Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Massachusetts education funding history

As part of their FY18 Budget Browser, MassBudget has released program by program spending histories, adjusted for inflation. Here is the education chart:

You can find the full education report (including the chart) here. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Public input session on Worcester Public Schools' strategic plan

I think I've made it clear that I'm rather dubious about the strategic plan process that the Worcester Public Schools are going through right now, however, there is going to be a public input session and it would be good for people to go.
It appears to exist only as a Facebook event?

Monday, July 17
6 pm
Fuller Conference Room, MCPHS University
25 Foster Street, 9th Floor, Worcester, MA
Offered in English with simultaneous Spanish translation

Questions? strategicplanworcester@gmail.com

I'll be on vacation, so don't look for a liveblog 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

So what did the Legislature pass?

Yesterday, the House and Senate both passed a budget agreed to by conference committee. It was filed that morning, meaning, as noted by State House News reporter Katie Lannan:
Not, let's say, a triumph for public process. Among other issues, this got us a IIA report, which puts the numbers and account numbers in a spreadsheet, which included only the House numbers, not the conference committee numbers (causing some of  us not a small degree of angst!).

The budget now goes to the Governor, who has ten days to consider it and, if he wishes, to issue vetoes, which, in its turn, the Legislature can override. In other words: we're closer, but we're not done yet.

So what's in it for public education?

Chapter 70 came back at $4.746B, which is right between the House and the Senate numbers. As best as I can tell--I have yet to find the actual Chapter 70 language on this--they did this by keeping the $30/pupil minimum increase, keeping--and possibly adding to?--the insurance increase in the foundation budget, but not taking on the Senate's special education implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Committee's recommendation. Let me emphasize that on my part that is SPECULATION, again, because I haven't seen either an explanation or actual language (which should have been part of H3800). That means that most foundation budgets will be higher than both House 1 and the passed House budget, but not as high as they would have been with the Senate budget. As for state aid, the majority of districts were seeing their increase through the $30/pupil, so that doesn't change ('though do recall that the Governor's budget had set that at $20/pupil, so our foundation budget charts are not yet updated). And if anyone finds or has the actual language, please let me know; I'd be interested.

This means, of course, that two years on from the Foundation Budget Review Commission, with districts across the state repeating that we need finance reform, the only change we saw was the fragmentary one in health insurance. This isn't how one truly values public education.

Oh, and Senator Chang-Diaz was one of two votes against it.

The Department's budget is just over $14M, and continues to contain a boatload of earmarks, which I won't go into here, 'though at some point I have a whole rant on that.

METCO is $20.5M, splitting the difference between House and Senate.

Regional transportation reimbursement is $61.5M (which had been as high as $62M, so it also splits the difference).

The circuit breaker, something specified by Senator Karen Spilka as a "painful" cut, passed at $281,231,181, lower than BOTH House and Senate. Note, however, that it is $50,000 lower than what the Senate passed, which, in a budget of this size (and an account of this size) makes that more of a symbolic cut than anything.

Likewise, McKinney-Vento reimbursement was cut from both houses, being passed at just over $80M; this is an account which has never been fully funded.

Note that all of these previous three are reimbursements, meaning the district fronts the money and gets the money back from the state afterwards. There is here, then, less of a hit on the starting end, but we'll see budgets straining on by midyear.

Targeted intervention in underperforming schools passed at $7.2M, which is lower than either house had passed.

The MCAS line passed at $26.9M, also lower than either budget previously passed.

Extended learning time passed at $13.9M, lower than either.

Innovation schools split the different with a budget of $165,000; that's $150,000 with $15,000 earmarked for Pentucket Regional.

There had been no difference in the amount set aside for charter school reimbursement--an acknowledged-as-underfunded $80.5M--so that passed as previous.

Those are most of the major lines. As always, if you have questions, please let me know.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Oh, and about the July Worcester School Committee meeting

...The only agenda posted is one for executive session at 4:30 pm (for collective bargaining with the teachers).

What's a consent agenda and why you should care if you're in Worcester

As I mentioned in my preview of the final Worcester School regular meeting of the school year, Mr. Foley raised the issue of a consent agenda, something which is covered in today's T&G, as the item was held for the July meeting. The item as filed reads:
To ask the Mayor and the Superintendent to develop a new approach to the School Committee agenda that will make the meetings more effective, productive, and deliberative. Suggestions would include the establishment of a consent agenda for items such as routine approvals of donations and recognitions, the development of criteria for recognitions, designated meetings for honoring recipients of recognitions, and the presence on the agenda at each meeting or every other meeting an important educational policy issue facing Worcester Public Schools that school committee members would learn about (through materials distributed prior to the meeting) and discuss with administrators at the meeting.
So, what's a consent agenda, and why is this being discussed?

A consent agenda takes all of the items that don't need deliberation, items that are simply going to be passed, bundles them together, and has the committee vote a single time to pass all of them.  No one, for example, votes against donations; rarely is there any discussion beyond a request that thanks be sent to the donor. There is no need for individual votes for (to look at that same meeting) donations:

  • of $19.10 for classroom books 
  • of $1000 for SAT for seniors
  • of $1000 for a scholarship (due to Mr. Allen's award)
  • of $676 for special education transitions
  • of $250 for the alternative program (from an award they won!)
  • of $660 from Intel
  • of $13,000 from the Quinsigamond Village Improvement Council for equipment
Should they be on the agenda? Yes, and they're legally required to be, as the committee must vote acceptance of donations. But do they need to be taken separately? No, not at all.
And if someone thought one of them warranted discussion, they could make a motion to take the item off the consent agenda; if that motion passed, the item would be taken up during the meeting as a regular business item. 
Another example, and one raised by Mr. Monfredo in the article, is recognitions. You may have noted that I no longer spell those out in my agenda summary. Frankly, recognitions have exploded over the past year and a half. In that same June 15 alone, for example, there were nine different recognitions, some of several people, several of which were recognitions of individuals who have been recognized more than once this year already! And while recognitions may well be popular--and I doubt highly they'll ever go away--they are not, by any means, a core function of the School Committee, which, under the Mass General Laws, are: 
...to select and to terminate the superintendent, shall review and approve budgets for public education in the district, and shall establish educational goals and policies for the schools in the district consistent with the requirements of law and statewide goals and standards established by the board of education.
More to the point, for each of those recognitions, there is an item filed at an initial meeting, at which at least the filer of the item speaks to the item, and then the item is brought back for the recognition, at which someone else, at least, speaks to the item. And NONE of that is actual school committee business!
If the committee wants to bring people in to recognize them, those who wish to do so need not take up two rounds of committee time in order to do so. Put the initial filing on the consent agenda, and have the recognition at a subsequent meeting.

