Monday, April 30, 2018

If you're not at the table, you're on the menu...and guess who is coming to lunch?

First they tried the ballot box, and that failed.
Then they tried the Legislature, and so far, that's stalling (Fingers crossed, of course).
So what do they have left? Private influence.

I speak here of the general notion that it's okay to not have local democratic oversight of one's schools. That was, we know, one of the main two reasons--the other being funding--that Question 2 lost last year.

I've previously on the blog referred to this whole notion as the "zombie" bill, because it will not die, no matter how often it appears to be beaten back.

And now it's coming to Worcester as a "possibility" being presented by the Worcester Education Collaborative "[a]s we head into the next phase our strategic plan work."
You won't find it on their website or their Facebook page, because unless you are among the "leaders of our city’s key sectors," you probably didn't get the email inviting you to a series of lunches now that the strategic plan is out, discussing "novel aspects of the plan or the external factors that may impact bringing it fully to fruition."*

Unless Chris Gabrieli himself is coming to present on how the Empowerment Zone "may impact bringing [the strategic plan] fully to fruition," I'm going go with this being a "novel aspect of the plan" (on which more this week, I promise) even though it is not mentioned anywhere in the plan, unless it's being presented as a "demonstrated best practice regionally" on page 11.

My understanding is that one idea that had been floated during the strategic plan process--but failed--is that of an appointed school committee. As that is the first "novel aspect" that one notes of the Empowerment Zone in Springfield--they do not answer to Springfield's elected school committee--the zombie continues onward.

The Springfield Empowerment Zone currently runs all of Springfield's middle schools and one high school. They have been presented as the Massachusetts poster child of "Third Way Education," the notion that public schools and charter schools can coordinate (which gets some nice debunking here). It's a little odd, though, because the bill that's actually being considered isn't even how Springfield's zone runs, and thus expansion is vehemently opposed (with reason) by the teachers' unions.

The one thing that the Empowerment Zone has had going for it right along, of course, is a stratospheric level of support from Governor Baker and Secretary Peyser, and an unparallel amount of press coverage (no, I'm not going to link. Go Google it if you like.). While one assumes this will not garner local press coverage (as it isn't public) unless carefully selected, meeting with carefully selected "leaders" is of course precisely how one goes about circumventing the democratic--and public--process.

The one thing it hasn't had is any results worth pointing to. Yeah, still.

My fear, of course, is given the Worcester bubble (we don't do a great job of keeping up with things happening elsewhere), this will just sound like a novel idea to Worcester's leaders and they'll be on board.

It's up to us to make sure they know better.

I should perhaps also point out that this goes back to the very concerning opening of the Worcester Education Collaborative, which eight years ago launched by having Paul Grogan come out from the Boston Foundation, who not surprisingly used his time to laud charter schools.

I'll close the same way I closed a blog post on this from last year:
Calling such institutions "empowerment zones" is rather like calling subdivisions "Forest Way," in that it represents what isn't there. The first thing that happens with an empowerment zone, after all, is the school committee votes to surrender its authority to a board elected by, and representing, no one. 
Consider this a warning. As always, you aren't going to see this happen in the suburbs.

__________________
*yeah, me, either. Good sources.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Senate passes supplemental budget

While it is FY19 budget season, it also is FY18 supplemental budget season, when the Legislature passes a bit more money for specific programs for the current year as it becomes clear such funds are available.
A few weeks back, the House passed a supplemental budget that included $12.5M for circuit breaker funds.  Circuit breaker is an acknowledgement by the state that out-of-district special education tuition can be quite expensive; much like an actual circuit breaker flips if the circuit is overloaded, circuit breaker funding kicks in if tuition for an out-of-district special education tuition is too much. If you scroll down here, there's a good explanation from Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson on how that works ('though it is from 2008, so ignore the dollar amounts). If a student's tuition is more than four times the average foundation budget per student in the state (and yes, that number pops up...basically nowhere else?), the state is committed by MGL Ch. 71B, Sec. 5A to paying 75% of that overage.
This year, tuition costs rose but the line for the circuit breaker in last year's budget hadn't. Both House and Senate have heard a lot about this from districts--in a small district, a single student can break your budget!--and so have responded.
Yesterday, the Senate passed the same $12.5M the House passed; that number thus should go to the Governor (and they have more than enough votes to override a veto, if that became necessary).

