuracy
Peyser: change in count doesn't necessarily translate into a change in translation aid
Peyser "I want to challenge the notion that the current system is more accurate"
Rep. Decker: echo concern around change
"we haven't had any leadership...any BOLD leadership in early education"
"just shameful" that we aren't even paying the recommended minimum for early childhood salaries
"what if we had 70% of that energy and resources" spent on charter schools and testing "on early childhood" these past years?
Weber: "it's an area of concern" that the budget doesn't put forward a rate increase
"really has been shift over the past year on our board"
"budget has increased, but has not increased in a way that allows us to" lift our rate structure
lifting rates "will come at the cost of other choices"
funding it as an early education model, not as workforce support

Rep D'Emilia: remedial courses required at community colleges
"have we made any progress on that?"
Santiago: going in the right direction on that
"we know what works"
"if we can engage in remediation in that first semester" through joint coursework "it seems the results are quite positive"
Chester: move through the system prepared for the next level
"one of the drivers in preparing for a next generation MCAS"
"and those young people have done what we've asked them to do" (but still require remediation)
D'Emilia: hope we're thoughtful and don't rush to put it into place
Student debt is a huge issue, encouraged by efforts in that direction
Rep. Stanley: "I don't always agree with all of the philosophies" but appreciate work for students
"lot of talk about MCAS scores"
a lot of that has to do with challenges that each school district has
Waltham not a Gateway district, just as high in terms of increase of ELL students as Gateway cities
Not getting a lot of assistance in that regard
"doesn't seem to be exactly fair that some communities don't have the same challenge as others"
"are being left to deal with the challenge on their own, not getting the additional assistance"
enough of a change to need to add an entire new school
Peyser: ELL is growing rapidly, presents some unique or different challenges
additional funding through foundation budget
"the idea behind consolidation is to give us" the greatest impact
rather those funds are adequate "is something we need to monitor over time"
"need to think about this issue of sustainability"
"those things need to be increasingly embedded in" districts
Chester: "there's no guarantee" that funding for ELLs is even going to ELLs
speaks of SEI endorsement for teachers

Sen. Jehlen: "I think we heard  a lot of good work today...but you're working within the limits of a budget determined by an administration that just said that spending is a problem and not revenues"
to Peyser: how you determine amount of ch 70 increase?
compared to local aid percentage?
"asking if you considered AT ALL the findings of the Foundation Budget Review Commission"
"among the worst states in the country between low and high spending districts"
your proposal: "I would like some determination of how much of the funding is going to districts that already spending above minimum"
Peyser: don't have number, will get back to you
putting $72M in context with prior years
inflation rate for K-12 was negative
student population has also gone negative
made progressive changes to higher concentrations of poverty
"the formula as previous constructive would have required very little spending"
equity of spending: one of the more progressive formula
FBRC; the recommendations themselves were forwarded to the education committee
felt needed to change low income calculation rather than others
Jehlen: to Chester, targeted intervention is down, yet you're taking over another district
Chester: if you look at the language, you'll see the money never came through
Jehlen: will charter fund fully reimbursement?
Peyser: "we think it is consistent with our expectations"

Rep Miceli: question allocation of state line grant to Wilmington school department

Rep Ferguson to Weber: caseloads
we'd like to recognize everything right away, but is what is priorization?
licensing, "would be better to be close to that ratio"
"quality rating improvement system"
annual unannounced visits to programs

Rep Roy: kindergarten expansion grant?
Chester: shift from focus on expansion to making sure that all full day programs are eligible
originally for expanding kindergarten
"no longer at a place where we're trying to incentivize"
trying to shift the grant to any full day program not charging tuition would be able to apply

Rep. Walsh: Framingham has 23% special education; ch 766 schools
"are we getting our money's worth on these schools, and how do we assess them?"
circuit breaker: sets up adversarial relationship between parents and schools
different model?
Chester: assessing ch 766; done by DESE
"we do have an approval process, we do monitor them"
if those IEPs are being successfully implemented in those schools or not
haven't looked at Framingham's numbers, statewide 17% are identified as needing an IEP
"that's very high nationally"
"when I hear about a district that's at 23%, I worry"
wonder if special ed resources are being used correctly
hear possible contentiousness between parents and district
Walsh: "a sort of baked-in relationship that starts to happen"
would like to see a different way to go