There's an additional thing going on here, which is mentioned in the article:
In its recent comprehensive review of the district, for example, the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education opined the committee was filing too many requests for information from the school administration – requests that often had little to do with the school system’s most pressing priority of improving teaching and learning, the report said.
This is a touchy subject: after all, DESE overreach and the tug-of-war over who manages what is something of a going concern in Massachusetts education and of this blog in particular. However, a quick glance back at some recent agendas speaks to the point:
  • a request for a list of STEM events during a particular month
  • a request for a report from a particular presentation at which the committee member was present
  • a request for a list of summer events
  • a request for a report on specific minor repairs undertaken to a specific school (out of 50 buildings)
  • a request that brush be cleared at particular schools
Can a school committee member make these requests? Absolutely. But as section BCA of the Worcester Public Schools policy handbook says about the responsibilities of school committee members, members will: 
Refer all complaints to the administrative staff for solution and only discuss them at Committee meetings if such solutions fail
In other words: Can it be done with a phone call? Can it be done with an email? Then it should be.
Otherwise, you're just putting it on the agenda to put your name on the agenda.
This will be taken up at Thursday night's meeting. EDIT: no, no regular meeting this week! Check in August! 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Why you maybe should still be worried about Chapter 70

You've no doubt heard the quotes: "Chapter 70 is the third rail;" "Chapter 70 is sacrosanct;" "The Legislature would never touch Chapter 70."
And if you've spent any time around this blog, you know that the state has a constitutional obligation around the funding of public education, thus protecting K-12 school funding.
That's protection only goes so far, however, and when now-Acting Commissioner Wulfson warns us not once, not twice, but three times that we should keep a wary eye on Chapter 70 funding, I believe him.

So this holiday week as we're still awaiting an FY18 budget (with the fiscal year having ended at midnight on Friday), here's how we could still see cuts in Chapter 70 school aid.

On the spreadsheet issued by DESE, I'm looking at the tab marked "summary" which is here:
(See the note up on top that says "Preliminary"? DESE issues this twice each year: once for the Governor's budget, and once for the final, signed-sealed-and-delivered state budget. We don't have the latter, so these numbers are still from the former.)

We could use lots of communities for this example, but for this round, let's look at Leominster, which has been in the news in central Mass lately. Leominster has a student enrollment of just over 6100 students in PreK through 12. They have a foundation budget of $69.4M for FY18. Leominster generally hovers just over required spending (and much of this year's debate has been over the mayor's assertion that he would fund the schools at, not over, net school spending for FY18). 

The summary page for Leominster looks like this: 

(as always, if you click on images, they'll get larger.)
A quick glance in the upper right hand corner of that sheet may give you a hint where this is going: like many districts in Massachusetts, Leominster Public Schools' enrollment is declining (down 99 students from the previous year). As the foundation budget is a student-driven formula, that means the foundation budget is also declining (down $81K from the previous year).

What does that mean for state aid? Take a look at the left column of the sheet:

From the calculation of the municipal wealth formula, Leominster is charged in FY18 with carrying $27.8M of its foundation budget, leaving $41.6M for the state to pick up. 

For FY17, Leominster received $43.8M in Ch. 70 aid.

You can imagine the outcry if Leominster--and many other districts--heard that they were going to get over $2M LESS in state aid than they did the year before. 
Thus two principles--neither of them constitutionally mandated--kick in: hold harmless and minimum aid.

"Hold harmless" straightforwardly is that your aid is "held harmless" or not hurt by the change in the calculation. In practice, that means that the district does not see an aid cut, even if one is warranted by the calculation.

"Minimum aid" comes to us courtesy of the elected branches: 
Remember, we're still working here on the Governor's budget; the Legislative houses both set this at $30/pupil.
Minimum aid means that for every student in your system, you will get an increase of at least that dollar amount. The Governor's budget (which this spreadsheet is based from) set this at $20/pupil; the Legislative branches both set it at $30/pupil.

If you're a district with increasing enrollment and a correspondingly increasing foundation budget, you're seeing more than that per pupil increase already (as the per pupil increases in foundation are significantly more than that) in your constitutionally-mandated state aid.

However, neither hold harmless or minimum aid are constitutionally mandated. 

Last year, about $450M of the full Chapter 70 budget was hold harmless and minimum aid. This year, the Governor's $20 per pupil increase alone is $11M.

Am I saying that the conference committee is definitely going to hit this section of the budget? No. I don't have any sources on that.
But they can. And if Jeff Wulfson is worried, I'm worried.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Update from DESE regarding the late Commissioner

From today's Commissioner's update:
Message from Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson: 
This has been a difficult week here at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. With Mitchell Chester's passing, we lost not only an inspirational leader, but a great friend, colleague, and mentor. Thank you to everyone who reached out to us with messages of encouragement and support and to all those, locally and nationally, who paid tribute to his lifelong contributions to education. As Secretary Peyser said, we were blessed to have had Mitchell with us. 
At his family's request, this week's burial service was private. Condolence cards for his wife, Angela Sangeorge, and his children can be sent care of Helene Bettencourt here at ESE, and we'll make sure that they get to the family. Contributions in Mitchell's memory can be made to Habitat for Humanity, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or a scholarship fund that will be announced at a public memorial service that is being planned for August or September. 
Mitchell is gone, but the important work he led, the work that all of us are engaged in, goes on. Here at ESE, we are committed to honoring his memory by pursuing that work with renewed dedication. At the same time, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will soon begin the thoughtful and deliberate process to select the Commonwealth's 24th education commissioner. As acting commissioner, I will do my best to keep you informed and provide any assistance you need. Please do not hesitate to contact me.
I've added links to the above for donations. 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

South High approved for Schematic Design yesterday

Yesterday, as reported in today's T&G, South High was approved for Schematic Design at the Mass School Building Authority meeting in Boston. It is approval for a new building, with a budget (MSBA estimates) of $191M.
You can find what the city (remember, the city, not the schools, build buildings) submitted here, though be warned that it's a big file that takes awhile. That and the preliminary submission from January. are at this point all we have to look at. That page off of South High's main page has no record of meetings--though they have to have had public meetings in order to vote--and no posted agendas--though, again, that has to have happened for the votes to have happened.

