Thursday, May 10, 2018

Senate debates "An Act Modernizing the Foundation Budget for the 21st Century"

You can find the bill (and amendments) here.
This is totally not going to start for awhile. 

2pm: Senate is now in session. I'm going to need to leave at 3:30 at the latest, so this will not be wall to wall coverage, alas.

Senator Brady (of Brockton): "we couldn't have done this without our districts, without the advocacy of our districts, we couldn't do it without our local elected officials and our citizens"
introducing local elected officials and Brockton Superintendent Kathy Smith

Senator Chang-Diaz:
who is listing cuts from district after district 
"have become year after year effort"
citation from Supt. Boone when they held hearings 
"and then there's the work that wasn't cut because we weren't able to start it"
a single counselor spread across multiple schools "despite constant demand for trauma services and recovery from the last shooting"
"face every district across our Commonwealth and it has been so for decades"
some districts considering suing the Commonwealth
districts suing "inspired the 1993 Education Reform Act"
"we act on the legacy of these reforms"
from 2002 to now, real dollar spending has fallen 7%
students "are waiting on our courage"
"a bold righteous and radically American promise" when we passed the '93 act
"all means all"
"when we say 'liberty and justice for all,' all is supposed to mean all"
made a deal with districts "expectations matched with investment"
"since then we have acted like education is a static enterprise"
"our funding formula has not grown with us"
and districts are buckling under the pressure
"it has been a quarter century since the Legislature checked in with the math that undergirds our public school system"
"we've fallen into one of the deepest achievement gaps in the country"
now reviewing FBRC findings
"were endorsed unanimously by the Commission"
"the promise of quality education...runs to the very heart of who we are as a Commonwealth"
the education section is "the only place that 'cherish' appears in the Constitution"
"ask my colleagues to think of things that they cherish in their lives
"are we cherishing public education?"

Lewis: " have worked for many, many years for this day"
and intros students from Malden High
this issue motivated him to run for public service and go into the Legislature
letter came home that his daughter's school library would be closed
asked for parents to volunteer to keep the library open
"this was a real eyeopener for me"
thanks Chang-Diaz for her leadership, thanks Jehlen
education is the hallmark of Massachusetts
"Horace Mann recognized that Massachusetts" does not have natural resources...human capital is what we tapped into
"the oldest written Constitution still in use's written in there...that's how deep it goes"
in the years since 2000, the foundation budget has not kept pace
the average school in the Commonwealth is now forced to spend 120% of their foundation budget (it's 129.7%)
"what that masks is our most disadvantaged districts" can't spend over the foundation budget, while the more well-resourced districts are spending well over that
"putting tremendous financial pressure on all of our schools"
"every year, they're struggling to balance their budgets...and every year, they're told by the City Council, the finance committee, 'Nope, you'll have to cut'"
"this is exactly the opposite of what we intended in the education reform act in 1993"
"that to me is a moral failing of the Commonwealth"
first state to set up a system so that every district gets what it needs: "the same high quality education" in every district
"hope that we will once again lead the nation"

Sen. Spilka: "hard for me to sit still when we're having a debate about changing the foundation funding formula"
why she first ran
organized others to lobby and advocate
changes that were made in '06 and '07 "adequacy was the issue that eluded us in those days"
"what does it really take, what does it need to include" for each district across the state
"and it has to get updated"
"look at circumstances across the state"

Sen. Jehlen:"state budget takes another step's not enough, but it's where we ought to go"
"make that obligation transparent every year"
public hearing where all will agree on way forward
minority leader has pointed out important obligations we have made
1. Funding 2. State control/oversight 3. Charter schools
"we have increased the demands...we have raised the number of charter schools...but we have not kept the grand bargain"
"most of the aid increases...have not been targeted to the most underresourced communities"
"in 2002, we stopped meeting our obligation to fund local education adequately"
"those underresourced districts are the ones we count as most underperforming"
districts under state control are getting less than the state average increase this year "Southbridge singled out as having to reduce their staff by 30 this year"
commitment before we write our budgets
"none of the Governor's budget have met" increase in revenue
"this step is our part of keeping our part of the grand bargain"

Sen. DiDomenico: great to stand before you today on this day for children
"most important title is 'Daddy'"
Everett has to choose between library, media, things they should do
"class sizes are exploding, and they need to do more with less"
"we have to do more, and this bill does just that"

Sen. Bruce Tarr
"this day of reckoning which is long overdue"
amendment after amendment offered by minority to this end
"and then, Mr. President, we forget about one of our commitments"
"and the gap began to grow, and grow, and grow"
"something which should have been done probably in 1996 but certainly by the year 2000"
"tasked this Commission with doing a lot of work because it had been so long" since anyone had considered the foundation budget
"I would argue that this should never happen again"
"and there is still a lot of work to be done on the foundation budget"
"those need to be addressed, too" listing circuit breaker, regional transportation, charter school reimbursement
"critical that we have a process and a schedule" to address the gap that has developed
"pass the bill, send it to the House, and urge them to pass it expeditiously as well"
"I suspect that this bill receive tremendous bipartisan support, and it should"
"creates a mechanism, it creates a process, it does not create resources"
"look at the divergance between what we should be doing and we have been doing"

I had to duck out at that point, but here are a few highlights from later coverage: 
Senator Tran chose to make his maiden speech on this bill, relating his own history as an immigrant from Vietnam who went to public schools in Clinton. He said that he has lived the American dream and now can assure that others will.

A number of amendments were withdrawn, most of which will, the Senators said, be put forward as budget amendments.

The one amendment that did pass unanimously was one from Senator Bruce Tarr, the Senate Minority leader, creating a reconsideration of the foundation budget via commission every five years.

The bill passed unanimously 38-0.

UPDATE: coverage from...
The Sun Chronicle with the spot-on observation of its bipartisan nature
RadioBoston which you have to listen to
Commonwealth Magazine which does a nice job of linking it to the "Leading the Nation" celebration also happening this week

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