Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Joint Ways and Means hearing on education

I'm posting this morning from the Old Chapel at UMass Amherst, where the Joint Committee on Ways and Means (the money committee) is starting shortly. Looking like there are some UMass students here to talk about tuition, among others.

Rep. Kulik opening, Senator McGee cochairing
several reps and senators admitting to being graduates of other arms of the UMass system
and everyone's pretty excited about being the newly rehabbed Old Chapel
Campus Chancellor Subbaswamy now welcoming people on campus, and now a video on UMass Amherst

Kulik emphasizes that they're focused on the House 1 budget today; this hearing is by invitation
there is a public hearing on the state budget on Friday at the State House at which ANYONE can testify on any aspect of the budget

Meehan UMass president: public research university, mission is profive an affordable and accessible education
enrollment at an all time high: 74,000 students across all campuses; 81% are MA residents
third in R&D in MA after only Harvard and MIT
top tier in U.S. News and World Report
$6.2B in economic spinoff from UMass
17,000 graduates a year, more than 70% of whom stay in Massachusetts
81 invention disclosures this year already
Fundraising currently reached $734M
infrastructure investments: sicence and tech, student housing at UMass Boston
backlog of deferred maintenance: $665M awaiting funding
setting aside funding for collective bargaining settlements; would allow meeting contractual obligations without increasing tuition
main cost drivers: salary/benefits; deferred maintenance; financial aid
attempting to lessen burden on students at graduation; putting more resources into financial aid
"tenure track faculty and financial aid are essential if we want to remain competitive and provide residents with a world-class education"
want to keep increases to inflation or less
state endowment matching program; matching gifts to the university; asking for reinvestment to allow for additional private funding

Secretary Peyser and the Commissioners of Early Ed, K-12, and Higher Ed
"budget writing is not an easy process"
"an environment of fiscal constraint"
speaks of Baker budget as "sensible plan that keeps expenditures in line with revenues"
spending increases
fully funding foundation budget "sufficient to meet needs"
moving districts towards target (aiming to having every district receive at least 17.5%)
minimum per pupil increase of $20
plus increase in health care line item, increasing foundation statewide $66M (state aid is $16M)
"nearly twice what merely maintaining foundation budgets would require"
"no district will see declines in state aid"
early ed: 8% across the board increase to center-based providers out of FY17 funding
increase of $1M in executive office IT for budget to streamline access to child care
higher ed
proposing to merge grants in K-12 and higher ed
"DESE has produced an impressive record with state receivership" by moving funding from central office, devolving authority
statistically significant impact on MCAS on SIG funding
"innovation partnership order to expand the systems that are working so well in" level 4 and receivership districts
STEM grants to vo-tech schools
moving to increase "career pathways"
alignment with regional labor market, intensive career exploration, technical course work, alignment with credentialed requirements
early college initiatives
"enable efficient use of our collective capacity to dramatically expand access to high quality career pathways"

Chang-Diaz: bigger questions: very persistent achievement gap that we're continuing to see
Foundation budget review commission persistenly under-calculating the costs of education by $1-2B
education and infrastructure needs are highest need
"It is difficult for me to understand, Mr. Secretary, why you have stated publicly that you oppose increases in taxes to meet these persistent unmet needs."
Peyser "that's above my pay grade"
use of current resources
made that comment several years ago "and have tried not to comment since"

Commissioner Weber: increasing stability in field, improving access, supporting capacity (IT)
subsidize on average 56,000 children daily
rate of reimbursement is 75th percentile of private market rate; increase as proposed would raise rate 7%
also provide at least 12 months of continuous care to for children enrolled to income eligible families regardless of changes in income
three year collective bargaining agreement with SEIU 509
IT platform transition to be able to better manage cases
new data sharing process for background record checks
preschool expansion grants in 13 cities and towns
"investments in our system is good for children, for their families, for educators, and for our Commonwealth as a whole"

Commissioner Chester second year of administration for the next generation MCAS
receivership for Lawrence, Southbridge, and Holyoke; schools in Boston and New Bedford
and we're doing MCAS and AP scores at this point, which I'm not going to type up
and NAEP scores
and state takeovers: Lawrence, Holyoke, and Southbridge
and state takeover schools Boston and New Bedford
"Our efforts expand well beyond the lowest performing schools and districts."
"Educators and classrooms across the Commonwealth are continuing to implement the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks"
MCAS 2.0 starts next week
total spending $16.3B of local, state, and federal funds on K-12
"strong commitment to public education through continued investment in k-12 education"
"federal funding...essential to the delivery of our overall public education program here"
60% of payroll of DESE is federally funded
"investing in tools and resources to help school committees use their current funds more effectively"
"the best public education happening today is happening in Massachusetts"