In fact, information about what's going on with this building project has been next to nothing, aside from a single T&G article in which Scott O'Connell interviewed Superintendent Binienda who explained that renovation had been considered (as required by MSBA), but:
School officials had been focused primarily on either rebuilding South High or renovating it extensively. The base repair option wouldn’t make any significant changes to the building, only fix existing issues, and Ms. Binienda said in the end, the other two options “were going to cost the same price.”
She also said the renovation option would be more disruptive to students, who would be displaced while the old school was under construction, and take longer than building a new facility, based on the district’s project team’s findings.
This is hardly a surprise, if you follow school building projects, but, outside of the few words here, who would know how this decision was made, or its merits? The relative merits of decisions already made--dropping the pool (suggested in the first round plan), expanding the Ch. 74 programs, adding a piano lab and foreign language labs, and so forth--are ones we have no insight into.

We're about to spend close to $200M on a new high school for the city. It's all public money, even if most of it comes from the state. It's supposed to serve all of our kids.

We should know more than we do. We should be invited to take part.
We haven't been.

EDITED TO ADD: a couple of screenshots of the approved design (thus far) after the jump:

This is two mock-ups from either direction: on the top, Apricot Street is at the bottom of the shot, and we're looking across the street at the campus; on the bottom, Apricot Street is at the top.

This gives an idea of how it all goes together: the ballfield as it is behind Sullivan, a new track facility and a new building. Note that all of this is on WPS property, though (EDITED) the orange triangles are NOT; they're on conservation land. So they're building right out to the line. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

About desegregation

Don't misread the Supreme Court on what is allowed.
“To say you can’t use race after Parents Involved is really misleading, unnecessarily constraining, and may even make districts hesitant to do anything at all,” says Erica Frankenberg, an education policy researcher at Pennsylvania State University. “I think it can be a real disservice to furthering integration.”

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

What happens now?

Yes, I know Commissioner Chester just died. It's also been so long since we've needed a new commissioner--Chester was appointed in 2008--that I'm sure most of us don't remember how this works. Thus, your answer.
We're now operating under MGL Ch. 15, Sec. 1F:
Whenever a vacancy occurs in the position of commissioner, the board shall by a two-thirds vote of all its members submit to the secretary, for the secretary's approval, a recommended candidate to fill that vacancy. The secretary may appoint the recommended candidate as commissioner. If the secretary declines to appoint the candidate, the board shall submit a new candidate for consideration. The secretary may appoint the commissioner only from candidates submitted to the secretary by the board.
Thus, Secretary Peyser makes the appointment but may do so only from candidates submitted by two-thirds of the Board.
In terms of the Board itself, note that currently there is an open seat, to be filled by Governor Baker, due to the resignation of Roland Fryer. The student representative, who does get a vote, will also join the Board this fall. The Board members, with the exception in this case of Chair Sagan (who has a term coterminus with Governor Baker) serve five year terms, subject to a single renewal. I believe--and if you know otherwise, please correct me here--that Member Noyce is currently serving her second five year term and thus will leave the Board in October, leaving another seat to be filled by Governor Baker. With thanks for the correction: member Noyce is on her first term.

There's some history in some of the people currently involved around this: more to come on appointing Commissioners. 

Commissioner Chester has died

Giving this its own post
Appointed in 2008, he was the longest-serving Commissioner (/state superintendent) in the country. He was 65.
More from WBUR here.
Requiescat in Pace 

June Board of Education meeting: ABBREVIATED MEETING

The Board of Education is having their June meeting in Malden this morning at 8:30. The agenda is here. 
Posting as we go.
Chair Sagan just took a call and has gathered the rest of the board (not a quorum here) around him; members of staff coming in teary-eyed and exchanging hugs. 

Chair Sagan opens the meeting by announcing that Commissioner Chester died last night "after a short but difficult illness."
They will conduct an abbreviated meeting.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Feed their stomachs and feed their heads

Two sets of Worcester schedules for you:

SCOTUS finds for Trinity Lutheran; expect to see cases on the Blaine (anti-voucher) amendments

I'll update this post as more comes in. 
The Supreme Court has decided in favor of Trinity Lutheran on a case that involved access to recycled tire scraps (for playgrounds); you can read the full decision here. The case was decided 7-2, Sotomayor and Ginsberg dissenting. The decision was written by Chief Justice Roberts and reads as follows:
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources has not subjected anyone to chains or torture on account of religion. And the result of the State’s policy is nothing so dramatic as the denial of political office. The consequence is, in all likelihood, a few extra scraped knees. But the exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution all the same, and cannot stand.
Why do we care? As has been bandied about repeatedly over the past few months, there is some connection between this and the argument over school vouchers; thus allowing access to state grants for a religious institution could clear the argument for state support for religious schools.

As always, I'm not a lawyer, but I'm seeing some disagreement with our reading that direction in the decision itself; note for example this footnote:
This case involves express discrimination based on religious identity with respect to playground resurfacing. We do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination.
One should note, however, that Justice Gorsuch dissents specifically from that footnote.

The larger dissent, written by Sotomayor, is well worth reading:
To hear the Court tell it, this is a simple case about recycling tires to resurface a playground. The stakes are higher. This case is about nothing less than the relationship between religious institutions and the civil government—that is, between church and state. The Court today profoundly changes that relationship by holding, for the first time, that the Constitution requires the government to provide public funds directly to a church. Its decision slights both our precedents and our history, and its reasoning weakens this country’s longstanding commitment to a separation of church and state beneficial to both.
Sotomayor does see this as opening up the possibility of further cases; see the footnote:
The principle it establishes can be manipulated to call for a similar fate for lines drawn on the basis of religious use.
And the conclusion:
If this separation means anything, it means that the government cannot, or at the very least need not, tax its citizens and turn that money over to houses of worship. The Court today blinds itself to the outcome this history requires and leads us instead to a place where separation of church and state is a constitutional slogan, not a constitutional commitment. I dissent.
More as I find it.