The Senate also included $4M for charter school reimbursement on an amendment proposed by Senator Chang-Diaz. That was not in the House budget, and so goes to conference committee.

I do also want to note that the Senate, whose budget comes out next month, had an extensive conversation around financial commitments to school districts, around promising something like circuit breaker, or charter reimbursement, or regional transportation, and not delivering it. It's clear that the message there is being heard (at least in the Senate) loud and clear.

A word about timing: while for teachers and students, it's a time of year that ossalates between "we'll never get there" and "nearly done," in the financial world, there's no question: this school year is nearly done. Plenty of districts cut off departmental and other spending May 1 to ensure that spending will all be through by the fiscal year's end on June 30. General funds allocated to the schools that haven't been spent by June 30 are returned to the town or city in a municipal district, where it will become part of free cash; in a regional district, some of that can go into an excess and deficiency account (and thus be held over), but even that has limits. There are exceptions, and circuit breaker is one; it can be held over to following year (and lots of districts use one year to pay the next year's tuition). In general, though, the later in the year "new" money comes into the district, the less useful it is to the district (it isn't as though anyone is hiring a new teacher in May) and the greater the likilihood that it ends up in city coffers, anyway.
This isn't to discount the importance of what the Senate did yesterday. It is to say that what they do next month is more important.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What's next with the foundation budget?

I've gotten some questions on where we're at with the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations. Good question! There are a few things happening at once right now:
  • The House is still meeting in budget sessions BUT they are done with the education sections. That was in the first consolidated ("we considered everything all at once") amendments, which was voted Monday and did not include amendment 246, which was implementation.
  • HOWEVER, the Senate does not have their budget yet, and that doesn't even get released until May. There is plenty of time to ask your senators to just plain include it in the Senate Ways and Means budget as released, thus avoiding the need to rush around amending!
  • IF THAT HAPPENS, that becomes a piece on which the House and Senate do not agree, and we'd want to advocate for the conference committee (where some House and Senate member together hammer out the sections on which they don't agree) to put it into the final budget...
  • AND THEN we'd need to watch to make sure the Governor didn't veto that section


AT THE SAME TIME:
  • The Legislature is still in session! They still have a boatload of bills sitting in committees and AMONG THEM IS Senate bill 2325, which is the Foundation Budget Review Commission implementation bill! It's in Senate Ways and Means
  • We need it to get out of there (so if you have a Senator on W&M, maybe ask them?) and then vote it through the Senate. From there it will go to House Ways and Means (so at some point, we'll need to line up those reps) and then to the full House.
  • WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW: did your rep cosponsor amendment 246 in the House budget? Thank them! AND THEN let them know that it will be coming their way as S. 2325, and you expect that they'll be among those leading the charge to get this done! And if they didn't? Time to ask why not.

As always, if you have questions, send them along!

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

To echo the Commissioner's comment on loss of federal funding

which has also been a theme in Worcester finance presentations for as long as I have been paying attention...
You might note this article from EdWeek, which looks at each state's Title I and Title IIA allocations. Massachusetts loses in both columns:

  • Title I is a 2.9% drop, of $7M.
  • Title IIA is a 4.5% drop, of $1.6M.
I also think it's worth noting that Member West assumed the news was good, because Title I was increased. Much like with the state budget's impact on districts, though: what matters is where it goes.

It's not coming here.

Do also note, however, that Massachusetts overall spends something more than $16B (billion, with a B) on K-12 education, so this isn't a lot in that context. This is more a question of where it goes. It goes to high poverty kids and to teacher professional development.
I'd argue that this makes the Foundation Budget Review Commission implementation MORE urgent, because low income is, yes, one of the recommendations, and we should push that if we're going to be shorted on Title I. And Title IIA is supporting a LOT of professional development that's being underfunded, sometimes to frightening levels, due to the lack of reconsideration of the foundation budget. 

