Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Checking in on amendment 246...good work!

HEY! We've got a whole lot of co-sponsors coming in on the Foundation Budget Review Commission amendment!
Here's the list as of Thursday (the 18th) night:
Rep. Sean Garballey is the lead sponsor
Representative:
Jennifer E. Benson
John J. Lawn, Jr.
Denise C. Garlick
William L. Crocker, Jr.
John W. Scibak
John C. Velis
Louis L. Kafka
Angelo J. Puppolo, Jr.
Angelo M. Scaccia
Daniel M. Donahue
Tricia Farley-Bouvier
James K. Hawkins
Natalie Higgins
John J. Mahoney
Paul McMurtry
Kevin J. Kuros
Steven Ultrino
Josh S. Cutler
RoseLee Vincent
Solomon Goldstein-Rose
Frank I. Smizik
Brian M. Ashe
Carmine L. Gentile
James J. Dwyer
Colleen M. Garry
José F. Tosado
Marjorie C. Decker
Bud Williams
Ruth B. Balser
Mathew Muratore
Aaron Vega
Jay R. Kaufman
John H. Rogers
John Barrett
Kay Khan
Paul W. Mark
James J. O'Day
Brian Murray
Stephan Hay
Juana B. Matias
Carlos González
Paul Tucker
Carolyn C. Dykema
Michael J. Finn
Joseph D. McKenna
Mike Connolly
David M. Rogers

If your rep is on here, thank them!
If they're not, ask them WHY NOT!
We have til Monday the 23rd!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

House budget amendments: we've got them!

I've tweeted out the House budget amendments with statewide education impacts, but I know that sometimes having them in a blog post is useful. Note that all of them are posted here, 'though they pop out, so I can't individually link to them.
  • Rep. Ferguson filed amendment 29 bumping regional transportation to $73,100,000. That's the 85% reimbursement some had been seeking as a compromise.  
  • Rep. Ferguson also filed amendment 31 which is a regional schools foundation budget commission.
  • Rep. Madaro filed amendment 57, which would require priority enrollment in charter schools for those closer to the school.
  • Rep. Malia is earmarking $200K for Alliance for Inclusion and Prevention trauma-based school training in amendment 97.
  • Rep. Diehl in amendment 164 is amending H.4400 to say "The Special Education Advisory Council shall be tasked with drafting regulations on the training and licensing of Special Education Advisors." I'm not sure what that does.
  • Rep. Boldyga amending the motor vehicle law around driving by a stopped, lights-flashing, school bus to remove a license on a second offense for 180 days or a year for a subsequent offense.
  • As I noted last week, we have an FBRC amendment! Get 246 some co-sponsors! 
  • Amendment 187 sets aside $500,000 within the circuit breakers for districts where out of district sped "exceed 25 per cent of the total district costs"and $1M and 25% for a school within the district (looking earmark-y).
  • Amendment 192 from Rep. Kane is $2.9M for out of district vocational transportation.
  • Amendment 212 (from Rep, Kane, though it has a bunch of co-sponsors) would allow districts to charge for out of district vocational transportation (no fee required for low income).
  • Amendment 321 from Rep. Balser adds $50K for a needs assessment for gifted and talented students.
  • Amendment 403 from Rep. Cassidy of Brockton bumps the economically disadvantaged deciles by what looks like 7%, which is a LOT of money.
  • Amendment 410 from Rep. Scibak bumps adult ed another close to $2M.
  • Amendment 488 from Reps. Pignatelli & Barrett (think Berkshires) going for a swipe of $5M of the $12.5M proposed for the low income hit some districts took. They're essentially outlining a requirement that would send it to the Berkshires.
  • Rep. Jones (along with some of the Republican caucus) want to look at a private school deduction. (amendment 513)
  • There are two things going on at once in 568: Rep. Gerry is trying to ensure extraordinary relief for Tyngsborough BUT ALSO boost the circuit breaker to $400,000,000...which is literally $100M. And that is a lot.
  • Amendment 599, with a boatload of cosponsors, is for the ASOST-Q Grant, which is summers and after school, priority going to Gateway cities. It adds $3M to 7061-9611, which is the after school line.
  • FULL CIRCUIT BREAKER FUNDING (looks like?) at $318,723,819 in amendment 693, which also has a boatload of co-sponsors led by Rep. Benson.
  • Rep. Barrows and others looking for $50K for the Green Schools initative (that's 765).
  • Rep. Hill wants to boost regional transportation reimbursement to $86M BUT ALSO wants money not used in the Marijuana Regulation fund in regulating marijuana used for regional transportation reimbursement! (?!?!) (amendment 785).
  • In 796, Rep. Walsh (Peabody) and others are looking for a Model Emergency Response School Commisssion to create models as above.
  • Rep. D'Emilia and others in amendment 823 bumping regional transportation to $86M, which is more like 100% of reimbursement.
  • Rep. González of Springfield looking to bump Reading Recovery to $500K (from $100K) in amendment 834.
  • Amendment 840 from (brand new) Rep. Hawkins puts $400K in funding to MCIEA's alternative evaluation of districts (Hawkins was a math teacher in Attleboro before being elected).
  • Rep. Walsh (Framingham) and others seeking to boost the circuit breaker to 100% reimbursement (amendment 875).
  • Rep. Schmid and MANY others looking to add $120K for Farm to School spending in 891.
  • In 898, Rep. Elizabeth Malia would make recovery high schools regional schools for the purposes of transportation (aka, making them eligible for reimbursement) "subject to appropriation" of course.
  • Reps Cronin and Cassidy are straight pulling $250K out of DESE and sending it to Brockton in amendment 916 (they don't add to the bottom line!).
  • In 930, Rep. Stanley and MANY others seeking to bump McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursement from $9M to $22M, more like fully reimbursement.
  • In 947, Rep. Balser wants the Safe and Supportive Schools funding expended "in consultation with the safe and supportive schools commission."
  • Rep. Koczera and MANY others in 950 seeking to boost adult basic education up $2M (from $32M).
  • Rep. Ultrino with MANY others seeking FULL CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENT in amendment 952 (that's $170M, up from $90M in HW&M, up from the Gov's level-funded $80.5M).
  • Rep. Hill with a straight regional transportation bump to $86M (that's 974).
  • Three Boston reps in 977 also seeking to bump charter reimbursement to $170M (sometimes you can tell from these who talks to whom; this is the same as amendment 952).
  • Rep. Mahoney (1062), looking to bump Mass Academy's level-funded $1.4M to $1.6M.
  • Rep. Mahoney is sponsoring with others amendment 1070 to add $900K for pilot vo-tech programs; that's "lag funding" (to start programs before funding kicks in).
  • Rep. Frost wants to create a $25M matching grant program for school resource officers through DESE (that's amendment 1113).
  • In what doesn't LOOK like an #MAEdu amendment but is Worcester-related: amendment 1115 would make the CONTRACTOR responsible for fines acrued if elevators are not properly licensed.
  • Amendment 1154 is a minimum per pupil increase of $50/pupil (from $30 in the House, $20 in the Gov's).
  • Amendment 1169 boosts the increments of the poverty decile from $40 to $50 (topping out at $4,069.57). This is the discussion that was part of the Brockton/Worcester conversation around changes in the poverty rates being hard on districts that depend on them (and it's coming in from Rep. O'Day of Worcester).
  • Rep. Campbell and others want to add $10,500 for the Massachusetts School Mental Health Consortium (that's 1219).
  • Rep. Peisch is seeking to add $3M for early college pathways in amendment 1236.
  • Rep. Peisch is also seeking in 1237 to revive the 2012 financial literacy committee.
  • Related to education is 1238 from Rep. McKenna and others seeking a PILOT formula commission for state-owned lands. (McKenna represents Douglas, so Douglas State Forest is part of his district).
  • Rep. Peisch appears in amendment 1241; she's sticking all of the recovery high school money together in the same line item.
  • Amendment 1243, also from Peisch, appears to allow DESE to pay teachers and administrators for their work with the Department?
  • In the ongoing battle over account 7061-9400, Rep. Peisch Rep. Peisch in 1255 seeks to amend the MCAS line back UP to the Gov's $32M (which is what DESE requested) AND puts back what looks like the Gov's language. This isn't the first time she's acted in a way that looks like looking out for the Department's interests.
  • Amendment 1258 seeks to "convene a task force to study and develop recommendations on the training and certification of language interpreters" in schools.
  • Rep. Muradian (Grafton) seeking $4M for out-of-district regional vocational transportation reimbursement (that's 1278).
  • Rep. Hunt (in amendment 1315) is looking for a study and then a grant fund from @Mass_SBA on "school security infrastructure."
  • Amendment 1343 is the half hour recess mandate (elsewhere filed as a bill).
  • Rep. Holmes in 1391 looking to bump up the METCO line by $1,750,000 and earmark it for METCO Inc. of Dorchester.
And that is what we have! Co-sponsorship can happen right up until Monday the 23, when deliberation starts! CALL YOUR REPS! 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

