Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Suburban Coalition talks about the Foundation Budget Review Coalition

Speaking tonight is
Glenn Koocher, MASC Executive Director
Rep. Alice Peisch, Wellesley and Chair of the Joint Committee on Education
Nathanael Shea, chief of staff for Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (the Senate Chair)
Sen. Karen Spilka, Ashland and Chair of Senate Ways and Means

posting as we go
Dorothy Presser, Lynnfield, recognizes over 150 committees and councils passed a call for the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to be implemented

Presser to panel: do you expect that the FBRC recommendations would be a priority for FY18 given the revenue projections?
Spilka: notes that she was on the Ashland School Committee but also on Suburban Coalition
can speak on behalf of the Senate
hope all of you know all of the effort the Senate put in on the FBRC recommendations
two opportunities where the Senate did the recommendations
Rise Act: one of the toughest working groups I've been on
started with charter school issue, but then got into recommendations
"if we were going to put more funds towards charters, the only way we could see that making sense...was for all of our children, for all of our schools"
the reason she ran was for the change in ch.70
"the adequacy piece had continued to allude us"
incorporated it in the budget as well
"the Senate included it in two of its vehicles this year"
"desire to get it implemented"
"we really need to make changes to Chapter 70"

Shea: senate's deep interest in pursuing the recommendations
"I would take heart in the fact that there's strong interest in what we've done"
"this will require your advocacy, it will require you to be engaged in the process"
"this is going to cost money"
set high expectations in 1993, "but we didn't maintain that by updating our investment"
"Costs changed...but our policies didn't change"

Peisch: recommendations "didn't come until late in the Legislative session"
they came in November of the first year of the Legislative session
report was due in June; extended to November
"we ate up some of the time in that legislative session"
"I anticipate filing something"
"the question that is here: is this a priority"
"priorities can change in a nanosecond"
there's some talk about Title I changing dramatic under the new (presidential) administration
do you need to contact your legislators? "You always need to contact your legislators"
communities that will not see any increase if the recommendations are implemented
"a lot of communities funded in excess of their target"
"the whole point of ch. 70 was to establish a foundation budget and then determine what the community could afford...afford is in the eye of the beholder"
Legislature has been generous to some communities
"would distinguish between the capacity and the will"
"anticipate that these sorts of issues will come up"

Koocher: Legislature has been our salvation since the advent of education reform
about to embark on a period of great uncertainty
if anyone tells you know what will happen "don't believe them, because if they'll lie about that, they'll lie about anything"
cuts in Medicaid: schools get funding through that
"real concerns about what can happen"
don't know what's going to happen in the economy
"there are also things we can talk about that don't cost money"
executive overreach (of DESE)
"on one hand they're doing it in Washington, on the other they're doing it at the Department"
"there also is a reason to be optimistic"

Presser: we often hear about hurdles to getting this done; what do you see as the biggest hurdles?
Spilka: "money, money, money"
"that honestly is the biggest hurdle"
having consensus revenue hearing on Monday: maybe 3.2 to 3% on Monday
40% in a normal year goes to health care
state should get millions in reimbursement on health care
"we have the possibility of losing $2 billion under a Trump administration"
"there could be cuts to education aid"
"I do think there is a desire on the part of the Legislature....but it will cost a lot of money"
"you need to keep being vigilant"
"keep contacting the administration; I think it's important for the Governor to hear"

Shea: money is certainly a big one
"maintaining something at the top of the priority list is not easy"
"everybody who walks into the State House every day has a list of priorities they want to get through"
tell them not just today, but next week and the week after

Peisch: "obviously, the money, the money is the real issue"
recommendations "are somewhat complicated"
"we take votes on a bazillion issues"
Legislators "would benefit from hearing what the particular impacts are on your district"
"it's not going to be perfect, and not everyone is going to get everything that they want"
having a multi-year plan and then sticking with it

Koocher: need to mindful of everybody's needs
"can't educate children in classrooms without the support of our allies in the classroom"
"they need it too"
could lose children's health care
"doing our best to economize and do with what we can"
confront the unions "who won't take no for an answer"
get agencies involved in the safety net to talk to each other
watching Washington carefully
watching Malden "I don't think they think the changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act has changed their power to test and punish"
forty former school committee members in the Legislature

Presser: what can we do to work with you to overcome hurdles and make positive change?
Spilka: a lot of different ways that you can reach your rep, your senator and the administration
individually contacting, meeting as a group
office hours with Legislators
sending letters
"when I hear from even just ten people on a topic, it rises to an occasion"
"it's building that critical mass"
working with organizations: MASC, MASS, MMA,
low income work, as an example: don't want to hurt communities with the way we define low income
first question will be 'how does this impact my community?'