UMass President Marty Meehan: critically important to state
"literally we educate the workforce of Massachusetts"
"we're an institution that's on the move"
efficiency programs will save $281 million over their lifetime

Jehlen: many students choose to go to UMass
Meehan: UMass historically thought of as "being just okay"


Mass Association of School Superintendents
superintendents from Chelsea, Brockton, and Revere speaking
Bourque (Chelsea): "we can do better" on low income move to economically disadvantaged
new method counts 115,000 fewer students than low income did (31%); in some it is over 40%
MassBudget estimates $61.2 million lost for these systems
asks this proposal be paused and a better method be created
Smith (Brockton): CEP to increase access to healthy meals and to reduce burden on districts
districts not required to participate
only requirement is for states to promote awareness
administration cannot unilaterally change definition of low income
counterintuitive to bring rest of state into alignment
"all kids in our state count. Please count all kids."
Kelly (Revere): power now lies in your hands
simply reject the Governor's proposal
consider carrying FY15 count forward as a temporary stopgap
alternatively require DESE to use two means of counting kids, and allow districts to pick which one works best for them
DiDomenico: when did you find out that you would not be held harmless?
Bourque: when we met with you
DiDomenico: no warning?
What does a two million dollar loss mean to your program?
Bourque: we struggle in Chelsea. 40% will take an ACCESS test this year, in the country for three years or less
"A whole menu of services that we will not be able to use for prevention and intervention."
we commented every single time the documented and undocumented immigrants would not be counted
Brodeur: interested in how you would implement these cuts
Kelly: problem is with definition of low income: economically disadvantage does not capture all of the children among us
cuts will impact our entire district
"In Revere roughly 40 teachers will have to be laid off"
"you can't teach a class with 40 kids in it; you just can't"
Brodeur: the money in some ways is a shell game; it's all how you get through you get through your fiscal year
"Call it what you will, this is local aid."
Jehlen: could you comment on DESE's hold harmless?
Bourque: the amount that is going in doesn't cover the amount that we're under when you undercount our students
Smith: "when I keep cutting the technology by millions of dollars every year...there's nowhere else to go"
"this is just irresponsible as far as the chapter 70 goes"
Rep Wong: the ch 70 money we have been upping the past several years
"it usually goes to the town or city, but it goes into general fund"
not true
Bourque: up to district to meet foundation, yes
would remind others of the FBRC, increases in health insurance and special ed
"it has not kept pace with costs"
Ferguson: projected health insurance increase for this coming year?
they don't know
Smith points out that in FY14, health insurance was the cause of their being $8M short of teachers

D'Emilia: not counting thousands of students? not getting credited to that certain program
Smith: not counted in low income
Bourque: we have always counted low income to lower class size, "to actual push students forward"
Kelly: "they're desperately poor, and they're incredibly difficult to educate"
Bourque: "we would be remiss as superintendent if we were not here advocating for the students that we represent"

Cronin: educate children who are homeless
Smith: trauma-sensitive school; we make sure that every kind of meal program that comes out "we're all in";
"Nobody does it better than the Gateway cities, the urban districts"
Cronin hope that districts that don't see same level of homelessness step up
DiDomenico encouraged by administration words today
that you still have $2M hole shows how big the hole was to start with