WE HAVE AN FBRC AMENDMENT!

This is NOT A DRILL: Rep. Sean Garballey has filed amendment 246, which is the language of Senate Bill 2325.

THIS IS IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FOUNDATION BUDGET REVIEW COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS.

We have til TOMORROW debate starts Monday, April 23 to get this enough co-sponsors to make this serious for House leadership. CALL YOUR REPS!

Steve Finnegan talks McDuffy at MASBO

Steve Finnegan, MASC General Counsel, is at MASBO's Law Institute today to talk about the McDuffy case.
Note, by the way, Worcester Magazine's update on Worcester and Brockton. 
MASBO says:
Attorney Finnegan will retrace the activity which lead to the landmark decision focusing on his particular activity in this litigation. He will also review the end result 25 years later and offer thoughts on how that decision (and subsequent decisions such as Hancockmay impact future litigation.
updating as we go

Finnegan:
school business officials have "probably the toughest job in local school systems"
caught between school committee and superintendent in some cases
"one that's sometimes quite controversial"
McDuffy rewrote the law; "has stood the test of time"
legal council to Council on Fair School Finance
Levy v. Dukakis filed in 1978; "it took fifteen years to get to court"
If you're thinking of filing suit, know "you're talking about an enormous amont of time, effort, and of course, money"
original group included teachers' unions, MASC, MASS, ACLU
MMA was involved but was concerned about minimum contribution by local districts
"this was Dukakis' first term"
later changed to McDuffy v the Secretary of Education since having the Governor's name meant we'd need to change the suit as the Governor changed
"needed plantiffs who had suffered real harm"
plantiffs were children in fifteen representative school districts who "had suffered real harm"
Rodrigues case meant no federal case possible, so attention focused on state courts
"definitely driven by the lack of funding"
general aid to education created in 1960's; prior to that, was no general aid to education
state did not consider it a duty to provide for education
"and the federal government was worse" prior to ESEA, "was probably 2 or 3%"
1965 first major educational reform bill was enacted
"main focus of that reform was regional schools...and particularly vocational regional schools"
many regional vocational schools date back to this
this reform "established chapter 70"
before 1993, the Legislature ceded to municipalities virtually unlimited control over school budgets
"he who pays the piper calls the tune"
Prop. 2 1/2 was an initiative petition changed state law
also abolished fiscal autonomy by school districts; which had allowed that the budget passed by the school committee "was going to be the budget from the schools"
why the property tax was such a force
had been enforced by the courts over time; there was a disincentive to challenging fiscal autonomy
thereafter school committees enjoyed limited fiscal autonomy
MASC established clearly the line item control by school committee of the school district
excise tax was reduced from $66 to $25 per thousand and renter reduction all happened at the same time
all of which are local reductions of taxes
"it was a terrible hit...I don't think people realize today how difficult that was to deal with"
It had been assumed those pushing for Prop 2 1/2 didn't have the money; the tech business "bankrolled the ballot question and bankrolled it generously"
56 to 40% of voters adopted it in 1980
aid fell in the late '80's, which hit the districts most dependent on state aid hardest, even as they were also seeing their own local revenues drop
reduced budgets for several years for districts
"it has been said that we lost a generation of teachers as a result"
Boston laid off teachers with up to twelve years of experience
as each round of ed reform laws came up, it delayed the case for several years
1978 Collins-Boberini bill (?) to address the needs of poorer communities
this effort froze in place the prior Ch. 70 and applied reform only to new aid
1985 Ch. 188 sought through equal education opportunity grant; raise lower spending to 85% of state average
established minimum amount of school spending by state government
discussion of equity or adequacy
"equity just means equal spending...adequacy is bringing people up from a lower level"
education clause was vague "and boy, it was vague"
case cited report "Distressed Schools" the state was not meeting its obligations (report from Board of Ed)
"was not providing an adequate education to students"
"the importance of that report cannot be overstated...the defendant essentially admited the position of the plantiffs!"
"I would say that's the real reason why we ended up with the McDuffy case being successful"
McDuffy released June 15; Governor signed Ed Reform bill three days later
"what happened next? The Hancock case...sought a finding by the court after twelve years...the funding was not adequate"
sixth month trial was conducted by Judge Botsford
358 page report issued outlining testimony and facts found proven at trial
majority opinion of the court that districts showed "steady trajectory of progress"
SJC said it would consider a future case, but a "serious setback"
declined to enforce and disposed of the case entirely
all of government experienced cutbacks in early 2000's; "everybody was experiencing setbacks"

Things that influence this going forward:
Ballot questions coming up: Fair Share and sales tax, cutting back to 5%
"to some extend, those things somewhat cancel each other other"
Foundation budget review commission: $125M new money for Ch. 70; $39M to address health insurance
Agency fee federal case: would allow public employees to determine if they want to contribute to unions; "recent successful challenge to the charter school question was funded by the teachers' association...it is a two-edged sword"


Q: is there an appetite in the courts?
Finnegan: "you're never stronger than the day you file a complaint unless you win"
long lag time of case...making Ch. 70 a more robust funding mechanism for local school system
"this is a new court...none of them were around for McDuffy or Hancock, so it's somewhat an unknown quality there"
following prior cases is a legal standard... Hancock would not be a good precedent for us
that doesn't mean that if the facts on the ground for us, if they're eligible to be proven
"if there are some facts on the ground...they should file it"
having the case filed did have "a subtle pressure" on the state
"and again, we won the McDuffy case"
"it's not going to take as long...that was out of whole cloth...so it was new...and we had to find our way, and we had to let certain things play out"
"the courts do not want to legislate...but on a big item like this, on a big item like Chapter 70...is that something that they want to take on and indicate equity" or more funding
"think it would be simpler to get going"
"we do have the Foundation Budget Review Commission"
do have the millionaires tax "and there would be some money that would go to education"
the biggest driver is the state budget is Medicaid...eating up 40% of new revenues of the state every year
Q: biggest issue you saw?
"the enormity of it"
"a total leap into the future...but it worked"
"some people think that equity should have been part of it...I disagree"
"courts have a tendency to move that back...doctrine of judicial restraint...maddening though it may be"
case proceeded in a way that it could be successful "and it was"

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

FY19 House Ways and Means budget

Here we go!
Let's first give an acknowledgement of the Legislature making it easy to find and follow the budget deliberation; just scroll down their front page.

