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. 

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