SJC keeps the charter cap

And just this morning, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has affirmed the decision of the lower court in dismissing Doe v. Peyser, the case brought by Boston Public Schools students against the charter school cap.
...although the remedy the plaintiffs seek by way of this action, i.e., expanding access to charter schools, could potentially help address the plaintiffs' educational needs, other policy choices might do so as well, such as taking steps 27 to improve lower-performing traditional public schools. There may be any number of equally effective options that also could address the plaintiffs' concerns; however, each would involve policy considerations that must be left to the Legislature.
Worth reading, if this is of interest, and some coverage here, but in any case: the charter cap stands.

Request for Board delegation of authority on charter school management contracts

the backup memo is here
Wulfson: charter schools are permitted to contract with outside organizations for all or part of their services
a small number in Massachusetts use them
charters were recently renewed; contracts then are amended under the new charters
past practice has been to delegate that to the Commissioner, when the Board does not traditionally meet
one of the contracts is with Sabis, for those who follow such things

Motion carries unanimously

Board adjourns

Board of Ed on House Ways and Means

Bill Bell on House Ways and Means
"right in the middle of the state budget development"
the floor debate has begun on the budget
full house completed a series of amendments on local aid and education
concerns with "assessment and curriculum" budget item; was restored in amendment to $32.5M
"series of smaller number...regional transportation reimbursement, after school grants"
traditional
all told, there's about $8.5M added (to education) in the budget yesterday
increasing funding for our districts
aid spending up $160M over the House 2; minimum aid, a little on target reduction, additional more money for circuit breaker, some on the Foundation Budget Review Commission
"we won't know the percentages for those" until this year's claims are filed
concerned about the federal level; "a little less money on the school improvement area"
have been dealing with designated funds for school improvment being gone (now comes out of Title I)
maybe $6M less
numbers are jumping around
in FY18, Legislature has been talking about supplemental funding on circuit breaker and regional transportation
$8.5M out of Senate Ways and Means for circuit breaker [NOTE: This is the Senate Ways and Means REDRAFT of the House's supplemental, which had $12.5M. Per DESE, the $8.5M is 70.4%; the $12.5M was 71.6%. The full Senate takes it up Thursday.]
68% right now; 75% is considered full funding
have been sharing numbers on regional transportation with legislators, 'though nothing in the Senate bill

Riley: still have gaps that need to be closed; students that historically have benefited from these dollars [at the federal level]
West: allows state to set aside 7% of allocation for school improvement
Bell: 7% comes after we take care of set asides; series of calculations we need to go through
"we can't just take it off the top"
Moriarty: "how responsive if at all the budget process is to the recommendations we made at the front end of the budget process" is something he'd like to review
are there going to be resources for PD for teachers and other prep for the standards implementation and such for the social studies and history?
hope is that Board passes revised standards in June
already built a civics institute for those who teach 8th grade; used Title II dollars
hope to run this summer; not dependant on state dollars, nor on the districts having to do it
Riley: to me it looks like we might not have the resources we've had in the past to bring to our most needy students

Doherty "I don't like to bring controversy to the Board"
"to provide a quality education to all students"
FBRC found that public education was being underfunded by "about a billion dollars"
If the Board feels that the resources being brought to bear are not sufficient, is it inappropriate for this Board to advocate for additional resources for public schools in Massachusetts?
Peyser: runs through another round of how marvelous the Governor is on implementing FBRC because of the wee nods they keep making on health insurance...give me a break 
Doherty is asking if the Board has taken a position on, for example, a ballot question in the past, as they need to potentially take a position on Fair Share
Sagan: we already do make recommendations on the budget; we can see if we should can/should do more
another issue, is do we recommend where the funding comes from