Clicking through the "Ways and Means budget" will get you to the House budget page. Note that Section 1A is basically a one page overview; Section 1B is revenue (where the money is coming from). The line item "what's being spent" is in Section 2; the municipal and district allocations are in Section 3, as is the language describing the allocations. The outside sections essentially are the "here are some other things we think ought to be changed while we're doing this." Most of what I'm going to describe came from Section 2, where the K-12 allocations begin at the 7010 account lines.

I appreciate this chart in the Executive Summary; clearly the House wishes to make the point that they are improving upon the Governor's proposed budget: 

Going line by line; note that all comparisons are to the Governor's budget:
  • DESE's line is up, but it's earmarks for the JFK Library ($500K) and $100K for recovery schools.
  • METCO is bumped up $1.5M. Interestingly, the House is also looking for a "detailed line item budget" as well as a report (on efficacy?), which is not language in the Governor's budget.
  • The House did blow back open the combined grant items, which means both Bay State Reading and Reading Recovery are in here as line items.
  • School to career connection activities is the same as in the Governor's budget at $3.9M.
  • There's an ELL line back, which had been merged in the Governor's budget. It's set at $2.5M.
  • Adult basic education is up $4M from the Governor's budget, bringing it to $32.5M.
  • Funding for education in the prisons and correctional institutions is the same at $7.4M.
  • Regional transportation reimbursement is up a million dollars from the Governor's budget, which brings it to $63M. From the Mass Auditor's estimates, that still leaves the account about $24M short. 
  • McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursment is up $1M to $9M (which I'm sure isn't fully funded, but is more of a recognition of responsibility than we've had before!).
  • AP Math and Science got a $300,000 increase over the Governor's budget to $2.8M.
  • The lunch line is the same as in the Governor's budget; the breakfast item is up a bit, but it's an earmark.
  • ---I want to come back to Ch. 70!---
  • To the $15M the Governor set aside for the districts taking in students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (and remember, that's round 2; there was an FY18 allocation already passed), the House--and this is a big deal!--is adding $12.5M specifically for districts that have been hit by the change in the economically disadvantaged numbers this year. You might remember hearing that they lowered the rate this year when the number of students increased. This is a filler for those districts. 
  • Circuit breaker is up $300M from $291M in the Governor's budget; as it took an additional $12.5M to get us to (we think) where it usually is from a $291M starting point this year, that's still probably underfunded, but it's closer to current reality.
  • School and district accountability office, same as the Governor's budget.
  • I can't find an allocation for the military mitigation (which the Governor's budget had at $1.3M); let me know if I'm mistaken.
  • The charter school reimbursement, which the Governor level-funded at $80.5M, the House is boosting to $90M. 
  • I hope to do more with this (because if you're into this stuff, it's kind of funny to see the battle happening in a budget line) but there's an ideological battle going on in the assessment line. The House has again cut it--the Governor had it at $32M; the House has it at $27M--and they've substantially changed the language. They've dropped the reference to the history assessment being added, which doesn't necessarily change anything, as that's referenced elsewhere in state law. They've also reworked the language to stress porfolio assessment. It doesn't overthrow the MCAS, but there are definitely some comments being made here.
  • Once again, the House includes this line for Accuplacer with a specific notation of JFYNetworks. This has got to be a larger story.
  • The targeted intervention is up $500K AND (more importantly) drops any mention of innovation zones. There's also a lot more language specifying the funds can be used for PD and supplies, provided they're tied to a plan. they want a report "describing and analyzing all intervention and targeted assistance efforts funded by this item." 
  • Extended Learning Time grant, the same at $13.9M. 
  • Recovery high schools, likewise the same at $2.4M.
  • The House budget adds $1,867,453 for "teacher preparation and certification from fees related to such services" which sounds like a story that I don't know.
  • After school grants up about $400K ($1.9M to $2.3M)
  • Safe and supportive schools is up "$200,000 shall be expended in order to leverage preexisting investments" which sounds targeted; it was $400K, now $600K.
  • Mass Academy has their $1.4M line (same as Governor's and same as usual).
  • YouthBuild, same as in the Gov's budget, at $1.7M.
  • Mass Mentoring, up from $475K to $750K.
  • The House drops the regional bonus aid allocation (which is $56,920 in the Governor's budget).
  • And same funding for sexual abuse prevention of $150,000.
Okay, let's talk about Chapter 70! It's up nearly $21M from the Governor's budget, which sounds good, but we need to know WHERE it goes, right?
And my cheers to all of you who knew to ask that! 
Here's where we scroll down to Section 3. If you REALLY scroll down, you'll get the list of towns and regions, with their municipal and chapter 70 aid. You can do a quick comparison of your own district and see if you're getting more. 
There's two main (and one smaller) reason why it's changed.
The smaller reason is that if your district contribution is "over effort," the House is reducing that 92% instead of 85%. It means those districts' required contribution comes down which (if you remember how chapter 70 aid works) means their aid goes up. 
The first bigger reason, is this: if you take a look at the language at the top of that long list of communities, you can find a part where it says, "the 'minimum aid increment' shall be equal to $30 multiplied by the district's foundation enrollment minus the foundation aid increment." There's your minimum per pupil increase. The Governor's budget had it set at $20/ pupil; the House is setting it at $30/pupil, so that's an increase for many communities.
HOWEVER, if you'll look at my post from about this time last year, it might refresh your memory that per pupil increases are not progressive ways of funding education. They have no regard to who needs it most (or at all). They are just giving everyone a cookie.
That isn't all that's going on with Chapter 70 aid, though. There is also a bunch of numbers stuck in that paragraph:

So what's that?
That's the health insurance piece of the foundation budget, by enrollment category. I think most of us aren't used to seeing just that piece by itself, but you can find it. If you downloaded the Governor's budget chapter 70 spreadsheet (and remember, we won't get a new one until the budget is finalized!), there's a "rates" sheet over to the left:
Those lines are the equivalent of those in the paragraph above, but the numbers are different! The House budget boosts the health insurance line by another 2.5% over the Governor's budget. 
Note that this doesn't do the same thing as the $30/pupil increase. This is a boost to the foundation budget itself, the amount each district is required to spend on schools. As such, it just boosts spending. For some (wealthier) districts, this will boost their required local spending; it's of course likely they were going to spend well over that already. For the needier districts, the increase in the foundation budget will translate to an increase in state aid.
And that is, legitimately, a piece of the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations.

I checked to make sure there wasn't FBRC language hiding in the Outside sections; alas, there is not.
I'm going to pin my hopes on amendments, which are already rolling in.
Amendments are due by Friday, April 13; debate starts Monday, April 23. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Let me tell you about my grandfather

Tangentially education-related

My grandfather Sam Dawson died this past weekend. He was 99.

My grandfather was a dairy farmer all his life. He got up before dawn every day--"cows don't take a day off" was one of his lines--for milk that during my lifetime went to the Hood bottling plant in Agawam. We'd wave to the trucks when we saw them on the Mass Pike, because they had "Pop's milk" in them.

But dairy farmers--family farmers in general--can't make it work just on farming. He and my grandmother always had other things they were doing. He trucked cattle. They both drove for the school district.

And, while it didn't bring in any money, my grandfather was on the local school board, before later becoming town assessor, councilman, and supervisor for their little town in the Berkshires over the New York State line.

I grew up going to the county fair with my grandparents. My grandfather is the only member of my family having any personal involvment in politics, and I didn't realize until much, much later how much I absorbed from those very, very long walks through the county building at the fair in September. I and my sister were collecting pencils with names central Massachusetts had never heard of to bring to the start of school; my grandfather was hearing about new babies and neighbors bickering and all of what sounded a lot like gossip.

But really it was about people and how people are connected and what people care about. It was about what kind of schools those babies would go to and if those neighbors had what they needed to get through the year and what sort of town we were working together to have, after all.

Because that's what politics is. It's how we work out government. And government is us.

