Friday, May 11, 2018

Senate Ways and Means budget

I posted my notes on reviewing this yesterday in a thread here

Moving along...

The Senate Ways and Means page is here; above, they've moved on to "Debate" because they are already taking amendments, which are due by noon Monday.
Just like we talked about in the House budget post, the Senate budget is divided into sections ('though not the same ones, and no, I don't know why they do that. Or why everything is PDFs you have to download). In the Senate, the Fiscal Note is "how we're going to pay for it," Appropriations is the line item spending, Local Aid is, yes, local aid (but with language on how it's being allocated!) , and Outside Sections is "here's some other things we'd like to do while we're doing the budget." For our purposes here, we actually need all of the last three!
I'll tell you up front that the outside sections have both a regional district foundation budget review commission AND a local contribution review commission.

Let's run through the line items first, and then loop back to the local aid and outside sections, both of which have implications on how the foundation budget is or will be calculated.
  • DESE's line is up, but it's earmarks (looking particularly like the Senate Ways and Means Chair district there).
  • METCO is down $1M from the House to $21.1M.
  • The organizations you'd look for for early literacy (Reading Recovery, Bay State Reading) are arranged a little differently, but still there (not cut as in Governor's budget).
  • School-to-career is up a bit (about $90K) to make it an even $4M.
  • The ELL line is about a million less than the House (for an odd $1,550, that actual spending?) and the earmark for Gateways is gone.  
  • Institutional schools is the same $7.4M.
  • Adult ed is up a million and a half from the HW&M budget ($32.5M)
  • Regional school transportation is $62.5M (same as House W&M before amending)
  • The Senate puts in $250K for transportation for non-resident pupils to voke techs (with a proviso that more funding be requested as needed)
  • McKinney-Vento reimbursement down a million from the House budget (so $8M)
  • AP line down $300K from House
  • Breakfast the same, lunch strips the House earmark.
  • Ch.70 is up $35.6M (which we'll come back to!) overall
  • $15M for kids from Puerto Rico is there; that low income shift pothole from the House is not.
  • This is big: Full (they intend) funding of the circuit breaker of $318M (House had $300M)
  • Federal impact aid is back at $1.3M (wasn’t in the House at all)
  • The other big one on reimbursement shifts: $100M for charter school reimbursement (up from $90M in the House, up from flat funding in the Governor’s)
  • Innovation schools planning back in for $100K (this wasn't in the Governor or the House budget)
  • MCAS (the battle of line 7061-9400) is BACK DOWN to $27M and no mention of history; that's how the House had it, but it was amended back to the Governor's $35M and with language talking of history expansion, as the Department requested. This one may go to conference committee...
  • Possibly relatedly MCIEA has their line back: $200K; that was in neither the Governor nor House budget.
  • Targeted intervention line $6.7M (down $500K) from House
  • Extended learning time is the same ($13.9M)
  • Recovery high schools up $625K (to $3.1M)
  • After and out of school line is up $481K, but it’s earmarked (shout out to Recreation Worcester, $400K)
  • Safe and supportive schools is down $100K from the House (so $500K)
  • Yes, Mass Academy of Math and Science has their $1.4M
  • Youth build programs up $650K from House
  • Mass Mentoring up $275K from House
  • And regional bonus aid for $56,920, which wasn't in the House.
Okay, so what's up with Chapter 70? 
If you go to Section 3, the Local Aid section (which is where lots of local officials go first, because it's where the unrestricted local aid and Ch. 70 numbers are), you find the description of how Chapter 70 is going to work this year. The description of the funding system starts in the paragraph that opens "For fiscal year 2019, the foundation budget category"and ends (helpfully) with the words "The 'minimum aid increment' shall be equal to $30 multiplied by the district's foundation enrollment minus the foundation aid increment." And yes, that is just what you think it is: you just found the minimum per pupil aid increase! The Senate agrees with the House number of $30/pupil.
But there's lots else there: just up from the minimum per pupil is the 100% gap closing (which is a nice little "you don't have to try as hard" to the towns and cities); that boosts the Chapter 70 number for some districts, as it rejiggers the question of who pays for how much. And there's also the description of the employee benefit amounts in the foundation budget. Those numbers are the same as the House; it's being described because so far, that's the part of the foundation budget that they've been tweaking.

BUT THE SENATE DOES SOMETHING ELSE! They've made the ELL funding an increment over the base; in other words, your foundation budget (in the Senate budget) does NOT just count all your ELL students together and fund them at a certain amount each, as the House did. Your ELL students are sorted into their grade categories AND THEN THERE IS AN INCREMENT ON TOP OF THAT!
This does a couple of things: first, it's another foundation budget step (not on dollars, but on process!). Second, it does actually raise the amount of money per student that has ELL needs. Third (attention vokies!): this means vocational students who are also ELL get the ELL bump on top of the vocational rate!
What does that look like? In the House budget, the K-12 ELL rate was $9723 per pupil.
In the Senate, the total for an ELL student is $9941 for full-day K, $9970 for elementary, $9746 for middle, $10,860 for high, and $15,342 for vocational.
So yes, increased foundation budgets! And remember, on something like this, the big boost is going to be where there are larger concentrations of ELL students. And where is that? The same districts that are majority state funded. And that means the Chapter 70 goes up!

To give one example, Worcester's:
In the House $249,894,895
In the Senate $253,211,785 increase of $3.3M.
And this is, again, going to concentrate the increase on the districts that most need the boost and to some of the kids who most need the boost.

The outside section has some low income language in it. It adds the following as a new section 3B to MGL Chapter 70:
Section 3B. The department of elementary and secondary education shall make available to school districts a form to certify family income level for the purpose of calculating low-income enrollment. A school district may choose to have its low-income enrollment established through collection of the forms or through a direct certification system established by the executive office of health and human services, which may include the virtual gateway system.
What does that mean? It means that districts can choose to use direct certification (as we do now) OR that districts could use a form to certify family income. Essentially, it allows districts to choose how they count poor kids.
It adds:
Section 16 shall apply in fiscal year 2020. The department of elementary and secondary education shall provide school districts with the family income certification form described in section 3B of chapter 70 of the General Laws within a reasonable time prior to the low-income enrollment count process for the purposes of calculating chapter 70 aid in fiscal year 2020. this isn't for this year but goes into effect next fiscal year (so the state would have to work on this during the coming year).
As I said earlier this week in my write-up on S.2506, the Senate is clearly hearing the district-level frustration around the kids who aren't being caught by direct certification and the subsequent unhappiness with finding more kids and DESE cutting the rates.
I think, honestly, that DESE's going to have a conniption over this idea.

Amendments are due Monday, May 14 at noon. The Senate takes up debate on Tuesday, May 22.

And as always if you have questions, please ask! 

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