Board of Ed April update on Level 5 schools

There's a backup over here, and UP Academy Holland in Boston is here
Johnston: fourth year for the turnaround in UP Academy
"evolution is a word I use to describe UP's work"
"very committed to figuring out" what will best serve the students they serve
"the challenge that makes us great"
this is the new head of UP Academy; she comes from the turnaround of schools in Detroit; I missed her name
engaged in putting in place some of the things Adler spoke about earlier
Holland is a Dorchester elementary school; 44% of students speak a language other than English
75% economically disadvantaged
engaging all members of the community in a conversation in hopes and dreams and aspirations for our students
incredibly important to us "that students cultivate their sharp minds"
not the only skill you need to be successful, "equiping students to share their kind hearts"
"restorative conversations to build students' skills...how to negotiate, how to problem solve"
suspensions declined by 44% since 2015-16
"distributive leadership model"
"career pathway that keeps teacher in the classroom longer" expecting 80% teacher retention this year
"want to talk about the village around UP Academy Holland"
"family engagement is vital to the long-term success of our scholars and our schools"

Fernandez: ask about suspension rates and work done with teachers
working with staff around mindsets required
A: started this summer; provided PD for all leadership and teachers around restorative conversation
"students do well if they can" is the premise
"most teachers were ready and happy to engage in this conversation"
"we have to continue to build the capacity of teachers...that's the crux"
"we are asking teachers to stay teaching while freeing up a little bit of their time to mentor others"
"we've got to build this capacity...it's not acceptable to have kindergarten suspensions"

McKenna: when we get these numbers, it would be helpful "to get the real number"
percentage decline; "fifty percent of what?"
easy to remember some of the numbers "because it was on the front page of the Boston Globe"
turnover has been difficult from year one

Moriarty: don't understand restorative conversations as a concept
challenges of adminstration not to suspend "what does that do to school culture"
A: amending any wrong
exclusion from the classroom as a last resort
"that's the direction that we're moving in and that's how we're facilating the conversations"


AND THE REST OF THE SCHOOLS....
School and Main Institute is going to be the receiver once Superintendent Durkin steps down
Veritas Prep Charter will operate in Holyoke within the HPS system; feeding from Morgan and Kelly elementaries and Veritas Prep is 5-8
sharing practices across schools but also across the district (noting here the Dever in Boston); instructional rounds
"schools are still struggling with some staffing challenges"
conversations with teachers about their plans for next year; compensation and "strengthening teacher leader pathways"

Fernandez: bigger picture on goals and metrics to better evaluate progress
West: prior year information would allow us to put information in context





Milken Award presentation at the Board of Ed: Dan Adler

Adler says he'll miss Riley's snow days tweets
appreciates that the Milken is not a lifetime achievement award, believes his students have not yet seen his best work yet
"obligation to serve all children of the Commonwealth...and we can do better"
excited about the changes in accountability, changes in ELL, and in teacher development
"identity of the singing science teacher"
singing with gestures is "total physical response" as a learning technique
"I'd rather have recognition for serving our language learners" rather than singing in science
teacher leadership brings out the best in staff
encourage districts in developing and evaluating endorsement programs in EL programs
parents advisory for EL programs; "could we have a similar program for teachers?"
calls for continued and increased involvement of teachers
Riley: professional learning communities and sharing best practices
"teaching can often be an isolating profession"
allow time for teachers to work together and learn from each other

McKenna: keeping students still in the classroom is such an old fashioned view
"we need to listen and involve teachers more"
speaks of the support needed for teachers who are coming into the classroom

Moriarty: contrasting Pekarcik's entry with Adler's; asks how much that has to do with the turnaround
Adler: perspective on time
develop new interventions, pilot them, and share with staff and students
Riley: teacher leader cabinet
"Many schools have this set up" in Lawrence; teacher leadership teams at the school level
"enlistment" rather than compliance
"getting people involved" is the best way to bring about change
peer observations and peer evaluation

in response to Q from Fernandez: school places a huge emphasis on family engagement
"we push really hard every quarter to have 100% of our families come in for conferences; if they don't come in, we come find them"
call ten families every week is a requirement
"it is a huge priority...and it is something we're even thinking about doing more of next year"