My grandfather didn't rise to high elected office. In fact, he was dumped by the local party when he endorsed a member of the other party because he didn't think much of the integrity of person from his own party. It's among the things that makes me most proud of him.
It's people like Pop that make local government go. They don't do it for glory or power or money. They do it during long nights and weekends when they have hay to bring in and cows that are sick and kids who maybe would like to see more of them.
We can't have a civilization without them, though.

So, during this season of town meetings and budget hearings, if you'd like to do something to honor Sam Dawson, please thank those local officials hammering out your local budgets.

Rest in peace, Pop. I'll miss you.

It's NAEP day

I tweeted this out this morning, but I thought it might be useful here.

I kinda loathe talking about NAEP, but let's talk about NAEP for a second while we're all doing the #MAEdu pivot; the #MAEdu pivot is "We're doing really well, but we still have work to do" which is a guaranteed bingo square at any announcement of nearly anything Massachusetts educationally related.Yes, this is again the case for NAEP: we're number one. We also have a massive gap with how (in particular) our kids of color are doing.
We really don't like to talk about where our kids of color go to school, though. And where they DON'T go to school.
So let's take our second largest district, Springfield.
Springfield student demographics:
  • 65% Latino 
  • 19.6% African American 
  • 11% white 
  • 2.4% Asian 
  • 1.7% multi-race
Springfield has also GOT to be running the biggest #FBRC gaps out there. They're the biggest at-foundation majority-state-funded district. I'd venture the state EASILY owes Springfield another $100M a year.
(And yes, this is part of my ongoing anger around the empowerment zone. The children begged for bread and you gave them a stone.)

Here's who's around Springfield:
  • West Springfield: 68.3% white/17.3% Latino 
  • Longmeadow: 79.6% white 
  • East Longmeadow: 81.9% white 
  • Wilbraham (regional): 85.7% white 
  • Ludlow: 85.2% white
Every single one of those districts funds well over the foundation budget of their schools.
The only exception?
Chicopee, to the north, which is another Gateway city, funding at foundation, and looks like this:
  • 54% white 
  • 36.9% Latino 
  • 3.9% African American 
  • 3% multirace 
  • 1.6% Asian
Massachusetts has what are tiny districts by national standards, because we mostly have town districts. Having town districts means that we have school systems that reflect town demographics.There's plenty of good resources out there on redlining and sundown towns, so don't come at me with "choices people make on where to live."
We have concentrated our children of color in particular districts, and then we as a state have chronically underfunded those very same districts.
So, yes, we have more work to do.

In light of the talk of a renewal of McDuffy

It is worth seriously considering this op-ed in the Los Angeles Times which argues the following:
The majority of state courts have opted to retreat. For instance, the California Supreme Court — the first state high court to strike down a school funding system as unconstitutional in 1971 — recently declined to review two cases invoking its right to education, one challenging teacher tenure statutes, the other alleging that school funding is constitutionally inadequate.
A number of courts retreat by deferring to their state legislatures to devise the remedy. The legislature predictably resists or returns with a modest plan, which then provokes successive rounds of litigation, and in the end judges usually throw up their hands. As one court put it, all but admitting defeat, getting the legislature to make a good faith effort is "the best we can do." State legislatures thus win by attrition.
Still other courts have waved the white flag before the first shot, claiming their constitutions vest the legislature with absolute authority over education and therefore courts cannot get involved. The Oklahoma Supreme Court is one of seven state high courts to have surrendered in this manner. The constitutional right to education in these states is thus unenforceable in a court of law.
Amid this crisis of judicial confidence, striking teachers have appealed directly to the court of last resort: the court of public opinion.
Personally, I'd argue--though I'm looking forward to hearing from those more learned than I on this--that the Hancock case fell into the first case above: the court essentially declined to intervene further into the Legislative funding of education.
I wonder if current courts feel the same.

Monday, April 9, 2018

more on Doherty

It's worth reading not just Nick's column from yesterday on Doherty, but also the ensuing discussion over on Twitter.
It appears, incidently, that there has already been a building committee meeting, which you would only know if you follow all posting on the city clerk's calendar OR were actually invited (no, I don't fit either of those). No, they didn't publicize it on the district website (there's nothing on Doherty's page on the project) or let the school community or neighborhood know.

Not a good look there, guys.

Friday, April 6, 2018

too big of a risk

It's worth noting around the guns on campus debate:
School safety and insurance experts agree that adding a firearm to a classroom only increases the risk of gun violence — whether intentional or otherwise.
As a result, insurance companies asked about such policies will either charge more for insurance or pull it entirely

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Blog post title taking its cue tonight from the report's reference
Posting as we go, which won't be 'til after a bit
Kathleen Smith, superintendent of the Brockton Public Schools, is here with her Chief Budget Officer Aldo Petronio and three members of her school committee
Petty: very interested in what's going on in Brockton
Binienda reviews the premise of the McDuffy case and the foundation budget
Smith speaks of the Leading the Nation event this morning and Jami McDuffy of whom they're very proud
"all means all" from Reville

Leading the Nation at 25 years: State House event

Here at the State House for the 25 years of Ed Reform (as told by some) event. It's like a who's who of state education: Bill Weld is here, David Driscoll is here, Bob Antonucci is here...posting as we go. 
Rep. Peisch: "to celebrate the achievement of students over the past 25 years, ...and to acknowledge that more needs to be done"

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

In loco parentis

You may have heard that we're having a big anniversary here in Massachusetts this year: it's the 25th anniversary of the Education Reform Act of 1993 this June 18.

It's also the 25th anniversary of the McDuffy decision this June 15. Pick your celebration.

Thus far, most of the proclamations have been marked by their crediting the local level; Acting Commissioner Wulfson more than once has led with the hard work in classrooms and has spoken of the superintendents and district leaders having the work of implementation.
We've even gotten an occasional reference to the money involved.

Which is why, after the local districts spoke up so loud and clearly a year ago November, it is frankly bizarre to have the parent voice at the State House celebration tomorrow be that of the reincarnated group that pushed for the lifting of the charter cap.

Reincarnated, of course, because they were forced to disband due to failure to comply with campaign finance laws.

Of all of the things the state leadership could be bringing to mind on this festive occasion, which also will mark the beginning of the tenure of a new Commissioner, they're choosing illegal finance activity over a ballot question the Governor, Secretary, and Chair of the Board of Ed were all on the (very) wrong side of?

Interesting choice, gentlemen.

New GAO report on disparities in student discipline

You can read about it in the Times here. Do note:
"This further shows that poverty is not explaining the disparities...There's a racial discrimination problem, and that can no longer be disputed."

City of Champions in the Heart of the Commonwealth

Tomorrow night's presentation for Worcester School Committee, which also has Brockton's numbers, is now posted.

 The gaps are breathtaking.



 Maybe we should sent the state a bill?

And of course, because those are non-negotiable costs...


And so on through the budget...



Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"indifference to intolerance threatens our very existence."

Current MASS President and Taunton Superintendent Julie Hackett writes on civility in this issue of School Administrator magazine, and this is not the milquetoast positions you may have heard positioned under that word:
If we don't speak out against injustice and encourage adults to engage in civil discourse and set healthy examples for our young people, who will? 
Our students and our staff count on us to be a voice of reason in times of public controversy.