Commisioner Santiago (higher ed):
"no one at the department of higher education is oblivious to the realities facing the state."
campuses educate more than half of the state's undergraduates; 9 out of 10 stay in Massachusetts
have created a unified system of transfer across three segments
students that enter Commonwealth Commitment, tuition is frozen for four years
facing increased levels of hunger and homelessness; childcare and transportation
"Campus staff are responding heroically, and should be applauded for addressing issues outside the classroom that have impact on student learning."
increasingly hearing of students choosing between textbooks and meals, or living on a friend's floor as they are homeless
scholarships thus needed for students
programs that get young men of color into and through college: pilot in Springfield, expanding next year
early college high school "a smart investment for taxpayers"

Q: how many people who work for DESE have a background in K-12 education?
Chester: "would be a lay board"
he's answering about the Board...was the Q about the Board?
Notes that Ed Doherty is a former teacher
and it looks like James Morton was as well, though they didn't answer it
Q: hearing STEM, STEM, STEM: what about everything else? civics?
Peyser: get the balance right, prepare students for world of work
reviewing history and social science standards: better embed civics
"still a love of reading and a love of literature along the way"
in ESSA, how to "make sure the signals we put out are encouraging schools" on a well-rounded curriculum
Rep. Farley-Bouvier (from Pittsfield) notes that access to broadband is needed in western Mass (noting that the IT system spoken of by Commissioner Weber couldn't be used by some in her district)
where did the funding come from in FY17 for this?
Weber: agrees on unevenness
audit in the department; precision in payments that did not exist, not being recaptured
Farley-Bouvier: "the goal is to get that money into the classroom" nothing low pay for early ed teachers
Weber: agrees that is the goal, increases apply to all providers
Farley-Bouvier: early college?
Santiago: a more aligned program, so students take what they specifically need
a little more organized than dual enrollment
"has been an extent of increased credentialing" in courses
Peyser: high school students who are underserved "in a coherent program of study that incorporates college level courses "

Rep. Gonzalez from Springfield: Empowerment Zone
seeing new programs
new resources for those programs "and that's great"
state receivership: "I see the same high poverty, diverse students...see the same in Springfield"
Q: Empowerment Zone "is a pilot"
"Is it that you look at putting in more funding and you put in an operator to help bring up the grade level and then after they've achieved that, do those grants and resources leave?"
Peyser: zone: one about changing the governance structure of the district
two about "empowering schools" with greater flexibility
"that's what it's primarily about, it's not about resources"
"because of the absence of a central office" it brings more resources to the school
thinking about pushing expanded learning time grants to districts that are using those
"not about increased funding for zone schools"
"to the extent that this is an approach that we believe this can lead to success we want to support that success"
Chester: started receivership and zone to be "sustainable in the long run"
Lawrence central office "is probably a third smaller" than it was when we got there (we can check that)
Zone "very unique governance structure, very promising"
"to give them control over those finances so they're not constrained over past practice"
Gonzalez: if budget goes through, will it enhance funding of empowerment zones?
Peyser: nothing in budget specifically for zones, intended to operate on funding as is

Jehlen: wanted to focus on Chang-Diaz's question
challenges before us; need for additional resources
want to talk about grand bargain
FBRC about $1B
eighth from the bottom in equity in school funding
"look at recommendation for ch.70...a 2% increase"
$17M: how many years of $17M increase a year would it take to get us adequacy under FBRC?
Peyser: ten years, at that level
but don't want to make commitments for future budgets that we can't follow through on
Jehlen: would take $200M a year for seven years
Peyser: it's a $66M increase statewide
Jehlen: only $17M of state funding
charter reimbursment
Peyser: don't know the exact numbers are, but probably 85% of first year; the assumption is that it would not fund the out years
Jehlen: and we know what those are, and we are not meeting those obligations
Peyser: attempt to make change last year, "were meant to be transition dollars, not ongoing" funding
need for ongoing conversation
Jehlen: circuit breaker, regional transportation, homeless transportation?
Peyser: circuit breaker: 70%
regional transportation: 70%
homeless transportation: "lower"
Gentile: if the largest economy in Europe has free higher education...when our parents could go through college we have students coming out with debt that's similar to the mortgages many of us carry
Santiago: partly higher ed changed: gap between college and high school graduate grew
changed from a public good to a private good; "if you're going to benefit, you should pay for it."
standard model of higher ed: all live on campus, live there, eat there...
"tremendous value"
"as a traveled the state, I started to hear about these issues...did a survey and started to find out that these issues weren't isolated in one locale"
"the challenges are there...I think we're moving into more credentialing, to give students more value"
Peyser: section that would direct us to study tuition retention
Keefe: "with the price tag, it becomes something you really have to convince folks about"
dollars have dried up for AP courses: are there sources for that in the Governor's budget?
Peyser: looking very hard at fiscal sources we have this year
uncertainty in the field
"are looking very closely at existing resources to see if we can fill the gap for this year"
Keefe: mandating that all schools move to electronic test taking; concern with schools having the capacity
Chester: at 4th and 8th grade online this year, "encouraging districts to move there as quickly as possible"