Trimarchi: you use the word 'scholars' to describe your students; what difference does that make?
Adler: the role the students have in their own education
"when I say 'scholar,' I'm empowering them to decide...I think of their role in empowering their education"
and their ambitions and how far they can go

Massachusetts Teacher of the Year presentation at the Board of Ed: Cara Pekarcik

Cara Pekarcik: honor to represent teachers in the Commonwealth as teacher of the year
a career changer: started as a marine biologist, now a biology teacher
"wonderful opportunity" to be a career changer, supports that path being available
focus on "things for me to have as goals"
  • doing, not just seeing
  • scientific literacy
  • personal growth
  • connected educator
  • empathy and SEL
"safe, structured, dynamic, engaging learning environment for my students and for myself"
hands on projects for students to bring more to their learning
"bring real things into my classroom"
"these were students in my classroom that were very skeptical about having this woman come into my classroom"
"...amazing for them"
"I am not an expert in everything that I teach...so why not allow experts in the field to come and share with your students"
"find organizations and places where students might be able to involve themselves in the classroom"
scientific literacy: important for them to read about current science topics
advocate for professional development
"important to care about my students"
teachers teach because they want to teach
make teachers feel as if they are valued in their community; not as valued as it used to be
"I don't feel that I am looked at like a professional in the community like I should be"
important to explicitly express the value of teachers

Sagan: how do you pay for all of these?
Pekarcik: can put up pictures of what I do and maybe people think they can't
people come in voluntarily
for going out, finding grants
"if I have a student who maybe can't afford it, I'll make sure they get there"

West: important on career switchers
Pekarcik: teachers coming out of school to teacher "are awesome too"
importance of mentoring
"to know that there was a community that was supporting me"
limited time to mentoring and pushed too late
many teachers wish there was more that they could do



Student presentation at the Board of Ed: John Kelly on civic engagement

Kelly served as Governor for the day at Student Government Day earlier this month
first experience was passing out flyers for a candidate locally
wishes he had civics classes earlier in his education
lists ways in which students should get involved in both education and civics
"democracy is not a spectator sport...it is a participatory, hands-on" experience
speaks of experiences beyond the classroom
education in civics is a necessity


Mass Board of Ed for April: opening comments

The agenda is here. The new commissioner is on today. Chair Sagan is travelling, so he'll be participating remotely, and Vice-Chair Morton will be chairing the meeting.
Updates as they're warranted.

Riley: thanks everyone for welcoming and support in transition, "which happened last week"
need to bring back "teachers and students at the forefront of education"
officially delegated Lawrence receivership to the board in Lawrence
went to vocational award ceremony in Worcester
joint committee event on early college

Public comments:
Lisa Guisbond, Citizens for Public Schools
know all are dedicated to making schools successful, strong as they can be
giving each member a copy of The Testing Charade by Daniel Koertz
from which she is quoting...

Monday, April 23, 2018

No FBRC in the House, but let's take names

We put up a good fight these past few days, but 88 reps apparently isn't enough to get an amendment into the House budget, even if that's 55% of the House.
I think that we should note those who co-sponsored, though, as allies we expect to see again, and note those who didn't co-sponsor and start asking why.
If 88 reps out of a body of 160 want to see something happen, it seems to me it should.
Final list after the jump:

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Let's talk about regional transportation

I posted much of this as a thread over on Twitter at the end of last week, but for those who might be more comfortable reading more than 280 characters at a time, here it is in prose.