Don't count Chelsea out

They had testimony at last week's school committee meeting, calling for them to join a funding equity lawsuit:
“This reimbursement problem in the formula needs to be solved and I think we need to address the formula and I urge the City and the City Council to join with Brockton on this lawsuit against the state,” said Vega at Monday’s Council meeting.
She was right on the same page with Supt. Mary Bourque, who on Monday morning said they are seriously considering making that move.
“We have not officially joined, but we are seriously exploring the need to join this lawsuit,” she said.
Note that the article has incorrect that a lawsuit has been filed. None has. Yet. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

The conversation Worcester isn't having

“I don’t think we have any plan at this point,” was the response Maureen Binienda gave in addressing that ideal two years ago when she was appointed superintendent. 
“It’s not about race, it’s about poverty.”
Wrong.
Clive is being far too generous when he calls this response "partly right." As he points out in the next section:
...we know, as the Center for Social Inclusion argues, that the racial composition of neighborhoods don’t “just happen on their own.”
“Who lives in which neighborhood and whether that neighborhood has decent housing, good schools, and well-paying jobs is determined by multiple institutional policies and practices” that have “often discriminated by race,” the center said.
 There are, of course, lots and lots of places such information can be found. Likewise the racial wealth gap--poverty being tied to race--is well documented.

We know that race is a factor in teacher impact, in student discipline, in high school dropouts, in health, in college access, even in access to things like calculus. And for every one of those links, there are dozens more.
And, remember, this is what the student body in Worcester looks like:
The student body is 70% students of color. 
Thus it is not okay (or about poverty) that the demographics of our elementary schools look like this: 
That's from this Vox article on school segregation, making the case that intradistrict segregation is more of an issue than interdistrict segregation. That's true nationally; due to the size of districts here, it largely is not in Massachusetts. 
But it is in Worcester. 

Yes, race is hard to talk about. Yes, actually dealing with such issues can make one unpopular. 

But our students really can't afford for leadership to pretend it doesn't exist. 

State aid if you aren't at foundation

If you haven't already, please do go use one of your Globe articles to read today's article on state education aid in the non-foundation aid communities.
The varying increases in state aid come as the state has been stepping up its demands on local schools, which in turn requires them to spend more money.
For instance, districts have been buying textbooks, software, and other materials as they bring programs into line with new state standards for teaching English and math. Many districts also have been buying computers and upgrading their operating networks because the state is moving its standardized testing system from paper booklets to cyberspace.
All the while, school systems say they are dealing with a growing population of students experiencing anxiety, depression, and trauma — requiring a new set of services and instructional approaches — and a spate of national school shootings is prompting the need for more police officers in their schools.
Good coverage of the rock-and-hard-place choices that many districts are in.

I want to give some attention to some other pieces of the article away from the main point here.

First, I saw some questions on this:
...approximately 60 percent of school systems would receive an increase of less than 1 percent in general education aid, the review found. Two school systems under state receivership, Holyoke and Southbridge, would see aid increase by a mere 0.2 percent.
...followed by this later in the article:
Other communities, though, would make out well under the governor’s proposal, including several well-to-do ones in terms of income or property wealth.
Wellesley would increase 4.3 percent; Burlington, 5 percent; Wayland, 7 percent; and Winchester, 12.6 percent.
Those exceeding 4 percent increases also include some urban systems, such as Fitchburg, Lynn, and Fall River.
So, how come?

To start with the eye-catching ones: both Holyoke and Southbridge have lost students: Holyoke lost 274 students out of a student body that was about 6500, and Southbridge lost 73 students out of a student body of 2380. As a side note, they also both then gained students after the October count (aka, these numbers are back up again) when families evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; these are among the districts that thus should be getting the additional aid both this year (too late to do anything) and next year. But it doesn't touch their foundation budgets. The inflation rate gets effectively cancelled out by the drop in enrollment.

Fitchburg, Lynn, and Fall River? All growing student bodies: Fitchburg is up 37 students (student body of 5700), boosting the foundation budget by just under $3M, of which $2.1M is state aid. Lynn is up 298 students (student body of over 16,000); Lynn's foundation budget is up $13M of which just over $10M is state aid. Fall River is up 134 students (student body of 11,600), bumping the foundation budget up by $7.7M of which $6M is state aid.
Note that all three of those districts are at or just under foundation budget spending communities. In other words, like Brockton, there is no contribution about foundation going to their schools.


Winchester is up 166 students out of a student body of about 4500. That adds about $3M to Winchester's foundation budget, just over $1M of which is coming to them as state aid, due to the capping of how much the town is required to cover of the increase. Winchester is a wealthy district; 80% of their budget is locally funded, and their municipal wealth calculation is well over their foundation budget. They were projected to spend 33% over the foundation budget last year.
Burlington, while not as eye-catching, is in a similar situation. Burlington's increase of 19 students (of a student body of 3500) bumps the foundation budget by $1.5M, of which about $320K is coming as state aid. Burlington was projected to spend 89% (no, that isn't a mistype) over foundation this year.
Wayland is up 44 students, which is huge in a student body of 2600. That bumps their foundation budget by $1.2M, of which $320K is coming from state aid. Wayland's preliminary calculation is over the cap districts are required to spend, so the state actually scales their required spending down. It won't, one suspects, matter, as Wayland was projected to spend 74% over their required spending this year.

Wellesley...is different, and it illustrates the crux of the issue with minimum aid increases. Wellesley lost a student (yes, one) last year. Due to the inflation rate and demographic shifts (more kids in high school, a few more ELL and economically disadvantaged students), Wellesley's foundation budget went up $1.5M over last year. Like Wayland, however, Wellesley's municipal contribution comes in over the required spending cap, so $374K of the increase is carried by the state. This year, Wellesley is projected to spend nearly 70% over the foundation budget.

The conversation we effectively aren't having, thus, is the one mentioned by Secretary Peyser:
Peyser also noted that Beacon Hill adjusted the formula a decade ago and that benefited some school systems in more affluent communities. The change, being implemented gradually, aims for the state to fund at least 17.5 percent of the costs of a school system’s “foundation budget,” the minimum amount a system is required to spend under the state’s formula. Previously, many affluent school systems were receiving very little state aid. 
“The state is committed to providing a minimum share of resources to all communities,” Peyser said Friday.
We keep being told there is no money to fund updating the out-of-date foundation budget. The state, however, continues to find ways to fund a required minimum amount for every district, regardless of need. That is a choice that the Governor and the Legislature is making: to fund 17.5% of the wealthy districts, and tell the poorer districts that covering their need is not possible.

Friday, March 30, 2018

(This time for sure) The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday WITH BROCKTON

I don't usually have musical accompanyment for these, but with the City of Champions coming, I can't miss the chance to add this: 



The report of the superintendent is "A Tale of Two Cities" (and we'll leave you to draw your own conclusions about revolution. BYO knitting. "It is a far, far better thing I do..."), which, as I understand it, are Brockton and Worcester in this telling. There is only one recognition Thursday (and a single item in executive session), so the report should start before 7:30. Come see the latest in Foundation Budget Review Commission analysis!

There are a number of recognitions and a few appointments.

There is a request for a prior fiscal year payment of (yikes!) $8,212.50.
There is a request for reception of a donation of $100 from Fidelity Charitable Gift4Giving Program

Mr. Monfredo offers a reminder of the annual City that Reads book drive, a request that the district create a community service program of snow shoveling, and a suggestion that students do math over the summer.

Mr. O'Connell offers a request that Worcester send a delegation to the July statewide Civics Education Institute, a request over multiple items that the district consider blizzard bags or the like (aka, some other way to make up snow days other than adding days), a request for an update on federal grants (in a paragraph), a request that the district submit a grant application for a grant from the Education Innovation and Research Program as well as one for STOP School Violence Act.

Miss Biancheria offers a request for a "a report on the cohort, conducted by the Worcester Public Schools"...which I have no idea what that means. 

Mr. Comparetto requests an addition to school adjustment counselors, the course of study for ELL students, and a report on community organization partnerships.
Administration asks that the dates for summer camp at South High be changed.
Administration also asks that the mission and focus statement of South High be changed (for which the only backup is the new statements and what appears to be a pie chart with no information explaining who is responding, let alone anything about where the mission or focus statement came from or why it is being changed).

