Sunday, June 4, 2023

What happened at the first June Worcester School Committee meeting: budget

 in two rounds...

Have I mentioned that it is budget season for Worcester? Happy budget season!

Our June sessions start at 4 with budget, run until about 6, when we break for executive session, then come back at 7 for the regular session, more or less. Here's the budget session.

As I noted earlier this week, the two documents you need to follow budget deliberations are the budget itself and proposed sequence of accounts, This has us do start with the non-salary accounts--very much the smaller part of our budget--before going through the salary accounts. You can find the video of the budget session here

And remember: the budget isn't done until the final bottom lines are voted. We may review an account and come back to it, if we still have questions or something new has come up.

Because we do budget over two sessions, two weeks apart, we do have the chance to ask questions that may require reports, as they can come back in the second session. As we started Thursday, I requested the following (taken straight from my notes):

  • My understanding is that there are changes in recommendations from administration since the book was printed; could we have those in writing, please. 
  • If we could please have the relative levels of vacancy in:

    • Teaching positions
    • Paraprofessional positions
    • Wraparound coordinator positions
    • School psychologist positions
    • School adjustment counselor positions
    • Custodial positions
    • Maintenance service positions

  • We have not yet received the report requested to be received prior to budget on the realignment of the social emotional learning department; could we please have that information.
  • We’d requested updated school-by-school budgets, as those in the book do not have all expected-as-of-now assignments; if we could please have that ahead of taking the salary accounts, please.
  • I’d like a report, please, on what both the intent and the perceived need is for the additional position in communications, as that is not otherwise outlined. 
  • We have as yet not received any information regarding the efficacy of the climate and culture positions, including the deans. If we could please have that, as there is a proposed expansion.

Mayor Petty decided to take athletics out of order--Athletic Director Dave Shea wanted to make the Doherty boys' volleyball post-season game against Chelsea (they won)--and thus we took both the non-salary and the salary accounts for athletics first. Member McCullough asked if the operational budget is adequate for supplying what the athletic teams actually need, noting that it comes up often in the community, where we also see a decent amount of fundraising. Mr. Shea affirmed that it was. Member Mailman asked where we could find the streaming services the School Committee voted to add this year; it's coming from the cable access funding, which Mr. Allen noted is a special revenue fund, which we (the Committee) don't allocate by cost center. I asked how MIAA dues is calculated (it's the number of teams) and track rental ($3400). Member Johnson followed up on Member McCullough's item (sent to budget so we'll hear about it at the next meeting) asking about athletic trainers, which were not included in this year's proposed budget.
On athletic salaries, Member Clancey asked what sports were being added in middle schools; Mr. Shea said the schools were polled, and the middle schools all decided on flag football for both boys and girls. Volleyball, soccer, and basketball are already played in the middle school; Forest Grove does softball, baseball, and field hockey, as well, as club sports. On that last, I tried to poke a bit at this inequity, the result of parents being able to volunteer at Forest Grove (you can see this about 24 minutes in), which is a capacity lacked by most of our middle schools, and I'm not sure that I'm all that satisfied with the answers. I also asked how middle schoolers are included in high school sports teams (grades 7 and 8 at 7-12 schools can play on the teams; grade 8 can play on an associated 9-12 lowest level team IF there aren't cuts made to get them AND we get a waiver from MIAA ahead; the district applies for the waivers as a matter of course). 

On retirement, Member Mailman asked a bit about how it is put together and how those increases come about; you can find some of this on page 157 of the budget. Mr. Allen noted this account has been going up consistently at a rate higher than inflation. The state requires that the city fully fund by 2038; the city is projecting that it will be done by 2032. 

On transportation, Mayor Petty opened by commenting that it has been "very proved to be correct, Mr. Allen." This account is the non-salary side, which means many of these costs are going away, leading to my question of what is going to be left here once we've moved off stop gaps. Mr. Allen said we'll be continuing to have some out-of-district contract service, even as much of that moves in house; McKinney-Vento transportation is being moved in house, and out-of-district vocational, we are doing ourselves. The "stuff" of the final line in this account is dropping as the bus leases go away. Maintenance, fuel, and technology on the buses will continue to be here. Dr. Monárrez reminded Mayor Petty of the MASBO award just received as well: 

On health insurance, Mayor Petty commented that it wasn't going up that dramatically. 

On workers' comp, there were no comments or questions.

