Saturday, April 13, 2019

House Ways and Means FY20:

Bringing to mind this classic from Peggy Lee...

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee released their FY20 budget. The cherry sheets, specifying the amount of aid by municipality and district, have not yet been updated; however, DESE did us the enormous favor (due I think to pleas from the school business offices) of sharing the Chapter 70 spreadsheets for House Ways and Means (they aren't online; that's my dropbox). I've updated the spreadsheet that I've been using to track the K-12 accounts for FY20 here. I also found the write-up that Roger Hatch did for MASS useful. Amendments were due Friday--yes, very much not a lot of deliberation time there--and can be found here; I'll get to a post on those in the next week, as deliberation won't start until Monday, April 22.

We'll get to the accounts in order eventually, but I want to start with the ones that worry me most first.

Chapter 70 (7061-0011) is up $17.7M over the Governor's budget; it's worth noting that those headlines citing a $218M increase are comparing it with FY19, not the Governor's budget. That increase is largely due to an increase to $30/pupil minimum increase; the Governor's bill had $20/pupil. The foundation budget is increased an additional 1.2% in the health insurance lines, and there is a small increase in deciles 6 and up in the economically disadvantaged line, but the House Ways and Means proposal also drops both the early college category and the high needs designation proposed by the Governor. (This actually led to Northbridge and Uxbridge at least having smaller foundation budgets from House Ways and Means than from the Governor, which is not something that generally happens.). The House Ways and Means budget also uses the previous English learner count; the Governor's budget had dropped 6% of students statewide due to a redefinition of who was an English learner.
What is tending to be discussed alongside this is the $16.5M proposed as a low income grant line, essentially. This is not a Chapter 70 increase, note. It does not come through as part of the aid to schools at the beginning of the fiscal year, it is not tied to the calculations of the foundation budget, and, at ground? We can't count on this. It won't appear until much later in the year, much too late for hiring of teachers or real investment in the coming school year. It also frankly is just not that much money:$45M of Brockton's foundation budget is the economically disadvantaged line, $47M of Lynn's, $42M of New Bedford's...and so on. This is not going to go very far at all in the statewide need.
For all the talk about "down payments" and such, this is not a budget line that recognizes the real ways in which the state school funding system is broken.

Charter reimbursement (7061-9010) is up $7M over the Governor's proposal to $113M for FY20. The big news here isn't the increase in the line, though; it is that the House Ways and Means budget adopts the language from the Governor's school funding bill in changing how that is allocated. The switch back to 100/60/40 has gotten the press; remember, though, that such a change is theoretical, as the years after the first haven't been funded. The change that makes a difference is it would fund charter tuition reimbursement only for the increases that boost enrollment higher that that of the previous five years while providing supplemental appropriation for districts funding more than 9% of net school spending to charters. This means that most districts would no longer see tuition reimbursement (they'd still see the facilities reimbursement), while the state then could claim "full reimbursement" is funded as they've changed what that means.
This isn't right. As I mentioned back in February, at crux this is a discussion around how we fund charter schools in Massachusetts, which most of the political leadership is studiously avoiding mentioning. There is a political allergy right now to reopening the questions that swirled around Question 2, and how we fund charters is part of that.
It is little tiny districts that are hurt the most by this; one or two kids moving to a charter school, whether or not that puts them at a higher enrollment that prior years, can easily tank a budget of a small district. And, let's be frank: this is being done to ensure Boston gets its money.

Rural schools don't have a line in this budget. Last year, rural schools did have an allocation in the budget; this year, we've seen two rounds with nothing. Funding is not the entire answer to this issue, but we can't ignore it, either.

Those are my main concerns in the FY20 budget. Going on with the rest of the accounts:

Early college (7009-6600) is funded at $1.25M less than the Governor's recommendation; this also drops the STEM and advisory commission language.

DESE's line (7010-0005) drops by $100K for reasons that are not mentioned.

METCO (7010-0012) increases by $1.5M over the Governor's proposal.

Literacy grants (7010-0033) are disaggregated back out of the Governor's annual combination of grants

(7010-1192) last year was earmarks and was zeroed out in the Governor's budget, but the House is using it for a civics literacy line of $500K with the JFK Library

(7010-1202) is on Digital Literacy allocating $1M at the request of MASS, it appears.

English  Learner grants (7027-1004) disaggregates this line as well from the Governor's combination; there's a $281,450 increase over the FY19 allocation.

School-age institutional funding (7028-0031) is $7.6M (same).

Adult education (7035-0002) is $481K higher than the Governor's, to a total of $38.1M.

Regional transportation reimbursement (7035-0006) is up to $73.8M (from $68.8M in the Governor's bill, which was guess is this makes it something like 88% but that is a guess!)

 McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursement (7035-0008) is $1M more than the Governor proposes in his budget (which was 37%).

AP math and science programs (7035-0035) is the same $2.8M as in the Governor's budget.

School lunch (7035-1909) is the same $5.3M as in the Governor's budget.

School breakfast (7035-1925) is up a bit over $200K for Project Bread.

(7061-0012) is Chapter 70
(7061-0016) is the low income grant of $16.5M

Office of accountability (7061-0029) is the same $925K

Military mitigation (7061-0033) was $1.3M in the Governor's budget and is zeroed out in the House Ways and Means budget.

(7061-9010) is the charter school tuition reimbursement spoken above.

Innovation schools (7061-9011) 

DESE data analysis (7061-9200)  is the same as in the Governor's budget.

MCAS and assessment (7061-9400) is the same as in the Governor's budget.

MCIEA (7061-9401), the alternative assessment consortium, is still zeroed out.

Accuplacer (7061-9406) comes back in for $700,000 after being zeroed out in the Governor's budget.

Targeted intervention (7061-9408) disaggregates this, too, from the consolidation under the Governor's budget; it also allocates a nearly $5M additional over FY19.

Extended learning time (7061-9412)  is disaggregated from Governor's allocation and level funded compared to FY19.

Recovery high school (7061-9607) is $100K over the Governor's budget (which is down from last year: $2.6M rather than the $3.1M of FY19).

After school programs (7061-9611) is up $1M from the Governor's $2.5M.

Mass Academy's (7061-9624)'s $1.5M is still in.

Youth build grants (7061-9626) are the same $2.4M.

Mentoring matching grants (7061-9626) are up $250K from the Governor to a full $1M

The House Ways and Means budget addes $2M for a student wellness grant program (7061-9650).
The House Ways and Means budget adds $500K in regionalization grants (7061-9809).
The House Ways and Means budget adds $150K for sexual abuse prevention (7061-9812).
The House Ways and Means budget adds $500K for summer learning (7061-9814).

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