There is also an executive session at 6 pm on negotiations with administrative secretaries.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Don't miss the Doherty discussion

...that's in this article on approving the funding for South High:
Meanwhile, the site of a new Doherty High remains uncertain. 
Mr. Petty said consideration has to be given first to renovating the existing school. If that is not a viable option, then consideration must be given to building a new school on the existing campus. 
The problem with Doherty, however, is that it is surrounded by park land. A final option would be to find a site off-campus within the Doherty quadrant, but Mr. Petty pointed out that if the property is privately owned the city would be responsible for 100 percent of the acquisition costs. 
Mr. Augustus acknowledged that the site of the new Doherty High is a “hot topic,” adding that city and school officials would discuss various options during the next week or two
That isn't a discussion that just "city and school officials" should be having; the public should be at that conversation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

FY19 WPS budget at CPPAC

It's possible that this is more or less what these notes are on from February...posting as we go...
Allen: waiting for the House budget to come out in the middle of April; that's what we use as the official numbers that go to the School Committee
"a snapshot of what we're using for planning purposes"
slight enrollment decline, modest inflation rate, two foundation budget changes
foundation budget going up $5.9M "a little lower than the historical increase"
city contribution based on required increase: "conversations are still ongoing"

Resolution passed by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education opposing the arming of teachers

As Commissioner Wulfson said in his opening memo on this issue,“Traditionally, the Board has declined to take positions on public policy decisions that are not directly within its purview.But this may be one of those rare moments where even a symbolic vote is important.Massachusetts leads the nation in so many aspects of elementary and secondary education, and I would be proud to have us play a leadership role on this important issue.” 

with a h/t to Mary Ann Stewart for sharing

MOVED: WHEREAS the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education was deeply troubled by the February 14, 2018 shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 14 students and three adults, and equally troubled by previous school shootings, including the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado that killed 12 students and one adult, and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 students and six adults; and

WHEREAS there is no evidence-based research showing that arming teachers would reduce casualties in mass shootings; and

WHEREAS allowing guns in schools by other than law enforcement would increase the risk of accidental shootings of students and other bystanders; and

WHEREAS teachers are first and foremost educators and therefore should be employed solely on the basis of their educational skills and credentials, not their skills as a security officer;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education believes arming educators will make schools less safe, and the Board opposes any move to do so.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

March Board of Ed: LOOK Act regulation

Backup is here
Vote is to go out to public comment, but this is first look at it so there is a presentation
two sets of changes: one required by LOOK, the other on English learners in vocational program
"best meet the needs of their English learner students"
support to districts on new programs
teachers and admin to develop knowledge and skills needed for support
promotion of biliteracy

Four reg changes on EL:

  • English learner programs: new SEI or alternative program; specifies process
  • English learner advisory council: specific actions the school district is required to bring to them; participation in school and district improvement plans 
  • bilingual education endorsement: outlines requirements to meet it; required by core content teachers in a bilingual program 
  • state seal of biliteracy: criteria districts need to follow to award seal
timelines for implementation: new programs due by January 1, 2019; Parent Advisory councils next school year; endorsed educators annually; state seal of biliteracy anticipated next school year

greater alignment between vocational educators and the rest of educators
pilot programs run out of Greater Lowell Tech and Worcester Tech
rolling requirement on vocational teachers serving English learners needing Sheltered English Immersion endorsement

Doherty asking about funding of getting teachers through SEI endorsement
Wulfson: "right now we're focused on getting money in the '19 budget and then we'll see where we are"
Fernandez: what does going out for public comment mean? this is really complicated information for families to understand "especially for those this affects and impacts"
purpose of State Seal of Biliteracy?
Wulfson: to encourage districts to offer programs that allow students to come out of high school knowing two or more languages
Peyser: to recognize also the home language of English learners
McKenna notes tight timeline
Sagan: this won't come up as a surprise; people are expecting it
McKenna: getting to the right people
Moriarty: just to preview thoughts and concerns...
Sagan calls the question: carries for public comment
Moriarty "want to make sure it's not just stamp a box"
looking at how that process is going to happen locally
Peske: early conversations around evaluation of biliteracy

ADJOURNED 

March Board of Ed: accountability proposed amendments

Wulfson: a vote to go out to formal public comment period
give the field one more opportunity to comment
a more lengthier discussion in June
indicators and weights, which will not be enshrined in regulation "as at least for the next few years, it will be a living document"
Motion passes

March Board of Ed: making sped in line with ESSA

backup
Wulfson: very limited public comment, substance remains the same
Stewart: can you share how well or what issues for the regulations as presented?
Johnston: a refinement of existing regulation
a lot of familiarity with it
"certainly did have a lot of feedback, a lot of concern; it's a tricky matter"
two changes were about clarifying potential ambiguity
"will be issuing guidance in the next month or so"
Motion carries

March Board of Ed: Greenfield Virtual

backup is here
recommendation for probation: motion carries

March Board of Ed: PVCICS appeal

Sagan: bar is very high for this; "it would be an unwieldy situtation" if everyone appealed to the Commissioner
"that is really what is happening here repeatedly"
Backup
Sagan reminds Board that they need not take any action (which would confirm Commissioner's action)
Wulfson: no presentation from DESE; up to school to present case
"I like this school...wish their model was one that more would follow"
"all schools are faced with some demographic issues"
"think it's a premature request until they've come close to using up their seats"
other factor: a number of communities are approaching their net school spending caps
"we are frowning these days on charters banking large numbers of seats"

Director says there is demand for kindergarten
Sagan: if you have the space, why don't you take them?
Director: remaining head count is in high school
request is based on where we have the most demand which is in kindergarten
Chuang "that is something the school has decided within the footprint" they are chartered for
Director: we've admitted as many students as we can right now
Chuang: the general pattern is there is declining enrollment in high school grades
Director: have backfilled in kindergarten, continuing to do so would exhaust the headcount
Chuang: wouldn't be good planning to double kindergarten
"we've had multiple conversations over multiple years, and the school has decided on this structure"
Sagan: why don't you take the students on the waitlist and show the demand?
Director: can't take different levels of Chinese knowledge
"as we grow" we have more options for students
long term would like to have a model like Sturgis Charter with four cohorts in high school
with learning Chinese "the later you start, the more difficult it is"
Sagan: why are 39 students in the 9th grade?
Director: we did exhaust the waitlist in FY18
McKenna: there is no sixth grade waitlist?
Sagan: they're at full size in 6th grade
Director: much more response from Springfield; the school has found acceptance from urban students, so the school is changing demographic
"our principle entry point will continue to be kindergarten, because that's when it is most accessible"
arguing that they are keeping kids off IEPs by having students make adequate progress
"they may indeed have an underlying disability" but they don't have an IEP
"we provide more support and our numbers are lower"
this was a news item last year, around parents complaining that their students were not served
"it's clear that a lot of districts don't graduate kids out of English language learner programs"
moving students out of EL support
trace down students who left
plus "because we're a small school, small change in the number of students don't reflect the percentages"
"we were the last suburban charter approved in the state...we think you should be looking at us as a model"
"model of

Moriarty: "I am sympathetic...give opportunities to more families...but is there some sweet spot we can do something with?"
Wulfson: we have indicated an interest in a more modest increase
"the school is essentially looking to double in size"
Moriarty: "Can you throw me a number?"
Sagan: I would be concerned about negotiating fine grain numbers in this form
Chuang: "it's also impossible for them to expand for this fall"
Sagan: it has to be a 2019 issue
sibling preference? Yes, for legal siblings
McKenna: I think we've heard everything, and I suggest we accept the Commissioner's recommendation
leave discretion to the staff
Sagan: we've done that before
Sagan: "You've got to hear this Board. We like your school. We want more schools to function this way. But we need a more collaborative approach."