Peter Greene comments that churches will "rue the day" of this, as money usually doesn't come without strings:
The separation of church and state doesn't just protect the state-- it protects the church, too. When you mix religion and politics, you get politics. And where federal money goes, federal strings follow. Sooner or later the right combination of misbehavior and people in federal power will result in a call for accountability for private schools that get federal money-- even religious schools. And as the requests for private religious vouchers roll in, folks will be shocked and surprised to find that Muslim and satanic and flying spaghetti monster houses of worship will line up for money, then the feds will have to come up with a mechanism for determining "legitimacy" and voila! That's how you get the federal department of church oversight.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekend reading

A lot of this I posted either on my Twitter feed or on my blog Facebook page, but for those who don't go to those locations, some recommended reading:
But, in what is supposedly the age of data, the data on school integration is almost completely overlooked. We have solid evidence of its benefits, and we have over a century of evidence that “separate but equal” is harmful. In everything from the policies that are made to the everyday conversations about school integration, this doesn’t seem to matter. Decisions to segregate are made in the gut or maybe (sadly) in the heart, but not in the head. It touches core beliefs and unexamined social assumptions that are wrapped up in fears of being labeled a bad person or a bad parent.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Board of Education has their June meeting on Tuesday: UPDATED

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets for June on Tuesday at their offices in Malden. You can find the agenda here. 
A couple of things that are not on the agenda, but are coming in as reports:
  • The annual survey of superintendents and principals is back. You can find a lot more breakdown of the results here
  • An update on the revision of the social studies and history standards is included. The short version is we're done with the initial stakeholder engagement and moving on to the drafting of draft standards.
  • The annual non-operating school districts (that tuition out all of their students) report is included. Note that a number of these are small towns that run K-6 and then tuition out their high school students (choosing not to belong to a regional school district).
On the agenda:
  • proposed Early College Program Designation process and criteria for discussion and vote. This is essentially formalizing and creating new versions of the linking of high schools and colleges for high school students to gain college credit and experiences in high school. I continue to feel as though this misses the major point, which is that no one seems to know what to do with high school anymore. Shoving them all into college early misses some growth that ought, I think, to be happening in high school.
  • a presentation on the Safe Schools for LGBTQ students program
  • a discussion and vote on proposed revisions to teacher licensure. The only bit that's particularly new here from earlier discussion is the removal of what was proposed as broadening language around removal of licensure; if you skim down the link, you can see the discussion of what was the section most objected to by the state teachers' unions. Note in particular this comment: " The removal of some of the proposed amendments to 603 CMR 7.15(8) does not affect, change, or narrow the Commissioner's legal authority."
  • There will be an update on the four Level 5 schools, of which two are in Boston, one in New Bedford, and one in Holyoke. With the return of the Dever to operation under Boston Superintendent Chang, three of these schools will be operating under the authority of their superintendents as receiver, though in those cases not reporting to their school committees (with the exception of Holyoke, where the entire district is under state receivership).
  • The Commissioner has his annual performance review, done by subcommittee. You can read the full report here. He is being given a 4.95 rating out of 5. More than anything, this reflects to me just how far removed the Board is from most of education in the state.
  • The Board is being asked to waive the week's notice of charter school lotteries in the case of three schools that had to reschedule due to a snowstorm in March. 
  • The Board is being asked to do their usual summer delegation of authority to the Commissioner. 
  • And the Board is being asked to vote their schedule for next year.
Liveblog/tweet coming Tuesday. 

UPDATE: Today (Friday) they added:
Executive Session to Discuss Litigation Strategy

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

We have a joint committee hearing date!


This is it! The Joint Committee on Education will hold a hearing on July 25 at 10 am on S223, the bill which would implement the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.


The public hearing is one way the Legislature gauges how important this is to the public. Packing the place is REALLY IMPORTANT!

Also, having well-informed testimony about the actual impacts of NOT updating the foundation budget for this long is also crucial.

10 am
July 25
The State House

Please plan to be there!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Worcester School Committee on FY18 (round three)

I missed a few accounts, but came in just in time for Brian O'Connell's annual professed ignorance about the table of accounts (the "hidden administrators") speech. Mr. O'Connell, of course, is a school business manager.
Mr. O'Connell argues for and makes a motion to cut $150,000 from the central administration account.

Worcester School Committee on FY18 (round two)

Round one notes are here; the sequence of accounts are here; the budget is here. They'll be picking up with special education tuition at $18.6M.
Mayor says they're picking back up with personal services

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

City Manager Augustus and Superintendent Binienda at CPPAC

at least nominally on budget, but we'll see where the questions go...

Supt Binienda: FY17 adopted budget $322M; FY18 recommended $334M
not including grants
increase of over 3%
"foundation budget is really well below what we need for what we need to do."
runs through account by account increases
notes special education increases, translation (which is hard to project and legally required)...
"process we have is a really great process": resource allocation meetings
principals meet with their schools, fill out resource allocation form, meet with district managers
each school has an hour to an hour and half to make their case
priority 1, 2, 3
"try to fill priority 1 for this year"
were able to fill all priority 1 for this year

Monday, June 12, 2017

Worcester school meetings this week

and there are a few...
The Governance and Employee Issues subcommittee meets on Wednesday at 5:30. Of note at this meeting: they're reviewing the student handbook--which suggests no substantive changes--and section I of the district policy manual (that's Instruction)--which I also don't see anything to raise eyebrows on--with one exception: they're about to let vocational students out of the two years of foreign language requirement ('though that's only in the handbook, not in the policy manual...and the two should agree). That would mean that students who don't complete that requirement would be ineligible for admission to (for example) UMass, which is why the MassCore requirements (including the two years of language) were adopted.
They're also hearing about collaboration around the Byrne Criminal Justice grant and discussion of municipal governance and of registering students to vote.

On Wednesday night, the final CPPAC meeting of the year is 7 pm at the Worcester Art Museum, and the guest speakers are Superintendent Binienda and City Manager Augustus to talk about the budget. A good time to ask questions...

The School Committee picks up budget again at 4pm on Thursday. The sequence of accounts is here, and they left off with security guards. There's a lot left to get through. If past experience is a guide, they'll go as far as they can til 6, recess to executive session, come back at 7 for the regular meeting, and pick up budget again once they've completed the regular meeting.

The regular meeting has a LOT of recognitions.
The report of the superintendent is on the ALICE security protocol, which includes training students and staff to fight intruders, rather than lockdown. The presentation is here. It appears, from the presentation, that the administration adopted this protocol without a school committee vote or any public notice.