On personal services, Member Johnson asked about security guards still being included; we'd discussed that this would be discussed as part of the safety audit, which hasn't yet come back. Mr. Allen said they hoped to have an update at the next meeting; administration wants to have the report back to make a recommendation. I noted that professional development has historically been underfunded, so it is good to see it increasing. I asked what the collaboration is with UMass Med is with the North quadrant that requires payment from us; I was told that the internship for the Ch. 74 program is what is being paid for; we're also going to get further information on that. I also raised the $35,000 that we are paying WEDF for publicity and alum services; Dr. Monárrez said that this is more alum services and "ability for them to have someone to have the ability to generate the funds." I'm just weirded out by this one. Member Mailman also wanted to clarify if it was UMass Med versus the hospital back on the North pipeline.

On special education tuition, Member Mailman did some division, coming up with $35,000/student for the collaborative and $55,000 for tuition (on average). Mr. Allen noted that some programs cost more than others, that this would be the average; circuit breaker gets applied against the out-of-district costs. Ms. Seale noted that we don't, for example, have a Deaf or hard of hearing program. I asked about the lesser impact of the increase in 766 tuition on Worcester (which jumped 14% statewide this year); Mr. Allen notes that we're serving fewer students through such placements. Ms. Seale also noted that students also had aged out.

On instructional materials, in an exchange that starts here, Member Clancey reminded us that the outline of the budget was providing an expected baseline for schools, "and my question is: is $75 per pupil enough?" Dr. Monárrez offered that she'd been told by the team that it is, but looking at it, she did wonder, since we haven't done a major increase and inflation has an impact. Member Clancey asked what "behavior monitoring software" is; Ms. Azarloza said that it was the Panorama universal screener being used for social emotional surveying, saying that it drills down to which student and which social emotional competencies they are. Member Clancey asked for more information on that, leading to a back and forth on what it was that was being referenced. Member Johnson said that he had the same comment on materials, as we had talked about it, and agreed it needed to be resolved. I agreed that "behavior monitoring software" was something we needed more information on, as that sounded ominous. I also agreed that the per pupil allocation needed to be looked at. I then made a motion, acknowledging that district-operated transportation was saving us money, to move $600,000 from transportation (salaries) to instructional materials, specifically to the line A, which is the per pupil allocation, which is about $25/pupil, thus bringing the allocation to $100/pupil. Mayor Petty asked where the money would come from; Mr. Allen said it would represent savings that was realized from last year, and that there was flexibility to make the transfer. Member Mailman then asked if we had targets on funding other categories with SOA dollars; if we're 50% through.
Mr. Allen said (this matters, so you're getting a block quote):

In an ideal world, we would be closing those gaps in all areas, proportionately to the complete increase in our SOA money--that'd be the ideal world--but because of ESSER and CBRF and other monies that became available through the pandemic, a lot of money has been spent on Chromebooks and instructional materials through those other funding sources, which do not get credit in those charts, so, however, when those funds run out, we'll still then have--even though we'll have all these Chromebooks and all these textbooks--there'll still be technically a gap in relation to our SOA spending in instructional supplies and materials. So with three years remaining, we will be, through purchasing Chromebooks, through additional textbooks that may come of need, and through increases in per pupil money, those are ways that I would see us over the next three years closing that gap, whether completely or not, that will kind of pan out as we get into the FY25, '26, and '27 budgets.

Member Mailman asked if asking for a three year, rest of the budget, would it be appropriate? Mr. Allen said that he thought it would be the administration's desired state as well, but if we're still adding special education positions greater than the SOA increase,  still seeing employee benefits and fixed charges increasing at greater than the inflation rate, and we're still spending at foundation, then we won't get there. There need to be adjustments, but that won't happen until SOA is done and the foundation budget is being reconsidered. Mailman said as a school committee member, her confusion is how this relates to longer term. Allen said, they're agreeing; by half through SOA, we'd hope to be halfway closing the gap, but we won't be due to special education and benefits and fixed charges. Mailman asked where the biggest challenges are, if he knew offhand; instructional materials, professional development, to which Allen added operations and maintenance. Member Kamara wanted to know more about the behavioral monitoring software, as well; Mayor Petty noted that a request for a report had already been done, and reminded the Committee that nothing is done until the full budget is done. Kamara also asked about the transfer, wanted to understand "the deficit being done" through money being moved. Mr. Allen said that administration did not have any hesitation or objection to the transfer request, that it could be done with no impact on transportation services. 
The transfer passed unanimously.