BOARD TAKES NO ACTION
Sagan: "Please don't keep doing it this way, because you're going to keep running into this wall. It's got to be through the Department."









March Board of Ed: School safety

You can (sigh) download the Word doc backup here, which includes, "Issues of school safety are of course intertwined with school climate genearlly, including mental health support for students, social-emotional earning, student engagement, and community-based services." There is a slightly crazy amount of press here. 

Sagan: a lot of press interest in this topic; will take a break after this topic so press may speak to Secretary
asked Commissioner to come back at this meeting about what we know in Massachusetts

Wulfson: Board did ask for briefing on issue of school safety
various state statutes that apply; resources from DESE and other departments
"topic is approached from two very different dimensions"
building security and response to incidents in buildings
"equally important is the social and emotional health of our students"
"intervene with students who may be troubled and may be prone to perpetrating these horrific acts"

 there are a boatload of people who are at the table to speak who I have no hope of catching names from 

The Department has been working with schools in a variety of ways since late 80's
multi-hazard planning law in 2000
each district required to review annually and update their plan
beginning of each school year, students are to be instructed in their plan

Julie Hackett, superintendent in Taunton
put many emergency plans in place, double school guidance counselors
built a number of positions for school safety
recently, student made a number of comments to a school resource officer about threats
was handled well, was no weaponry, were able to assure safety of students very quickly
"then the conversation changed to the walkout"
met with students; "wanted students to express themselves"
they wanted to go outside; students outside at a designated time announced to the whole world
some superintendents had emergency personnel on site
others kept it lower key
"students acted very respectfully, and it was not an issue at all"
"how complicated all these facets of school safety can be"
for MASS, there are two key issues for us:
one is on mental health
another is on infrastructure
mental health is very often a resource issue
making sure that students who are struggling know that they belong
proverb shared with her: "the child who is not embraced by the village burns it down to feel the heat"
"have the need and the mandate, but we don't always have the funding"
we are individually figuring out what each school needs to keep it safe
lengthy discussion at recent school building committee about window glass
"no real repository of information to help guide us"
issue is training as well: have some information "about research-based practices"

Dudley police chief Steven J. Wojnar currently Mass Chiefs of Police Association president
"want to involve ourselves as much as we can in those schools" as in any other part of the community
"have been a big proponent of school resource officer"
comments "anyone who thinks that the police are going to show up and everyone is going to get arrested has missed the boat"
but not the research, which supports that conclusion
Every community is going to allow for a certain level of risk
"that's their district's ability to choose that"
police review building to seek some low cost solutions; glad to work with anyone along the way

from MSBA: have consulted with the school building committee on design of new building on safety
designers themselves have security consultants on the design

emergency plans are not incident based; they're response-based
"there are a lot of little things every day"
Sagan: can we be assured that the plans that are supposed to be there
Wulfson: as is always the case with plans,"we can check the boxes that they have been written" but can't be there for the conversations that should be happening

Sagan asks if there is MSBA funding for safety
beyond windows, doors, boilers...no

Trimarchi: Parkland students have amassed a platform to talk not only about school safety but about outside of school safety as well
importance of schools in communities at large
what about supporting those students in those communities?
Hackett: crossing guards at intersections
community facilitators
youth crisis intervention teams
"ready made model of response for situations that we don't know how to handle or can't predict"
Wojnar: hopes that will get this generation involved as that age group hasn't voted and hasn't gotten involved
"like that program where someone goes and sits with someone at lunch"
and also social media
Trimarchi: role of school resource officers
Wojnar: need the right person; "most are parents"
for people who are apprehensive about program "have to have more conversations"
Hackett: have a much different role: "can't act like a police officer on the street"
but what of those who don't have different expectations?
Wulfson: are school resource officers trained?
Wojnar: training is out there, but it isn't required
Hackett notes that superintendent and chief of police evaluate the SRO

Stewart: how does it look each year?
Hackett: best use of time for us is the drills that we practice
emergency responders sit with leadership; what they're going to look for during the drill
meaningful information that we're looking at; "creates a system for us to look at that"

West: particularly interested in school resource officers
"what we actually require as a matter of statute"
can petition not to do so if they think that's not a good strategy for their district
he's missing that it's also "subject to appropriation" part of the law
The requirement doesn't exist, because funding has never been appropriated
Sagan: how funded?
Hackett: part of net school spending; indirect cost
Wulfson: good and bad, as it limits funding for other things
Sagan: it is a tradeoff; it's not separately funded? to general agreement

McKenna: what can we do to support you, so you aren't all individually trying to figure this out?
"how can we be a resource to ease the burden on you individually?"
Hackett: that's what I was trying to convey when I talked about a repository of information
net school spending is a plus for us, because every dollar is a challenge

Doherty: "I think people are doing the best job they can" with the resources they have
drills "that will minimize the casualities not prevent them"
"one thing that the Board can do is advocate for more funding for our schools, whether that is fully funding the foundation budget or passing the millionaires' tax"
"those students go well beyond talking about what is happening in schools; they're talking about what is happening in our society as a whole"
protect students not only in school "but when they go home, or when they're in their neighborhoods"
"what the students were asking for last Saturday is not just...other kinds of protections in schools; they're asking that assault weapons be banned; they're asking for full background checks; they're asking that no one should buy a weapon til they're 21"
thinks that the Board should support full platform of students

Craven: how much training and logistics is necessary for arming teachers?
Wojnar: a good hundred hours of basic training each year
"great majority" of members "we're not comfortable with untrained individuals" being in schools

Morton: are you in the process of creating standards for school resource officers? (asks the chief)
Wojnar: "I'd say that's a constant ongoing thing"
meet four and five times a year with the DA's office
"to collaborate with the principals and the superintendents"
share what is happening in our schools
none of that is training

Sagan: homework assignment of pulling together a repository of information
"we are not a legislative body...we are not an editorial body, but we felt that this issue rose above the level of concern"

Doherty makes motion to adopt resolution on guns in school
"believes that arming educators will make schools less safe and opposes any move to do so"

Moriarty: a couple of concerns with document as intended
"I don't want to see resolutions happening on a regular basis"
asks for amendment on third item to ensure that SROs are welcome in schools
"by other than law enforcement" is motion to add around guns being carried in school
McKenna: propose to strike final "whereas" which is "would compromise safe and supportive environment that is essential for learning"

Peyser is now reading a statement
"make sure that we don't get distracted by the proposal [to arm teachers] that has been brought forward"

McKenna: asked Parkland students "how did you get to be who you are?" and every single one of them said "because of my teachers"

MOTION CARRIES UNANIMOUSLY
full text is here

March Board of Ed: Lawrence and Holyoke

Update on Lawrence and Holyoke
first time presentation from John Connolly
Wulfson: being the first, it's the first on how we exit from receivership
people around the country on exiting from receivership situation; the advice we got is "you can't just turn a switch"
"an interesting transitional governance model"
receivership board who will hire a superintendent to oversee day to day operations
Connolly presenting with Ventura Rodriguez, associate commissioner for the statewide system of support, who also serves on Board
all others live in Lawrence

Connolly: Lawrence Alliance for Education will assume quasi-governmental role as receiver
currently overseeing search for new superintendent
really appreciate work of outgoing receiver Riley, work of teachers and community as a whole
taught for five years "would be the first to say that does not make me a teaching professional"
tremendous hope and tremendous challenges
"so far a very easy process" in working with people who know Lawrence very well
community process going forward on searching for superintendent
finalize slate by end of April; final interviews by early May; hire shortly thereafter; start date July first, we hope
open architecture system that is supported by community
improvement in connection, in morale, and most important in education of students; need someone who will continue that
Rodriguez: honored to be serving on board transitioning back to local control
go through the search process and get qualities for next candidate
important details to get people out there
two consultants from search firm running those sessions
10-15 person sessions
roughly 250 people over the two days; good representation of all of the stakeholders
food, childcare, translation
open to current Alliance for Ed or school committee members who want to speak