There are also responses to motions made during and surrounding the budget deliberation two weeks ago: the motion on non-fulfillment of transportation, on leasing buses, on the wall by Tatnuck Magnet School, on Seven Hills charter school and WRTA grant-funded transportation, on McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursment (36% last year), on the Foley Stadium revolving fund, on graduation expenses, on what the crew team needs, on the repair of athletic equipment, and on athletic supplies purchased.

Mr. O'Connell is proposing having public meetings and hearings as part of the development of the new South High School.

He also wants to discuss departmental consolidation with the city.

He also is suggesting two meetings a month in summer (continuing the regular year schedule) and an additional meeting in months that have a fifth Thursday.

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on itinerant special education staff caseloads, specifically referencing Boston, and also a report on "what, if any, orientation, training or ongoing professional development is provided by special education department leadership to principals, as it relates to itinerant special education staff."

The committee is being asked to accept a donation of $19.10 for classroom books, of $1000 for SAT for seniors, of $1000 for a scholarship (due to Mr. Allen's award), of $676 for special education transitions, of $250 for the alternative program (from an award they won!), of $660 from Intel, and of $13,000 from the Quinsigamond Village Improvement Council for equipment. They're also being asked to vote a prior year invoice of $585 and invoices of $7695.

Mr. Foley is suggesting the following:
To ask the Mayor and the Superintendent to develop a new approach to the School Committee agenda that will make the meetings more effective, productive, and deliberative. Suggestions would include the establishment of a consent agenda for items such as routine approvals of donations and recognitions, the development of criteria for recognitions, designated meetings for honoring recipients of recognitions, and the presence on the agenda at each meeting or every other meeting an important educational policy issue facing Worcester Public Schools that school committee members would learn about (through materials distributed prior to the meeting) and discuss with administrators at the meeting.

There is an executive session scheduled for 6 pm on a grievance, contract negotiations with the teachers' union and with non-represented personnel (both non-administrative and administrative), and:
To authorize the Superintendent to negotiate an employment contract for Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as the Deputy Superintendent, effective July 1, 2017.
...which I assume means that the committee voted in favor of the hire?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Brockton's not kidding

The Mayor has set aside funding to pursue an education funding equity lawsuit against the state:

Carpenter said he agreed on setting aside $100,000 for the cause. “We realize it ultimately will cost more than that,” said Carpenter, speaking to The Enterprise on Wednesday. “We also know we are losing millions of dollars in education reimbursement right now because of the inequities in the current Chapter 70 formula. We can’t sustain that very long. If we have to spend a little bit of money to ultimately compel the state to give us millions more, than we think it’s the prudent course of action. We can’t just sit back and allow this to continue. Our school system won’t survive.” 
Carpenter pointed to a 2015 foundation budget study commissioned by the state legislature, arguing that the state has failed to act on the recommendations, which he said would have benefited Brockton Public Schools financially. 
“Implementing any of these recommendations would mean more state education dollars coming to Brockton,” Carpenter said. “However, to date, the state has not even adopted one of its own recommendations from that commission.”

Friday, June 2, 2017

A couple of observations from the WPS budget before Council

I didn't liveblog the consideration of the Worcester Public Schools' budget before City Council on Tuesday, though I did livetweet it (you'll need to scroll back to May 30). There were a few things I wanted to post on here, though, before it all vanishes into the Twitter backlog. I'm not, incidentally, going to waste either my time or my space on issues that we've long since dealt with
  • You may have seen this article on some Worcester schools adding washers and dryers next year. This discussion coming up led to what was probably Superintendent Binienda's best moment of the deliberation:
  • Rare praise from Councilor Lukes: 
  • There were a couple of back and forths about charter reimbursement and the foundation budget review commission that made it clear that, while Council does understand what we're missing on charter reimbursement, many don't understand what we're missing on the lack of the review of the foundation budget. Not okay for a city missing as much as Worcester is...somewhere around $100M a year.
  • There was, though, one sequence that really worried me: Councilor Rosen asked a solid question on the impact of the proposed federal budget on the Worcester Public Schools: 
  • ...so far so good.
    Superintendent Binienda then went on an extended discussion of her longstanding concern over funding of AP tests and the state's proposal that Title IV could be used for that. The Worcester Public Schools, however, don't get Title IV money (and haven't gotten Title IV money for as long as I've been paying attention).
    She then added school nutrition, but school nutrition funds aren't threatened by the proposed budget. School-based health centers, she added, which possibly could see some impact if there's a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, but there's no change in their funding under the proposed federal budget.
    Finally, she added Title III. Worcester does get Title III, which is funding for ELL students; it's used to fund seven instructional coaches and some summer programs. But Title III also isn't seeing an impact in the proposed federal budget.
    (if you're interested in my sources, I read this from EdWeek  and this from the Washington Post when the budget came out, and just double checked that against CNN,)
    So what should the answer have been?
    The two clearest impacts are to two programs which are cut entirely under the proposed budget: Title IIA is teacher preparation, which in Worcester funds 14 instructional coaches and a Manager of Curriculum (that's $1.8M a year); the 21st Century grant is Community Learning Centers which run after school at Burncoat Middle and at Sullivan Middle (that's $181,000 a year).
    It's also worth keeping an eye on Title I. While that's expected to be level-funded, there's no provision in the federal budget for the ESSA language that now funds school turnaround grants out of the Title I line. That could effectively work out to a 7% cut, depending on how states handle it. Worcester gets $11.6M a year in Title I funds, and that covers most of an administrative position, 14 preschool teachers, 12 other teachers, 34 coaches, 7 wraparound positions, 34 IAs, and nearly 15 grant and support positions. That's a big one.

    Yes, it's finance, and yes, that's a big thing I follow. But this is a question that any superintendent in the country should have expected to get this year, but most especially one that gets $29M a year in federal grants. And ours didn't expect to get it, wasn't prepared, and didn't answer the question correctly.

Recommended reading: on college towns and racial stratification in the public school system

...but it applies much more broadly.
Many of the administrators and teachers at these three schools know the research by Oakes and others. But “it’s difficult for school districts to resist the pressure that comes from white, liberal parents with university credentials,” Oakes said. “These parents come with such authority. And it’s hard for parents of color to stand up to the counter-pressure.” Schools in turn often limit themselves to working the edges to address the achievement gap between black and white students, leaving the larger structure intact. “They’re doing the feel-good stuff, but they’re not addressing the political obstacle,” argued UCLA’s Noguera.

