Monday, April 29, 2019

Post-blog of the Worcester Public Schools FY20 budget hearing

I only caught the very end of last Tuesday's Worcester Public Schools FY20 budget hearing (I keep haunting this page in hopes the presentation will be posted), so I thought I'd take one of my train commutes to watch the video of the hearing and take some notes. Sharing below for what it's worth...

Mr. Allen: WPS budget will come out on May 10, as is past practice will be from House Ways and Means budget; though Senate budget will come out May 8, WPS budget will not be updated again until after the final state budget is agreed upon (in June? we hope?).
"it's been about fifteen years of kind of budget cutting in each of these hearings...first year since then that we've had modest growth in our revenue..."
"had really some robust conversations about the needs of the school district...truly hearing what the needs are of the school district are out in the schools"
House Ways and Means "aligns closely to Governor's"
increase "will not match all of the needs out there"

Themes of FY20: modest inflation growth (3.75%); overall enrollment growth; initial foundation budget formula proposals (in Governor and House)

foundation budget going up $21.7M:

  • $18.1M in Ch.70 (a 7.2% increase)  
  • $3.6M in local city required contribution (3.8% increase)

Change from FY19:

  • inflation at 3.75%= $13.2M 
  • enrollment change (overall 189) = $1M
  • econ disadv (310) = $1.2M
    • totalling a base foundation change of $15.5M "would be going up...anyways"
  • new funding from FBRC changes = $6.1M
HWM budget uses Governor's goal rates but phasing in over a quicker period of time but end result would be the same
"it appears the House budget, anyway, is adopting the Governor's goal rates and just adopting quicker"
Biggest change between House and Governor for Worcester is adding back in English learner students (the Governor's budget had a lower count due to students who had higher English achievement not being counted as EL) 
HWM does not provide high needs increment and does not propose early college line
Change for Worcester between Governor's budget and HWM is $852,306; increase is essentially all English learner funding amount (due to change in count)
take out charter and choice of $1.8M (in $21.7M) plus loss of $300,000 of impact aid from Hurricane Maria
thus change over FY19 for Worcester Public Schools is $19.6M (5.8% increase)

level service cost increase:
  • employee salaries $5.5M
  • employee benefits $3.3M
  • transportation increase of $0.9M
  • tuition assessment $0.6M
  • all other accounts $0.7M
    • ...for a total of $11M
And the budget increase is $19.6M (better when it works that way than the reverse!);$8.6M available for new spending
HOWEVER: $21.6M in new spending requests from principals and programs:
  • 42 secondary teachers; "primarily content area teachers, reducing/eliminating studies" ($5.6M)
  • 30 ESL teachers ($2.6M)
  • 23 special ed teachers ($2M)
  • 19 elementary teachers "for class size purposes" ($1.9M)
  • 21 student support positions "school adjustment counselors, wraparound coordinators..." ($1.8M)
  • 38 special ed IAs ($1.5M)
  • 11 guidance counselors ($1M)
  • 9 assistant principals ($0.9M)
  • 8 preK enrichment ($0.7M)
  • additional Chromebooks; going 2-1 in K-2; 1-1 in 7-12 ($0.7M)
  • 9 school nurse/clinical care ($0.6M)
  • instrutional supplies and PD ($0.6M)
  • "student information system" with an online grading access for parents and students" ($0.5M)
  • 12 ESL tutors ($0.3M)
  • 10 literacy tutors ($0.2M)
  • 34 school and district support positions ($2.7M)
"as we mentioned we have $8.6M in new spending...not every one of these will be funded in the FY20 budget"
"hopefully the Senate version will be higher than the Governor and House version"
Worcester Public Schools budget released on May 10; hearings on June 6 and 20