MASC's testimony is here

Mass Municipal Association:
request sufficient level to reach foundation level, plus $100/pupil
"most school districts only receive minimum aid"
$20/pupil "far too little"
-.22 inflation does not represent actual school costs
Everett set to receive $2M less in low income than this year
request Legislature intervene to make up this shortfall
"strongly support the implementation of the recommendation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission"
state's contribution only 36% of actual school spending (did I hear that right?)
unless recommendations are implemented, "it is inevitable that the quality of education will decline"
4.3% increase reflects expected tax revenue growth; linking to local aid, classic form of revenue sharing
diversion of chapter 70 aid from local school aid to charter schools hurts cities and towns
"please understand that these are public dollars; there is no public oversight."
nearly $500M to charter schools
while there is an increase in reimbursement "does not take into account increase in charter schools"
fraction of reimbursement actually being received
cities and towns with largest shortfalls "are deemed to be underperforming"
"I can assure you even though we do a fabulous job in Chelsea, we didn't elevate 2000 children out of poverty."
"It really needs a fix...I urge you to impose one of them before your budget is approved."
Jehlen: would you choose $100/pupil or FBRC, which would it be?
Jehlen: charter school reimbursement: comment?
yes, decline in population in Berkshires
in addition to no public oversight of dollars, why no percentage representation of funding communities?
"chances of getting a Prop 2 1/2 override are slim to none"
penalizing rather than helping underperforming schools
cycling money like a vacuum cleaner away from public schools
students who need services concentrated in district schools
Jehlen: even districts below 9% sustain impacts on their schools that can't be dealt with by a one-time payment
Chelsea: my cherry sheet is a net loss to the city, all because of charter schools
Rep Walsh: how far off the ch 70 target you are?

Mass Teachers Association
Madeloni: underfunds and undervalues education
doling out tax breaks to multinational corporation
narrow ideological focus on charter schools
falls short not just of personal promises but the commitment to provide high quality education to all students
FBRC: to be sure that districts most responsible to bring students to a high need of proficiency to have aid to do so
methodology moves away from students receiving meals to those receiving other services
"we should not pursue an approach" to accounting students that misses
urges staying with FY16
Governor also continues to focus on privatization of schools
would cut by more than 50% of reimbursement
"We can and must do better."
teacher at Revere's alternative program:
students "are frighteningly close to dropping out"
"I am one of those who are left to teach those who are swiftly thrown out" of charter programs
Revere has been outperforming urban expectations for years
new count fails to recognize nearly half of low income students in Revere
"the level of poverty in our children has not changed"
increase in budget has only been driven by increased enrollment; increase in enrollment this year not enough to keep up with increases
"I cannot imagine a way to fill a $4M deficit that will not include cuts"
"Do not balance a budget on the back of my students who find a home on a relative's couch or whose parents are too proud to apply for SNAP"
Max Page, UMass: here to tell you that the Governor's proposal is unacceptable
"would lead to cuts and would lead to tuition increases"
"for a full generation have been cutting back on higher education"
"I need to push back that efficiency is the answer"
best economic development is investing in education
Rep Roy: asks for copy of the research (on higher ed as best investment)

Ed Moscovitch (godfather of the foundation budget)
when Boston and 28 other communities decided to adopt the Community Eligibility, they were no longer required to collect information on family income
assumption that districts will no longer collect information "seems to me to be flawed"
"seems to me that they don't have legislative authority" to not collect data (as that's in the law)
gotta say that I think the horse is out of the barn on that one
have tried to look statistically at "lost poor"
no factor that reaches the lost students
ELL, ethnic background...nothing reaches those students
"if your family doesn't count as poor, either because you're undocumented or your family won't go to the welfare office, you don't count...personally, I think that's unacceptable"
we should all be proud "that nobody ever questioned that recommendation" that more money should go to poor kids"
"I've been around Legislature a long time...there's always a danger in something like this...if you took a poll, and everybody took a vote on their narrow self-interest" the Governor's proposal would pass
"that's a really terrible way" to make decisions
"if you look at low income communities and you divide them up by low income students, you get a really interesting result"
amongst high poverty communities there are some winners and losers in this
in communities around 20 or 30%, virtually every child who is counted is also on welfare
outcome is to put more money into higher income communities
think count should still be required, but required every four years
changing count of poverty makes it impossible to find out what works on poverty over time
we are spending a lot of money on charter schools and testing; no program to improve teachers and principals

I had to duck out and so missed the final testimony on early childhood.

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