Monday, April 25, 2016

Joint meeting: Education and Finance & Operations talks Foundation Budget Review Commission and FY17

which isn't going to start on time...F&O agenda is here.
Present is Bergman and King on City Council, Foley, Colorio, McCullough on School Committee
UPDATE: Rosen came in late. Also present are both Interim Superintendent Rodrigues and Superintendent-elect Binienda 
Foley: FBRC outlines how the state is underfunding education, as it's not been updated over the twenty years of the foundation budget
"still struggling with ways to try to address this"
Bergman: "as the schools go, so the economic engine of the city goes"
discussion has to be necessary
Allen: impact that FBRC would have on Worcester if adopted
the presentation is here

"actual spending on health insurance "far exceeds" current foundation budget by more than 140%"
"finding across the state, not only in Worcester"
retiree health insurance not included in the budget
thus the FBRC recommendations...reflected in the $29.1M gap between what the foundation budget provides and what is actually spent
special education: "districts spend far more" on special ed...and assumptions are badly under
"even their recommendation isn't going to get to the full impact going forward"
thus a gap of $29.8M in special education between actual spending and the current foundation budget
and there's the 661 gap in teachers, with gaps of $11M in operations and maintenance, $9M in supplies, over $3M in PD (see page 13 of the backup)
ELL gap due to increase needed of funding of $5M
low income: Worcester Public cited as one of two sources (WPS spent $2000 per student for the turnaround plans of Level 4 plans)
recommendation for low income "does leave the exact increment to legislative action"
"so what would that look like?"
$20M additional for low income students to add the turnaround practices used, including wraparound services
in 2010, the state used a lower inflation number of 3.04% than the 6.75%
Worcester had recommended that this would be a good year to make up the difference, but "neither the Governor's budget nor the House budget" does so
data collection, stakeholder data advisory group
"has created the tension between school and cityside funding" due to the state gaps in WPS funding
Foley: gap of $93M "is phenomenal"
additional costs in health insurance and other factors here...leaves us far fewer dollars
recognize that there are real gaps in other areas
"Worcester has really been leading this effort" has been talking about for several years
Allen: "it's not that we're spending too much on special education. The foundation budget is woefully inadequate" in special education
higher spending communities are able to mitigate that "because they're spending more"
communities like Worcester don't have that ability
"Both the rate and the assumed enrollment are both underfunded in the foundation budget"
Foley: "we know that money matters"
have seen it in turnaround schools: "we know that funding has an impact"
ask Council "to keep in front of the House and Senate leadership"
"risk of legal action here by school districts"
districts spending more have students "seeing benefit that students are in urban education are not"
Colorio: are there other Gateway cities that have a lower impact on health insurance and special education, and what are they doing?
Allen: lowest 20% of communities are similar
only spending at foundation, and taking money away from other communities
"other Gateway communities are in a very similar position"
Colorio: can we cut down on those costs?
Allen: Worcester has been a leader in bringing down those costs in special education by moving services in house
on health insurance, "the only way to change is to change what we're paying for: plans, copays"
Bergman: how can they change inflation factor?
Allen: walked away from $160M obligation by skipping that quarter
"they're using a third quarter national index...that year they used the fourth quarter, not the third quarter"
Bergman: are other communities as harmed and as upset by it, or is it kicked down for another day?
Allen: presented inflation factor for Gateway caucus on what could be (to make up inflation for this budgetary year)
"was interest...concern was the price tag"
"agreed with the concept; I just don't know that they knew where to get the money from"
Bergman: is there a comparison of special education student comparison with other cities?
Allen: there are different levels of services that students are receiving
King: any discussion about next steps with delegation?
Allen: have had two sessions with delegation
"think they support the increase in the foundation's a matter of finding the resources"
Senate discussion of charter school cap tied it to funding of FBRC
"would take a number of years for the state to do"
in 1994, was done over seven years
Rosen: need delegation in there fighting for it: what can Council do?
"time is of the essence...we do have to bring back to our colleagues"
"has to be done very very soon"
what sort of space does district have on special education
Allen: "we have 23 years of evidence that says the foundation budget is underfunded on special education...the problem is the formula...the formula is underfunded"
FBRC report is exhibit one in the next lawsuit
Foley: no parents out there looking to have children in special education who don't have it
"the phenomenal growth around autism has hit our schools and our community tremendously"
"class size may be higher, course offerings may be fewer" due to budget constraints due to undercalculation
Foley: more funding for education "and this is why"
Rosen: must lobby delegation
Bergman: some sort of resolution that the City Council could pass? in support
Allen: could support Senate's Rise Act, as House has yet to take action on it
Bergman: ask David Moore if the passage of time makes it impossible to make this claim on inflation
King: potential legal action through the state...has there been any action as yet?
Foley: 1993 act done to forestall legal action
"there are districts across the state that are asking the same questions"
Allen: "I know a number of communities, particularly those that were part of the Hancock case, that are thinking about it"
Both Governor and House budget has had no action..."perhaps we'll see where those go"