Foley: better report than we have had in past years; usually have not been able to cover our regular costs going forward
$6.2M of FBRC recommendations; is that on $70M? "it's a moving target"
Allen: "we believe that our gap...the interpretation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission is somewhere between a $95 and $100M increase for while a $6M increase is appreciated, it's certainly nowhere near covering the gaps that we've identified since the Foundation Budget Review Commission report"
that's the House Ways and Means "on their funding bill; as you know, there's a significant difference between the House and the Promise Act in funding economically disadvantaged students...we're suggesting that whatever the resolution, at least be at the highest level for economically disadvantaged students"
Foley: for us to be at a level playing field, we're looking at $70-$100M in funding; "people need to know that and not be satisfied with $6M"
spending requests "are deemed essential...the bare necessities needed to run our district"
"I'll just weigh in on my wish list as well...kindergarten and grade 1 class sizes...have got to find a way to increase our support for students for socio-emotional learning, for trauma-informed care, for classroom for teachers in the classroom"
Allen: in that full list of $21M of spending, will be components of most or many of them funded
projecting overall class sizes of 21 to 1 across the entire district, but some schools having 17.6 on average, with "maybe 23 in some schools" 
"there's not one item that anyone would say is a wish list item; they're all essential supports to schools"
"I think we'll see a lot of classroom teachers and a lot of support positions"
Foley: "the budget is really your vision for the future and that investment is essential"
"there are some class sizes that are going to be large" as eight schools were closed some time ago; "as our population has grown again, we don't necessarily have the classroom space to break it out into two classrooms, three classrooms"
Allen: "we would envision that as our only limiting factor around next year's budget...our inability to reduce class sizes due to space in schools" anyone going to do anything about this? consider facilities/space/assignment lines? go after the $75M backlog in facilities work? add elementary buildings? bring back online closed buildings?
McCullough: ultimate goal is to have additional teachers and supports
"we need to continue to fight for more..."
asks for breakdown on student support positions: school adjustment counselors, school psychologists
Comparetto: "take pride in seeing the increase in funding that we finally have" and credits organizing of "almost everyone in this room" for it
The far and away most significant increase, again, was due to an inflation rate of 3.75%
asks how many are wraparound coordinators? One 
"I'd hope that we can maybe think about increasing that number" as he hopes they'd be doing "some of that social-emotional work" and would hope they'd be social workers
happy to see ESL and literacy tutors "obviously need a whole lot more than that"
Is a Chief Diversity Officer included?
Binienda: is one of those positions

Open to public comment: 
Monfredo: falls fall short of the district's needs
need for advocacy for highest increment for low income students especially in Gateway Cities
hope to consider some whole day preschool programs
smaller class sizes
"look at what we can do to get reading on grade level by grade 3"
summer school "not an after thought"
social-emotional learning, additional AP classes
"as a community, we need to advocate for more"

Kay Seale, director of special education with a handout
additional speech and language pathologists
summary of staffing in this area; 48.5 student caseload
numbers of students with needs increase over the course of the year
coverage through long-term sub, assistants over year
"at this time, I'm not recommending that we add an additional SLP position to the FY20 budget"
support of district in updating testing needs
Foley: concerned about level of staffing; keep hearing about the amount of paperwork to get done
as someone who has been to a whole lot of these? This whole bit was really odd. Having a director of a department testify separately and seemingly argue that she doesn't need more staff? What's going on with this?

apologies for anyone's name I spell incorrectly
Marjory McCarthy: English language learners have high needs
language acquisition skills for ELs and helping them progress through their acquisition

Kim McClaren: school psychologist for 13 years
need for additional positions for next year 
in January, asked and received for an additional position (did this happen off-budget?)
plan to advocate for five additional positions for this year after March testimony at school committee
"expecting our teachers to address...trauma by themselves...does not work and has not worked"
"this support is not always readily available by school psychologists"
many carry two schools, with high testing caseload; time in building often tied up in testing
national standard is 1:500; Massachusetts has 1:776; Worcester is 1:1012
"far from adequate" even more so given the higher needs of those in Worcester
"right now some of our schools are not covered by school psychologists"
argument is never seen an increase in psychologists...I need to check that

Hilda Ramirez, LEI: (about 45 min in) "remember how we got an increase in the budget...a higher population of English language learners"
have seen services cut to that population in the last two years
advocating for the 30 EL teachers "but I want to stretch it to bilingual teachers"
"need to have teachers who can teach to a global world"
"the need for social emotional learning and special education teachers who can also make the bridge with language"
guidance counselors and wraparound coordinators, "that's why they're showing up with behavior in other ways"
"more investment in the beginning of their journey"
"obviously it's going to pay off if you do it early"
"staff that can motivate and engage them" to "lift them to get to success"
"partnerships with community and parents"
"high expectations...for every student in the district"
"want to see their teachers become more aware of their history, their culture, and their language"

Ruth Rodriguez: would like this committee to offer how much is being spent on tests?
"is taking a lot of money away from the budget"
says she remembers federal reimbursement of 100% for English language learners
was told that the funding went to the city general fund
Foley: testing is part of the ed reform act; the state is really clear that if you don't follow it, you won't get the funding
on federal funds going in to English learners?
Rodriguez says it's unconstitutional
Allen: funding that comes from the fed for English learners is in Title III, not aware in 25 years of funding for English learners being retained by the city