Regional transportation stems from our state history of having lots and lots of districts, some of them teeny. The state has encouraged those teeny districts to regionalize, both to save on overhead and to provide more opportunities for students. The overhead is about things like superintendents and business offices, of course, but also even buildings; the opportunties are due to the difficulty of fielding both a football and a soccer team or putting together an orchestra or an AP physics class if you don't have many kids.
A whole section of Chapter 71 of the Mass General Laws is devoted to regionalization. On transportation, recognizing that bussing would be necessary for regionalization to work, MGL Ch. 71 section 16C sets a mile and a half limit for bussing, and then says:
[the] district shall be obliged to provide transportation for all school children in grades kindergarten through twelve and the commonwealth shall reimburse such district to the full extent of the amounts expended for such transportation, subject to appropriation
The closing phrase is the kicker, of course, as it means, essentially, "if the Legislature gets to funding it," which often means they don't.

Now, if you aren't familiar with regionals--and there are whole swaths of the state that largely aren't!--I think it's not clear what we're talking about here. I've seen some pushback on regionals organizing around this reimbursement, with some questioning why they get it at all. I think that some of this is due to a lack of knowledge about the disparities of size we're discussing here. So let's look at some numbers (all dollar amounts here are FY17 from the most recent spending report released by DESE).

Wachusett Regional, just to Worcester's north, has the largest enrollment of any regional district in the state. In FY17, it had an enrollment of 7100 students. That puts it similar in student population to Chelsea, which had 7038 students.
Similar number of kids, then.
Here's the area the kids in those two districts are coming in from:

Chelsea kids are coming from 2.5 square miles; Wachusett Regional's are coming in from 155 square miles.

It's not suprising then, that while Chelsea spent $2.5M on in-district transportation, Wachusett Regional spent $4.7M in FY17.

Here's another: Quabbin Regional, just to Wachusett's north, had 2200 students in FY17. That's about the same as Norwell, out along the coast south of Quincy, which had 2151 students in FY17.
Here's the area those two sets of students are coming from: 
Norwell kids are coming in from 21 square miles, while Quabbin Regional kids are coming in from 162.7 square miles.
In fact, a single one of Quabbin's five towns, New Braintree, is nearly identical in size to Norwell.
In FY17, while Norwell spent $872,000 on in-district transportation, Quabbin spent $1.5M to move about the same number of kids.

We could do this with nearly any regional and equivalent single town district (I'm not cherry picking these, 'though I am dropping the Cambridge and Weston types), but here's one more: 
Mohawk Trail, out along Route 2 west, had 966 kids enrolled in FY17. That's about the same size as Wrentham (which most of us know for the outlets), out on 495 south, which had 938 students enrolled in the same year.
But here's where those kids are coming from: 
Wrentham kids come in from 22.9 square miles, while Mohawk Trail kids come in from 253 square miles.
A difference of ten times.
Wrentham spent $699,000 on in-district transportation in FY17.
Mohawk Trail spent $1.09M. It was the fourth largest expense, after teachers, paraprofessionals, and health insurance.

Now, all districts are additionally having an issue with getting competitive bids for transportation; you might remember that there was an article in the T&G about this a few months back. So they're not only stuck on distance; in some cases, they're also stuck on price.

But those kids still are guaranteed an education, even if it's inconvenient, even if it's expensive. And it's still the state's responsibility to provide it, at least in part. When they don't, they drive a major hole in the budgets of these districts, holes that aren't supposed to be there.
And that's why the regionals are organizing for transportation reimbursement to be fully funded.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

and there's a BUDGET update! 

Note, first, that it's the annual school choice hearing. This, remember, is school choice IN; school choice OUT of the district is required to be allowed. Generally, the administration's recommendation is "yes, where there is space."

The main agenda is here. Lots of recognitions opening the program (it could be that the National Anthem will be particularly good!).

The report of the Superintendent is an FY19 budget update; as the House budget pushed WPS Ch. 70 aid up nearly a million dollars ($981,951) AND some of the "change in low income" pothole funds would be heading for Worcester (that's $12.5M in the House) PLUS there's discussion of at least FBRC and low income allotments in the amendments...there are things to discuss. Keep your eye on the agenda to see if the backup gets posted before the meeting. Also note that setting a date for the budget hearings is on this agenda; I assume they're the June meetings, but I have yet to see the posting of the public hearing. 