McGee: challenging with cities that aren't able to get to foundation, like Lynn
charter school reimbursment
challenges with transportation
"I'm not saying you have the answer, but we need to have this conversation."
Need investment in every child
reality with 100,000+ jobs going unfilled because people aren't trained
"what we as a society gain when we make sure every child has that opportunity is what we need to do"
"get education to every single child in this Commonwealth"
free breakfast and lunch: need to recognize that those challenges are important
real phys ed: "if they haven't walked to school, then their brains probably haven't gotten going"
incorporate phys ed as part of every school day
after and out of school time options; "and not just about extended learning time"
access to summer programs "and that's about leadership, interacting with your peers, doing all kinds of things that aren't necessarily in the classroom"
"as it comes down to money and's making sure the resources are available"
Peyser: well-rounded education for students
consideration of federal budget on the resources we've come to depend on for many of these programs
five minute break

Next up: panel from the Mass Municipal Association
Amherst town meeting member Alyssa Brewer opens the testimony
"we're not here asking you to save us, but asking you not to make the lives of our residents harder"
fully support the Fair Share amendment, high property taxes
decreasing enrollment, crumbling elementary buildings
convinced the Board of Ed not to expand local charter school
end of K and inclusive preschool
"district's actual state aid is only slightly more than it was six years ago"
state aid on municipal side is down since Property 2 1/2
further regionalization numbers don't work out
district would have received $2M more if regional transportation and charter reimbursement had been fully funded
"strongly support..the Foundation budget review commission"
small town administrator now speaking: lands that are owned by the state
state doesn't fully fund the reimbursement that they are supposed to have
underfunding of regional school transportation particularly hits small towns hard
"forces already cash-strapped districts to take money from classrooms to pay for student transportation"
recommend at least a target each year
Bill Martin, from Greenfield
"recognize that we must each year adapt how we govern"
"speak of special education laws, mandates, regulations, and financial ability assignments" of out of district students
ask neither local aid nor education be sacrificed for the other
state's reimbursements are not adequate: out of district placement program "is so needed and so student focused that it must be subsidized by each school committee"
"We've begun to ask when will the first one million dollar student happen?"
complex issue having to do with child development, homelessness, justice programs
full 33 percent of students in such placements are in residential programs in Greenfield
urge you "to focus on fixing this portion of the foundation budget"
asks for review of out of district tuition program
an incentive program for developing regional specialty programs
consider how residency is assigned and covered
state placement: state should pay 90% of costs for students the state places in residential services
town administrator in Brookline: unrestricted government aid and Ch.70
"partnership is essential to help adequately and fairly fund local services"
consider amount of unrestricted local aid considered "adequate"
"obviously Ch. 70 is the biggest piece of our revenue pie, and this is not increasing that the rate of the state revenue growth and also is not adequate"
"take a hard look at ch. 70 in relation to the expenditures at the local level"
"implement aspects of the foundation budget review commission"

Jehlen: notes that the Governor had promised to increase Ch.70 at same rate as local aid
statewide, communities spending 20% "which shows that districts are taxing themselves" to fund education
communities with the greatest need are funding right at foundation (can't fund over)
"hope that we will work together to decrease that disparity"
Farley-Bouvier: asks about student placement in group homes
state agencies or non-profits
high churning rate: students in and out of the group homes
have five days to register a school-aged child; do a very good job
have some capacity, "but at a certain point, we bust at the seams"
Senator Humanson: one of the big problems we seem to face is seeing families move into those towns
"I wonder what we'll look like as a region in the state five or ten years down the road."
"These are beautiful places to live, but you either have to be retired, or have a good job where you are."
no broadband so you can't telecommute
note from small town admin: pricing families out of towns as towns have to increase taxes
"becomes a downward spiral"
"very limited economic benefit to a small town even with tourism"
McGee tax cuts in late 90s are roughly $3B a year in lost revenue "and the results are across the board"
mentions Lynn voting down middle schools last week
"how do we tax ourselves in a fiar and honest and appropriate way"
46th in the nation on per capta spending on transportation
number one in the nation of places people want to be "if we don't address these serious challenges...we're not going to be continuing to be at that place"
"can't continue to do more with less"