Wulfson: new contract "overwhelmingly ratified" by teachers' union
Mary Lou Bergeron, current deputy, will serve as acting during search

Moriarty: don't want to transition to a "less bad" urban school district

Stewart: many of gains in last years have been very technical; challenge of next step is need for change
Connolly: very much in transition, orientation session at which will be extensively briefed
"where the Lawrence schools stand specifically" part of session
one aspect of an innovative idea, need for teachers of color
Stewart: people you have there have good experience; looking forward to next experience

Doherty: role of curent School Committee
Connolly: two are on Alliance for Ed
"have met with each member of the...I have reached out to each member, I have met with all but one"
look for ways "to make sure the elected school committee has a voice"
"from a baseline starting point, two members serve on Alliance Board"
Doherty: do they still meet and take votes?
Connolly: do meet, outgoing superintendent has set meetings with them
"in the receivership, they obviously don't have powers over school budget and such things"

Sagan: want to thank you for stepping up and taking next step
"no one is more eager than us to restore it to local control"
but no one will be more deliberate than us
"we see this as a long term and a slow process"
that will involve local school committee showing that they are prepared to govern in a way that they have not done before
Connolly praises DESE staff

SHIFT TO HOLYOKE
Wulfson notes that Zrike's contract has been renewed
Sagan: thanks him for staying "we all know that this is really hard work"
Zrike: expect Holyoke graduates to be prepared to succeed in college and career "with more than a diploma"
multiple educational pathways offered to students; progress by the numbers cited
early literacy improving
challenges being addressed: retention of effective teachers, student engagement, discipline referrals, budget gaps
"we know our teachers need more support...the bar has shifted"
struggle to provide staff with competive wages "while health care costs are going up and charter reimbursement has declined"

reorganization to three middle schools (from seven), one high school
"one thing people can agree on is they want a move away from the K-8 model"
"more middle school options"
Veritas charter (from Springfield) "an in-district charter operating as a neighborhood school with some choice seats" as one of the middle schools opening
STEM Academy opening for 6-8
science scores are surprisingly low in Holyoke
teachers who are teaching across multiple grades and multiple subjects; "it makes it hard to do the job well"
"students want a middle school experience...don't want to be treated like babies, they've told me"

"thrilled where we are with high school efforts"
"igniting student interest and passion...sustaining their energy to perserve"
merge high schools into one campus with seven academies and three graduation pathways (early college, college prep, career/technical)
vision that students will learn across the city of Holyoke
continuing freshman academy
theme based academy structure
newcomer academy for students who have recently entered the mainland U.S.
"Holyoke has the highest percent of arrivals of any district in the state"

Moriarty comments that Board has responsibility to monitor resources Holyoke has available and make sure it doesn't fail for lack of support
Fernandez: also concerned because it is an economically depressed area
and "a little more to the influx of Puerto Rican families to the area"
Zrike: great that kids are graduating in greater numbers, but what happens next
know data of what happens to kids at Holyoke Community College
for students who are first generation college whose opportunities have always been closed off from us
McKenna: echoing Moriarty
"there's nothing harder than middle school...most challenging time to teach"
"finding good teachers and supporting good teachers"
"recruiting middle school teachers in STEM is a very high bar with a limited budget"
competing for a very limited pool of teachers
"I think it's absolutely the right thing to do...you've got a challenge"
Zrike: teachers supportive of middle school effort
Stewart: very ambitious resign, I like it a lot
asks about linked learning academies starting in tenth grade
all this great work at secondary level; is preK four years old? what partnerships below that?
Zrike: has been the vision to offer preK for all families; shift to middle school opens space
"the issue is funding...the seed funding to get it off the ground"
Stewart to Peyser: grant opportunities for early childhood?
Peyser: preschool expansion grant, which Holyoke is already getting
"at some point, in theory, that program will end"
"that's the largest [grant] by far"

Morton and Craven "want to understand budget issues more deeply"
will come and visit

March Board of Ed: Opening Comments

This gets rolling at 8:30; the agenda is here. Posting as we go.

Sagan: was heartening to see this (competency) adopted in some schools, more that we could do
didn't get to what we could do; could come back to
next Commissioner to be sworn in at 10 am next Thursday at the State House as part of the Leading the Nation celebration (to which all are invited)
still being decided which Commissioner will sit at April meeting
May will be in Marblehead, as student member Hannah Trimarchi will be hosting, plan on a late start

Wulfson: never expected to be in this role
fully expected to finish in school finance
"has been a very humbling experience"
"many inspiring leaders" in the Commonwealth
"very full nine months"
"we've dealt with transitions in Southbridge and Lawrence and hurricanes in the Caribbean"
got the ESSA plan
thanks to the Board, to all at the Department, to MASS, Commissioner's office
goal is to make every one of our 1800 schools one we'd be proud to send any of our children to
Sagan: thanks for work; "sounded more like a retirement speech than we think you intended"
normal that we'd be doing a formal review; not for acting

Peyser: in light of Jeff's valedictory, express deep gratitude for Jeff's leadership
"not lost any momentuum to drive reform and change in our schools"

McKenna: will there be a chance to do something more formal?
Sagan: yes

Public comment

on last night's presentation: adaptive assessment is the policy level that gets districts to look at individual student growth
incentive to dramatically change their models
allows students to flow through the ladder of the sequence at their pace
qualities and skills developed in students


Testimony in favor of appeal of Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter:
student lives in Springfield and attends school; speaking in favor of expansion
grandmother read about it in the newspaper
"so much more being taught here"
"more academically inclined than other schools"
student: if asked why I was there, I would say because my mom made me go
now can understand almost 2.8 billion people in this world.
let my sister attend this school
Sagan: why doesn't your sister get in with sibling preference?
student: still on the waiting list
Sagan: why are students leaving?
student: looking for more variety
student: looking for sports after school
Morton: no coop sport program with other schools in area?
student: used to have a soccer program..."it was definitely not what we hoped for"
have own soccer program now, it's JV, we're still trying to build that up
have more students to build up clubs and teams would really build up our program
parent of fifth grader from Holyoke: daughter can speak three language
"I'm an impoverished citizen..."has never beent treated differently
"don't understand the attack from adjecent towns and districts"
"think it's jealousy"
glad daughter has the chance to even the playing field in life

panel in opposition to the appeal
Peter Demling, Amherst School Committee
ask that the Commissioner's decision be upheld
reasons for rejecting expansion have not changed
school has not addressed concerns
gaps of achievement subgroups have not been addressed
addressing this should be first action
prior to any future consideration
Cara Castenson, chair of Pelhem School Committee
four students in PVCICS would be contribution to regional district
"has become a reality"
paying almost $90K in charter tuition
town also forced to take measures
Pelhem voted to pursue full regionalization with Amherst
"were the school being forced to close, it would be a loss to the town of the Pelhem"
school is doing well for students served
school is center of community
"small community schools have served as the backbone of public schools for generations"
Sagan now pressing on reimbursement of students to charter
Castenson notes that district was notified late, after budget had been passed, that students had moved
Sagan presses issue of reimbursement
John Provost superintendent in Northampton
spirit of advocacy and spirit of inquiry
last speakers on how they've been involved in students relocated by Hurricane Maria
15 communities in PVCICS have taken over 900 students; all of us have been immersed in this process
Sagan: "were you implying that the students didn't answer your question? Don't answer that."
he  wasn't

Greenfield Virtual says last night is "preaching to the choir"
competency based will take us to the next level
"we will to transcend the confines of time and space"
"truly grateful for the increase in funding accorded in September"