There is an administrative response to the changes in math and ELA frameworks...which is one page? There should be some concern there, as one thing the state called out on the Comprehensive District Review was the lack of implementation of framework changes and of cohesion across the district.

There is a response to a query regarding expanding the 365Z Kindness Club.

The committee is requested to accept:
 - $34.50 to Tatnuck Magnet School from Yankee Candle
- $4,312.20 to Canterbury Street Magnet Computer-Based School from the meat raffle
- $2,000.00 from the Pappas Scholarship Fund to Worcester Technical High School to be awarded to a worthy football student.

And also:
- The Capital Skills grant of $464,616, which looks like it's being used for Graphic Design equipment at Worcester Tech.
- The Preschool Partnership grant of $20,000, which is being used to create a "Child Well-being Dashboard" for the community.

There are requests for recognitions.

Ms. Biancheria would like an organizational chart for when an emergency happens in the district.
She'd also like to know how many subs there are.
She'd like to know when summer work will be done on the schools.
She'd like the Administration "review the section in the Budget regarding Worcester Public Schools’ vehicles and indicate the way in which they are identified as such." I don't know what that means. It was page 175 last year, and it looks pretty clear? 

Mr. Comparetto would like the committee to support House budget amendment 246 (Great idea, but too late!).
And he'd like a report on all early childhood programs.

There are also prior fiscal year payments:
- of $10,848.00 from Additions Network.
- of $65.00 from Miniwarehousing for the rental of a unit at Burncoat High School.
- of $250.00 to Ximena Sanchez-Samper who was a presenter at a Youth and Drugs Conference.

There is an executive session for three grievances and collective bargaining with teachers, tradesmen, plumbers, tutors, and parent liaisons which is weird because the contracts are settled. I wonder what's up. 
No live blog as I have a meeting, but you can bet I'll update on budget as I see anything! 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday update on amendment 246

As of the close of business Friday, amendment 246 was up to 77 representatives, which is 48% of the House!
They are:

Ashe
Balser
Barber
Barrett
Benson
Cabral
Cahill
Chan
Connolly
Coppinger
Crocker
Cullinane
Cusack
Cutler
Day
Decker
D'Emilia
Donahue
Dooley
Driscoll
DuBois
Dwyer
Dykema
Ehrlich
Farley-Bouvier
Ferguson
Finn
Fiola
Frost
Garballey
Garlick
Garry
Gentile
Goldstein-Rose
Gonzalez
Harrington
Hawkins
Hay
Hecht
Higgins
Hill
Jones
Kafka
Kane
Kaufman
Keefe
Khan
Kuros
Lawn
Lewis
Linsky
Madaro
Mahoney
Mark
Markey
Matias
McGonagle
McKenna
McMurtry
Muradian
Muratore
Murray
O'Day
Puppolo
Rogers
Rogers
Scaccia
Scibak
Smizik
Stanley
Tosado
Tucker
Ultrino
Vega
Velis
Vincent
Williams

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday for April

It looks like a light agenda. It appears from the agenda that the new Commissioner will be filling that seat.

After opening comments, they're having three presentations: one from a Quincy High student on civic engagement, one from the Mass Teacher of the Year, and one from the Milken Award winner.

The monthly update on Level 5 schools will include an update on UP Academy Holland. As that school was in the news last year due to their suspensions, I assume that will come up.

There's a nice rundown of the House Ways and Means budget proposal on education (seriously, this is really good. Is this because they've got Jeff Wulfson back at Deputy?)

There's a request that the Board delegate authority to the Commissioner to decide on management contracts for UP Academy and Collegiate Charter of Lowell. This, quite intentionally, is a decision under the purview of the Board; it may be done during the summer then. (editorial: then have a meeting during the summer)

There's also a report on the early literacy intervention grant.

Tuesday, 8:30 am, in Malden (next month in Marblehead, remember!)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

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

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

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.
Yes, this is me at three or so with Pop on the tractor.

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.