This resonates locally, as well, given the pressure to continue to create "gifted programs" without regard to actual impact on student populations. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

The rest of Worcester meetings this week

Note that the Worcester Public Schools' (bottom line) budget is before the Worcester City Council on Tuesday, May 30, at 4 pm.

The School Committee begins meeting in budget session on Thursday, June 1 at 4 pm, with an executive session at 6 pm, and a regular meeting at 7 pm. The agenda for all of that is here.

In addition to recognitions and the major request for an appointment I posted below, the School Committee is hearing a report on professional development, which largely seems to be focused on the curriculum liaisons, including at least one "to be appointment" for "college and career readiness." OCPL is apparently "Office of Curriculum and Professional Learning."

The reports out from the meeting of and budget hearing by Finance and Operations are on the agenda. As always, the hearing on the budget is being reported out after the first School Committee budget session. 

The restorative justice programs at Claremont and at North are back on the agenda (?).

The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $1685; to accept a grant from "Project Lead the Way" at Doherty, which appears to involve classes at WPI, for $26,250, and for Worcester Tech for $15,000; to accept a grant from Lowe's for $3810 for Burncoat High; to approve a prior fiscal year payment for Education, Inc. for home tutoring services for $8,902.50; to accept a donation for Worcester Tech of $435;

Miss Biancheria is asking for monthly incident reports and for the cost and locations of graduations. She also is requesting more information about the changes in staffing around the Central Mass Collaborative.

Miss Colorio is suggesting that recognitions be consolidated to once a month.

The Administration is asking that the admission policy of Worcester Tech (largely regarding legal changes, per the notice).

The executive session is for the teachers' contract, for an HVAC worker's grievance, for worker's compensation for a teacher, and for non-represented employees, both administration and not (as they don't have a union negotiating, they haven't come through on new contracts. This probably is whatever the administration is proposing in cost of living increases.)

Also, check the front page of the website: LOTS of graduations this week! 

Superintendent Binienda seeking to appoint a deputy

From Thursday night's Worcester School Committee agenda:
To consider approval of the appointment of Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as Deputy Superintendent of Schools, effective, July 1, 2017. 
That is the date that Dr. Rodrigues begins in Hudson. 
Dr. O'Neil was the principal of Worcester Arts Magnet School until last year until she joined central administration.

Note that this is also a reorganization of positions, as there is as of now no deputy position in administration; there is no note of a request of that being approved, though the creation of such positions does require School Committee approval under the Massachusetts General Law:
Upon the recommendation of the superintendent, the school committee may also establish and appoint positions of assistant or associate superintendents, who shall report to the superintendent, and the school committee shall fix the compensation paid to such assistant or associate superintendents. 

As for the appointment itself, under MGL Ch. 71
The school committee shall approve or disapprove the hiring of said positions. Such approval by the school committee of the recommendation shall not be unreasonably withheld; provided, however, that upon the request of the superintendent the school committee shall provide an explanation of disapproval.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

And with the Senate passing their budget tonight...

The Senate passed amendment 75, which implements the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations, UNANIMOUSLY. Not only that, but Senate President Rosenberg cast a rare vote (generally the president doesn't vote) in favor.
Nice advocacy!

On to conference committee! Let your representative know that THIS IS A PRIORITY!

Comments before the Worcester Finance and Operations on FY18 budget

I spoke from notes on Tuesday night, so this isn't word for word; some of what I said made it into the T&G. Again, the presentation from Tuesday is here. 

Please note that I speak tonight only as a parent with three children in the Worcester Public Schools, 'though my perspective is informed by my work at the state level.
I think it's important first to note that Worcester is an outlier this year in having a budget that is growing as it is. While other districts are seeing staff cuts of double and triple digits, Worcester is adding double digits of teachers. The growth in the budget largely due to increased enrollment, which is also unusual. Most districts in Massachusetts have declining enrollment. We should celebrate that, but it also should make us even more active as a district in our advocacy for a revision in the state formula.

I can't help but notice that this is the second year in a row in which the central administration is growing, after several years in which it declined. I don't begrudge the growth--as the budget cites on page 396, Worcester's administration is smaller than most, and, by my calculation, in FY16 was funded at 62% of foundation--but I am concerned about the choice made in where those additions come. Early planning stages of the state's Every Student Succeeds Act planning emphasized social-emotional learning heavily, and thus many districts shifted resources in response. The final plan, however, de-emphasizes this as part of the accountability standards. This is not to suggest that social-emotional learning isn't important, but I question if a cabinet-level administrative position is the best way to do that. A budget that adds, as far as I can tell, no (or few) guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, or psychologists is not most effectively meeting the needs of students. Additions are desperately needed.

As a parent of two secondary students, I find the significant additions of secondary teachers reassuring. Additions not only in core subjects but also in the arts are heartening. I note, however, that the only addition to the Burncoat Magnet program is a single dance teacher 7-12. With the addition of the Hanover Academy to Burncoat, there already is concern in the arts magnet that they will be negatively impacted; no one has reassured them otherwise. A successful program of three decades deserves better treatment than this. Likewise, though the dual language program moves to seventh grade this year, Burncoat Middle has no additional ELL or language teachers. Those parents--and I stress, only the sixth grade parents, as no one has spoken with parents in any other grade; communication on this has been non-existent--were told that the school could only schedule those students to move as a pack. This means those students would see no differentiation of levels, thus leaving those who might otherwise head to AP or Calculus classes unable to do so. Having worked in a secondary school, I know that this is a  matter of wanting to rather than being able to. I would urge the committee to take an interest in this matter and add the sections that might be necessary to give these kids access to all they are able to do.

I note that both the instructional materials account and the building maintenance account are flat funded. Likewise, though the capital repairs list is interesting, and I appreciate the City Manager's reported interest, the capital fund thus far is flat funded. While it is gratifying and important that the city continues to make investments in new buildings and windows, if we don't spend money on regular repairs to the existing buildings, we will need those new buildings that much more often. I would urge the School Committee to be outspoken in their advocacy for additional capital funding to better meet the needs of the district.

Finally, though it is found in two locations in the budget, between the schools budget and the municipal contribution, the spending on police continues to rise. This year, the district will come close to spending a million dollars on policing in our schools. I think it is important to note that, and to question the wisdom of this as a priority in funding.