MTA and AFT:
Dean Robinson, associate professor of political science
spoke with two students this week who have accrued over $100,000 in debt
"significantly greater burden on our students and their families in terms of costs of higher education"
"we know this means less access to many students due to costs"
"obviously behind countries like Canada and France"
student who paid less at Concordia in Quebec than he would at UMass
relying more and more on adjunct faculty
"have exploited thousands of adjuncts"
"Massachusetts, I think we would agree, should be leading in this regard"
"have serious concerns about budgetary trends and what this means for students of color, students from modest backgrounds"
more money needed for poorer communities and schools
"I think we need to push back on Baker and Trump who seek to reduce revenues and speaking on public goods"
"In fact, we need to raise revenue and commit to improving access and equality of public education preschool through higher ed"
Chair of Pittsfield High's social studies department
Pittsfield proposed FY18 budget would cut 65 positions
"our students deserve the people, the materials, and the physical school environments necessary to flourish"
a few weeks ago a pipe froze, because a window was left open because with steam heat, some classrooms are 90, some classrooms are 50
"ask you to increase our ch.70 funding"
special education circuit breaker
"enacting the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings is significantly and really imperative"
Farley-Bouvier: "we are boxed in at this point, and fully funding the Ch.70 review commission recommendations are a way out, and making sure that all of the people in the Commonwealth are paying their fair share is another way that we can solve this problem."

Regional schools:
budget timing: as districts go into town meeting, don't change the numbers
would like to see 80% regional transportation reimbursement
vocational transportation
ask for hold harmless to continue
John Hockridge, MASC Division VI (Berkshire) chair
sent out a survey looking for priorities, notes the way in which they parallel the Foundation Budget Review Commission
regional transportation, charter school reimbursement
towns bumping up against their levy limits
Michael A. Buoniconti, superintendent Mohawk
asks for seed money for a rural schools regionalization process (share services)
also asks for funding to study best practices across the country, mentions four day week
"we can't efficiency our way out of things"
Todd Gazda, superintendent of Ludlow
"very intimately familiar with the challenges of rural western Mass"
$20/pupil "is woefully inadequate for the task we're asked to do"
gets Ludlow $52,000 when their FY18 budget calls for $877,000 for level services
"facing an increasingly uphill battle" in districts that are millions of dollars over net school spending
explanation of flawed formula "has difficulty resonating when held up against the millions of dollars above net school spending that we already are"
notes the differences across the state
"strongly supports the approval and implementation overt time of the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings"
Jehlen: need everyone's support on Fair Share
Farley-Bouvier: request for a per pupil increase is in conflict with call for Foundation budget review commission implementation; "we're actually moving further and further away"
"We really have to start looking at it differently"
Tim Collins: president of the Springfield Teachers Association
Springfield was in the original suit
"Two years of shortchanging our schools to the tune of $2B a year is unconscionable! It's educational malpractice!"
kids in poverty, in trauma, "they can survive and thrive if they've got caring individuals with the time to deal with them"
"we have a persistent problem, and it's not an achievement gap; it's an opportunity gap"
"taxes are not a dirty word: they're the price we pay for living in a civilized society"
"a society is measured by how they care for the most vulnerable"
"with tight budgets, those are the people that are getting hurt the most"
"I spent my whole career fighting for what children deserve so they can survive and thrive"
"I'm looking for some profiles in courage; I don't want to wait for two years to go by"
"I don't want another year to go by where kids who can be saved aren't being saved because we're ignoring the fact that the Governor and--and I don't mean to insult you--you are not living up to your Constitutional obligations"
thought the empowerment zone bill was "written by Betsy DeVos"
"does not reflect what we are doing in Springfield"
"we need an assessment system that actually measures our kids"
"no longer about shame, blame, and punish; about study, learn, and support"
have seen education reform come and go; "teachers are the object of the reform"
"have to let the people do the work"
educational systems at the top have unionized teachers; the ones at the bottom are right to work states

Phenom now testifying about the Finish line bill
75% of students in our public system graduate with debt
state only funds 19% of the UMass system
Nat grew up in the fifth wealthiest town in Massachusetts; family income double the menida of Massachusetts, still graduating with $25,000 in debt
"I wonder: if I'm at a very high level of privilege, how anyone is supposed to be able to afford higher education?"
Andrew Lawson, from Lynn
attended UMass but owed $6000 in fees, transferred to North Shore Community College
worked full time to pay rent and pay bills
lost financial aid for two years due to work load
public housing bases rent on income, though, so rent went up
returned to school part time while working part time
got grades back up
barely make enough money now to pay bills, "and find myself without money to buy food some days"
and from Phenom "for every student here, there are thousands of others who can't be here"
tuition and fees have increased at "156 more hours of work at my part-time job" over her time here
"the burden at graduation is very clear; we're graduating with an average of $30,000 in debt."

end of hearing
But anyone can testify starting at 10 am at the State House on Friday! 

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