Shea: don't just tell them what you think: ask them what they think
"it should be a conversation between a government and a people"
"we're not just sent up to Beacon Hill to do whatever we want"
money as obstacle: "that's always been true"
"in 1993, we didn't just have a big checking account sitting around...we had a lawsuit...we decided this was part of our values...having every child have an adequate education...if we decide what we have to do, we can find the money to's a lot easier to ask people to find money if they know what you're going to do with the money"

Koocher: millionaire's tax, other taxes
"take the time to actually explain things..." and make sure you get to the topic you intended
"people like to be thanked"

Presser: opens for questions: Earl's Rules: Questions start with who what when where why or how

superintendent of Lincoln-Sudbury: we're building a budget
rely a lot on Governor's budget: should we?
assumed big changes would come in next fiscal year, not coming one
Spilka: as always, certain reliance on Governor's budget
uncertainty on federal policy and ensuing consequences on state policies and state funds
administration already working on their budget
"I think you need to continue with what you're doing, clearly"
"hearing there is a lot of anxiety out there, not knowing"
Peisch: thinking more in terms of going forward with changes in the foundation budget
steps over next few years
Spilka: would imagine a five or seven year plan as well

Q regarding outpatient services and how much is funded by district or Medicaid
Peisch: obligation of district to absorb costs goes back to an SJC decision; what was need to access education was in the first instance the responsibility of the districts
Medicaid reimbursments: became "very paper intensive"

Q: glad to hear millionaire's tax mentioned
"seems we could do something on the state level"
Spilka: personally, I agree!
"way to get some additional funds without hurt the average resident across the state"
"I would certainly supporting looking at a graduated income tax"
make that part of your advocacy as well
Peisch: requires a constitutional amendment
Legislature has to vote in favor of it in two sessions
that will put it on the ballot in 2018
"and that is where the real battle will be"
and get involved if you support this
Spilka $1B for education and $1B for transportation infrastructure

Q: wondering about the equivalent of a municipal moderization act for school districts
Peisch: "depends on what you mean by flexibility"
current administration undertook a review of all regulation
"more than open to consider specific proposals you might have"
organization coming forward with a list of specific things you are looking to do makes it easier to get colleagues to agree

Q: common objections from your colleagues you get on implementation of FBRC
Koocher: what we hear from the municipal
"school budgets are too big already"
"well, look at" district out of context
"we actually hear that from the Secretary of Education"
Peisch: if their district won't get funding, that can be a problem

Presser: do you see any groups that would be against it?
Spilka: "I can't see any can you argue against investing in our kids?"
more about competing priorities
"when House members and Senate members meet, chapter 70 is right up at the top of the priority list"
"it's a balancing act that takes place"
Peisch: 1993 legislation result of a broad cross section of the community including the business community
"would work with local chamber of commerce"

Q: how do we get the House and Senate communicating so we get bills that may be palatable to both sides?
Peisch: good news today
Spilka: overall I think we do work very well together
some parties felt they'd win the ballot initiative, so why work with us?
changes in joint rules: reporting out earlier
bills go back to branch of origination which hasn't been done in decades
working together
"I think ultimately that was borne out by the end of the year"
Peisch: not helpful if there are two very different versions of the bill to lobby 100% for one version
both branches need to compromise
"if you want to make something happen, make it clear that you're more interested in progress"
Shea: avoid questioning people's intentions
vast, vast majority are there trying to do right things for the right reasons
"pushing them to do the right thing, but not questioning their motives when they don't do what you might agree with"

Q: went through a series of overrides
people who are land rich but are income poor
has there been any proposal to keep those who are income poor harmless for overrides?
lots of headshaking up front
Peisch: have filed bills from time to time that would make exceptions for senior citizens
get into competing interests
mechanism where you might not hold them harmless
payment could be postponed until property was sold and then was a liability

Q; were told to budget 15% for insurance increases
are we going to be fighting to keep what we have rather than looking for a bigger piece of the pie?
Spilka "I hope you don't feel panic at this point!" "overall, things are going very well for the Commonwealth
cities low unemployment, businesses doing well, employees feeling confident that they could find another job if they left their job
"overall we're doing every well, we're doing better than most places in the country"
not seeing revenue coming into the state as we were in the 90's
"we certainly can't spend what we don't have"
Shea: our economy has bounced back in the aggregate, but our revenue has not
"perhaps the way we approach getting revenue" needs to change

Q: 9C cuts?
Spilka: there can be
"there is still the concern of what might happen with the budget"
lower sales tax revenue projections; true of other states as well
what can we as an organization do to keep the lines of communication open?
Q: take aways?
one of the things we're hearing is that we need to bring this back to our communities
"that's what we each need to do in our communities"
Peisch: Suburban Coalition has been very good about what's going on at the State House, continue to do that
March is when bills are being filed, and then periodically
Spilka: keeping abreast, contacting your reps and your senators
"don't hesitate in speaking to staff"
Presser: keep track of your emails
March 10 symposium at Clark University on equity and poverty
and that's a wrap!

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