Likewise, I see that the safety account is budgeted at a hundred thousand dollars this year. Having been in a number of presentations on school safety, most recently last week in one by Sandy Hook Elementary, allow me to point out: you can spend as much money as you like on cameras and buzzers and equipment. If, every time I show up outside a school and push the buzzer, I am buzzed in without any question or look, the schools are no safer than if you'd spent nothing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Worcester Public Schools FY18 budget hearing

The presentation for tonight is here.
The full budget is here.

Worcester Public Schools Finance and Operations quarterly report

meeting before the budget hearing...agenda is here

May meeting of the Board of Ed: early college

Back up is here
five key design principles
"key thinking about each domain"
  • prioritize students underrepresented
"structured to eliminate all barriers to student participation"
  • guided academic pathways
at least 12 college credits; exposure to career opportunites
validating that courses are as rigorous as those on college campus
should allow for student work on campus
  • enhancing student support
  • connection to career
  • effective partnership
one public secondary school or district; at least one higher ed

application to be recognized as early college
have to hit all five guiding principles: to receive preliminary designation, must address plans for each five
final demonstrates effective implementation (signed MOUs, policies, calendars and schedules, staffing plans)

Peyser "do need to ensure an ongoing financing strategy"
"It's additive to the existing funding model"
McKenna: not to require students to earn 12 credits
"when we talk about at risk students we do not want to lose the goal of losing at risk students...that's a full semester"
career paths broadly defined
"There are careers that are not in STEM"

May meeting of the Board of Ed: MCAS update

backup is here
Wulfson: continuing on promise to keep Board updated
2/3 of way through administration this spring
then standard-setting process that will then lead into the scoring
"extremely pleased with how this test is going"
"it's been an incredible year" for those doing the work

May meeting of the Board of Education: opening remarks

You can find the agenda here. Note that we'll hear from Scituate as part of the opening this morning, as Sciutate High School is hosting today.
Also, interesting note for DESE watchers: the Commissioner is not here today, so Deputy Commissioner Wulfson is sitting in.

Congratulations to Katherine Craven who is home with a new daughter!

Welcome today to Scituate High School.
"flies under the radar, but is doing some exceptionally well things here"

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Board of Ed meets tonight and tomorrow

Apologies for the late posting on this one!

The Elementary and Secondary Board of Education meets tonight and tomorrow. You can find the agenda here.
Tonight's meeting has a presentation from each of the receivership districts.

Tomorrow is at Scituate High School; as is their custom, the Board is meeting at the high school of the student representative for their May meeting.
After opening remarks, the Board will hear an update on MCAS; an update on the early college committee; an update on the FY18 budget; next year's proposed meeting schedule; and plan to vote on a policy on remote participation.

I won't be there tonight, but I will be in Scituate tomorrow

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Worcester, you have good people working for you.

Congratulations to:
Sara Consalvo, Worcester Public Schools Budget Director, who was awarded a "Friend of MASBO" award at their Annual Conference on Thursday, and...

Brian Allen, Worcester Public Schools Chief Financial and Operations Officer, who was awarded the 2017 President's award.

We don't hear enough in Worcester about the good work that people are doing.
Nemo profeta in patria

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner, DESE (MASBO Annual Institute)

"obviously the state budget is on everyone's mind"
FBRC recommendations "have clearly taken hold"
some start made in each budget towards that

MassBudget presents on the FY18 state budget (MASBO Annual Institute 2017)

 Noah Berger, MassBudget and Policy
people are our resource; Mann's quote on "having no mines to work...whatever abundance she may possess, all has bee evolved from the enlightened...mind, not of a few, but of the great masses, of her people"

Looking for more motion on FBRC?

Call your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor Amendment 75, which would implement recommendations and set up movement in future years.
Or you can use MASC's handy "send an email" function.
I hope to get to a full rundown on amendments...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Best Practices in School Budgeting (MASBO Annual Institute 2017)

Presentation is here
They're also referencing the Government Finance Officers Association Award for Best Practices in School Budgeting.
And, as would only be right, there's a reference to ASBO's Meritorious Budget Award.

"Beyond Sandy Hook" (MASBO Annual Institute 17)

I'm posting this morning from the MASBO Annual Institute in Falmouth where this morning the presentation is "Beyond Sandy Hook" a panel discussion on Sandy Hook. Hashtag for the conference is #MASBOAI17
Presenters this morning:
Michele Gay, parent of Josephine Gay
Daniel Jewiss, CT State Police
Natalie Hammond, teacher, Sandy Hook Elementary
Joseph Erardi, current superintendent of Newton

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Worcester Public Schools before City Council

Per Nick Kotsopolous:
...4 p.m. May 30. Among the budgets on the docket for that day are the Worcester public schools...

Senate Ways and Means budget

The Senate Ways and Means Committee released their FY18 budget today. You can find the executive summary here, along with the ability to download the rest of the budget.

A few foundation budget notes first: in the outside section, the FBRC implementation committee (for lack of a better term) is set up:
Section 5B½. (a) Annually, not later than January 15, the secretary of administration and finance shall meet with the senate and house committees on ways and means to jointly determine an implementation schedule to fulfill the recommendations filed on November 2, 2015 by the foundation budget review commission established in section 4 of chapter 70. The implementation schedule shall establish a foundation budget as defined in section 2 of said chapter 70 incorporating the categories of tuitioned-out special education rate, assumed in-school special education enrollment, low-income increment, low-income enrollment, foundation benefits, retired employee health insurance and English language learner increment; provided, however, that in the first year of the term of office of a governor who has not served in the preceding year, the parties shall determine an implementation schedule not later than January 31 of that year. In determining the implementation schedule, the secretary of administration and finance and the senate and house committees on ways and means shall hold a public hearing and receive testimony from the commissioner of elementary and secondary education and other interested parties. The schedule may be amended by agreement of the senate and house committees on ways and means in any fiscal year to reflect changes in enrollment, inflation, student populations or other factors that may affect the remaining costs in the schedule. The implementation schedule may be included in a joint resolution and placed before the members of the general court for their consideration along with proposed legislation to execute and implement the schedule. The implementation schedule shall be subject to appropriation.
That's important, because that's the part that really makes it happen. If they have to get together and publicly decide every year "here's where we are; here's where we're going," then this becomes something that we're all in on making happen.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, May 18

You can find the agenda here.
While it does not appear until later down the agenda, in honor of the anniversary of Ernest Thayer's death, the Worcester School Committee will be doing a reading of "Casey at the Bat" as part of the meeting.
There are also a number of congratulations.