Pablo Fresmotez, school adjustment counselor at Canterbury and New Citizen Center: thanks for those increase in social-emotional learning
niece who moved to Switzerland could speak six different languages; "if she came to the U.S., it's a different story"
"I came here with three kids, no English at all, and they're able to reach the highest levels of education in the U.S."
at the same time, support the teachers but don't use them as interpreters

Rev. Jose Encarnacion: chair of Worcester Interfaith
clearly a budget is a moral document: "it defines priorities, values, essentially who and what matters"
fully support the request for ESL teachers, and emphasize again that you'd consider them being fully bilingual
"more guidance counselors, a more diverse staff, and more social emotional resources for students with behavioral challenges"
"the first concern is the role right now of manager of English learners has drastically changed"
some agencies that subcontracted to do work with those students have had funding removed
Title III analyst position to share data on English learners has been eliminated
Gateway grants for districts serving English learners: grants aren't going to Worcester, no advocacy on behalf of our students
this needs to be coming from district leadership "but there's no one championing that"

Martha Assafa: "really passionate about equity in our schools"
"very much a fan of wraparound services"
make sure the funding is targeted to high need students

Sara Kinicki: want to echo what others have talked about
particularly need funding for English learners
"social and emotional supports instead of adding law enforcement to our schools"

Isabel Gonzalez-Webster: here representing Worcester Interfaith and the Worcester Coalition for Education Equity
want to respond that the community get involved in advocating at the state level: we have been doing that
"should know that we are working on actively getting Worcester Public Schools the resources that they need, but we need to make sure there is some accountability locally when those resources come"
glad to hear about the Chief Diversity Officer "and I really help it stays in the budget"
want to make sure the English learner advisory is populated with community members
resources to actively recruit teachers; in training, in cultural sensitivity training to make sure we are able to retain the staff that come in
need for wraparound services, the school adjustment counselors,
"want to mention the difference in the staffing for school safety and the English learners"
school safety has almost double the staff of the EL department
"budget signals what our values and vision are, and what I see right now is our values and our vision is to criminalize our young people"
ask that you revisit the staffing of those departments: the staffing looked very different in 2017 in the English learners department
"staffing is really part of that"
in the last year, partnering organizations have lost funding; "I would say that this should be revisited"
"should never to looking at ending those relationships; we should look at strengthening them"

Michael Lyons: "our biggest barrier to [parent involvement] in the evenings is transportation"
"I'm here for a lot of teachers for the supplies budget; funding just isn't trickling down"
Foley: agrees that supply lines are tight
transportation has been a problem for us for years; maybe with our own buses, we can look at evening transportation

Rev. Aaron Payson: one suggestion is to look at the use of technology for parental involvement in such meetings
"especially if you have parents who have children at home" without dependable babysitting
technological platform to invite interaction
platforms becoming far more interactive than they used to be

Beth Kaake, speaking as a resident of Worcester (works for MTA): one last pitch in for the Promise Act
House Ways and Means "a pittance compared to the money that is owed to Worcester, and that's every year"
six buses from central Mass on May 16 to go to the State House for a rally at 5 pm
deliver a message to the state that the Promise act and the Cherish act need to be met

Ed Dumphy, co-chair CPPAC, looks at issues that would have a citywide effect
importance of family engagement
advocates for online gradebooks
equity across schools around online grading

and me...a budget should be a map, but for a map to work, you have to know where you're going
looking at our district, this doesn't line up with who our students are
what it keeps coming back to for me is there isn't a lot of thoughtful listening to parents and students
in charging for AP tests (which are essentially required for high achieving students; and the tests are required if you take the classes), for innovation programs, for no central adminstration plan to improve transportation, to again spending over $1M a year on policing
I'm not seeing a lot of thoughtful consideration of the real experiences of families in the Worcester Public Schools
city council considering a capital budget of $4.1M for WPS for FY20; that works out to about $82,000 a building*, buildings which in some cases were built shortly after the Civil War
not seeing a lot of advocacy coming from this building around that, 'though I have heard a lot of nice words abou the city council and the city manager; funding buildings is part of the job
pathetic effort from House Ways and Means, and there wasn't a single education budget amendment to come from the Worcester delegation, in a city that is owed $100M a year
making speeches in Worcester won't fix that
We're told without a vision, the people perish. We have to do better

*I am crushed to confess that if WPS in fact has 63 buildings, it's more like $65,079. Even worse

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