AND ON TO FY17 (which is basically the same presentation as previously)
Allen: flat enrollment, negative inflation
one time adjustment due to economically disadvantaged calculation
"really no difference between the House budget and the Governor's budget when it comes to Worcester"
federal: could see a $1M reduction in Title I
reallocation of staff, falling preschool
number of ELL students increased by 616 students last year
"this is off the heels of the FY16 budget when we saw an increase of almost 900 students" in ELL
ED numbers put WPS up $3M
revenue increase is $4.6M

level service cost increases
enrollment shifts and changes
priorities of building principals

level service is $11M: 3.5% increase over last year
principal resource allocations: $11.7M
"and I would argue that this is bare minimum" regarding the secondary teaching positions
"I would argue that it's a bare minimum need"
so yes, you just heard the finance office advocate for more than the schools were asking for
thus there is a gap of $20.9M
"and it's a gap, it's not a deficit" much of which will be made up by deferring spending
"budget is in the final process of being printed"
"no additional positions" as had been requested
current class size average of 21.5 students: with 49 classes of 27 or more students
next year as projected: 22.5 student average: with 72 classes of 27 or more students
THAT'S 1900 students in elementary classes of 27 or more 
reduction of preschool, reduction of special education, reallocation of ELL, everything else deferred
building reallocation plan being deferred
"there will be eight classrooms at the Y next year" which is rental space which is crazy when WPS has space
$2.5M if all employee groups make health insurance changes
$12M inflation factor
budget goes to School Committee on May 13

Bergman: is there a dollar amount the city gains per new student that comes into the city?
Allen: enrollment based on October 1 count
on average we're about $12,000 per student
Foley: and there's a year lag
Bergman: is there a way to calculate the cost?
Allen: on an individual student basis, it's hard to do...that's a flaw with the calculation
if you're adding program or classrooms, it's easier to do in groups
Binienda: at most of the high schools, we're running 55 studies a week
if we're going to 15 more secondary, that's going to be a big increase in the number of studies we're going to be giving students
"really need to look at what we're offering and widening that...not cutting 15 positions more from the high school level"
Rosen: "we're talking of maintaining services"
"the services we want to maintain weren't good enough either"
"you get what you pay for"
Allen: "it really goes back to the foundation budget review recommendations...this is in comparison to the FY16 benchmark; we're cutting from a benchmark that's already inadequate"
King: in schools, seeing kids with different traumas, different issues
can we expect to convene more regularly with goals on the foundation budget issue?
Foley: going to be a long process
"having the advocacy of the Council and the understanding of the Council is important to us"
"going to help our city advocate together"
King: "consistent concerted advocacy together"

BONUS: Nelson Place update: site package
site behind school prepped for new school
steel and concrete package for different parts of building
steel will be going up the beginning of May
still on schedule on the fall of 2017
Nelson Place updates are online here, by the way

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