The report of the superintendent is end of cycle reports on the innovation plans of Chandler Magnet, Goddard Scholars, University Park Campus School, Woodland Academy, and Worcester Tech. Each of the schools is requesting a renewal of their innovation plans; remarkably, all that is being offered to the committee for this decision is 2 to 4 page charts. Most schools are requesting no change in their innovation plan. The one change that is being requested is from Goddard Scholars, which is asking to eliminate the "proficient" tier for the 4th grade MCAS, which is the sole determent of admission. They would thus be taking only "advanced" students. Interesting in that it more concretely sets the academy's emphasis on test scores, and does so in a year in which testing is through a new system. 

There are updates on restorative justice programs at Claremont Academy and at North High School.

The committee is being asked to accept an "Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education Grant" for $51,602, which surprisingly is actually for machine shop training (with an ESL component).

Mr. Monfredo is requesting a summer reading kickoff.

The committee is being asked to accept a number of donations to Tatnuck Magnet, to Woodland Academy, to Burncoat Street Prep, to Worcester Tech, to Canterbury Street, to Belmont Street, and to the administration (?) for the opening of school in 2017. They're also being asked to vote a prior year payment of $1,685.00 to WB Mason.

There is also an executive session on teachers' contract negotiations, a worker's comp case, and a grievance.

No liveblog; I'm off to cover MASBO's Annual Institute! 

The Worcester Public Schools FY18 budget is now posted

Sorry for the late post on this; I was off my computer this weekend.
The new and improved FY18 Worcester Public Schools budget is now posted online. Start perusing it now, so as to give public testimony next Tuesday, May 23, at the public hearing.

I haven't given it a thorough read as yet (longer post once I do), but I did post two Twitter threads on it after skimming it over the weekend. The first starts here:

The second, in (brief!) response to the Nick Kotsopoulos column on Sunday starts here:
In both cases, click through to get the full thread.
We are, as I posted in the latter thread, actually over Net School Spending this year by less than 1%. We're also have a foundation budget that is $61.4M undercalculated for just health insurance and special education.
Go look at the budget, though; enormous work on graphics there!
And more to come

Friday, May 12, 2017

One Oklahoma representative wants to round up ELL kids

Yes, it's as awful as it sounds:
Republican Rep. Mike Ritze told CBS affiliate KWTV that he has another proposal in mind: Rounding up the state’s 82,000 non-English-speaking students and handing them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens — and do we really have to educate noncitizens?” Ritze asked.
As the article points out, the Supreme Court weighed in on this issue in Plyer v. Doe in 1981, finding that those who are undocumented are people "in any ordinary sense of the term," and thus were protected (and afforded equal access to education) under the Fourteenth Amendment.
And this did not escape the ACLU:

Friday, May 5, 2017

About classroom management

A good (short) read for Friday.

Two Worcester upcoming events of note

  • CPPAC's next meeting is Wednesday, May 10 at 7 pm at the Worcester Art Museum, and they're having Bridgette Kelly, from Student Assessment in DESE to "provide an overview of new parent/guardian reports for MCAS 2.0 and focus group to obtain feedback from parents ensuring information is understandable," which is something I didn't know they were doing.

  • BUDGET HEARING! Tuesday, May 23 at 7 pm in the fourth floor conference room at DAB. The budget is due out next Friday, May 12*, so that gives some time to peruse the proposed budget before weighing in.
Please spread the word!

*it should get posted here 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why the Worcester Public Schools don't just use the WRTA

On tonight's City Council agenda:
Request City Manager work in consultation with the WRTA and Worcester Public School Department to direct an evaluation to utilize existing WRTA buses and personnel to transfer Worcester Public School High School students to and from high schools
 Yes, Worcester, it's an election year, when suddenly the Worcester City Council remembers there are 27,000 city students and $100M city dollars going to the Worcester Public Schools and they decide to DO SOMETHING TO FIX IT.

Here, for those not familiar with our bus system, is the WRTA route map:

Notice anything?
Yes, Worcester has a lot of open space (it's handily marked in green on the map) but those are, in fact, neighborhoods in all of those spaces between the red lines, even that big blank space in the upper left (where the default assumption is that you have a least one car). And those neighborhoods have students who live in them.
Worcester has seven high schools; two are in the urban core and largely have a student body that walk. Of the other five, South High is in the bottom left corner of the map (on the Leicester line); North is along the right side (close to Lake Quinsigamond, which is the Shrewsbury line); Burncoat is in the upper right (near the West Boylston line); Worcester Tech is midway on the right side; and Doherty is close where a lot of the lines cross, by Elm Park (though at the edge of that big blank space). The majority of the schools are at the edge of the city. And those schools together serve ALL students. Worcester Tech takes students from all over the city, but so does the Burncoat Magnet and Goddard Scholars at South. All of those students are guaranteed transportation.
The WRTA (as you can tell from the map) runs on a spoke system, out of the central hub downtown. Assuming you are served by a bus (and, as you can also tell from the map, that's a significant assumption), you need, for most trips, to catch a bus to the central hub in order to get to anywhere else in the city. 
And service is not at all frequent.
Let's try, for example, doing what I see students doing when I head out to the train some mornings: they live in Tatnuck Square, and they go to Worcester Tech. Worcester Tech starts at 7:20. How could they get to school?
There are two bus lines that run out Tatnuck Square, the 2 and the 6. Neither of them starts service until later in the morning, however, so the first thing they have to do is walk the mile and a half to Worcester State. Then they can catch a bus to the hub, to catch a bus to Belmont Street, to walk up the hill to school.
And they'll need to start at 5:45 am.
(providing, of course, that they don't start the night before)

Now, this seems, I am sure, like an extreme example. But all high school students within two miles of their high school already are NOT provided with transportation, so they're already not on the buses. It's only students like this who Worcester DOES bus. Those high school students--as has been pointed out every single time this comes up--require the same buses that then carry the rest of the students to school who don't require buses as part of IEPs.

I'd love to live in a city in which this is possible. We don't.
If you want to fix the transit system, I'd be a huge fan. Taking yellow buses away from high school students using "exisiting WRTA buses and personnel" isn't the way to do it.