Miscellaneous Ed OM has many things in it, including Worcester's MASC dues, which goes to pay my salary, from which I thus need to recuse myself. I asked if we had any information about Worcester Future Teachers is creating future teachers; Ms. Perez said WPS would like to see that, but we don't necessarily know that. I then asked about rental of space, and what the process is on weighing of rental spaces; some of rented spaces and some don't. I also asked about being realistic and clear on travel costs, which support professional development in some cases. Member Mailman asked why instructional technology is less than last year; Mr. Allen said it was Chromebooks coming off of lease, as presented at F&O a few months ago. Dr. Kyriazis said that the leases are being started over time so there isn't a huge single cost, with continued replenishment of supplies. Member Mailman asked about renting space; some of the space at Northeast Cutoff is the computer techs office (Nutrition, Facilities, and Transportation is also there). Mailman asked what the longer term game plan was for leases and if the city decided to sell any of our buildings, how would that be impacted. Allen said that those are the conversations that were started with the City Manager; a long term of plan for buildings, uses of space, leases of space, uses of Becker buildings, to decide if we need to continue some leases or end them. He believes we could have a more comprehensive plan over the next year for use of buildings. Mailman also asked if all vocational programs were a member of Skills USA; Allen said he'd have to check, but the increase is that the district is covering that cost for the school rather than it coming out of per pupil funding. 

On unemployment compensation, Member Mailman asked about expected for this year versus projected; Allen said this is based on historical use, but that close attention would be paid in quarterly reports.

On building utilities, I said I hoped that I'd live to see line C, which is number two fuel oil, finally go away (we're down to JUST the building at Foley Stadium, now that we're no longer at St. Casimir!). I asked what "reallocating net metering costs" meant (that's part of how they balanced the budget). WPS, in addition to net metering credits from the solar arrays we have over our parking lots and on some rooftops, gets credits from the solar array at the former city landfill (you can see it from Route 146); Mr. Allen said it was a reallocation of some of those credits being referenced. I also asked if the city has yet gotten a new natural gas contract; the projected 35% change is reflective of the continued volatility of the market.

On facilities, Member Mailman noted the significant increase; Mr. Allen said it was a deliberate attempt "maybe not as much as we should have" to add money to facilities maintenance to fix the schools. Mailman asked for the connection with the capital budget; Allen said the cutoff was $150,000. Mailman said "this is a purposeful attempt to do better." Allen agreed. Mailman asked if we'd see greater detail in our upcoming F&O meetings. Allen said these funds are for not only doing the emergency repairs but do the repairs that are flagged ahead; to be proactive and do active maintenance. He said he thinks there are 6000 outstanding SchoolDude requests; they're prioritized by greatest need. Rich Ikonen, our new facilities director, was introduced by Dr. Monárrez, who noted that he'd stepped into a big task, and said that they had great confidence. I echoed the Mayor's comment that this was more money that had been budgeted in past, while still not coming close to what we know is necessary. I did ask about the $1.7M specific to schools, that it isn't going to lessen attention elsewhere; it's increasing school based requests, Allen said, without taking away. I said that measuring ourselves against foundation isn't necessarily going to be useful, as it doesn't take into account two decades of an underfunding capital and an underfunded maintenance budget does to actual need. Allen noted, as the superintendent had Tuesday, that just from 2019, what was deemed inoperable was $70M of repairs in our schools, so we'd have to clear that backlog, and then we'd need to be doing "way more preventative maintenance," but that isn't something we're going to approach in SOA. I said that it would only be of use in going back to the state. I then asked about the $1M in filters as ongoing as part of the upkeep of larger modern systems in our new buildings; Allen said upkeep of the modern systems was partially included here, but that the $1M in filters would need to be added to the general fund, as it is in ESSER this year.

and then we recessed to executive session. The budget gets picked up with salary accounts on June 15.

Snapshots from graduations


Isn't this lovely? Handiwork of a UPCS grad

A series of mental snapshots from this week of Worcester Public Schools graduations:

  • A chef, graduating Monday from the Adult Learning Center with his GED, telling the faculty there how much he appreciates, even if he didn't at the time, the messages and calls that got him back to class after late nights working.
  • Women who have emigrated from Afghanistan, who I can remember greeting in the fall when Rep. McGovern toured the program, beaming as they crossed the stage at Fanning to the cheers of their families to gather their English as a Second Language certificates and kiss the superintendent and I on the cheek on the way.
  • The pause in the ceremony every year at the Burncoat graduation, as seniors come down from the stage to play and sing with orchestra and quadrivium one more time. 
  • The seniors who have worked out a handshake or other greeting with their procession/recession partner when they meet again to walk back out.
  • The murmur of appreciation when Dr. Monárrez revealed at the Alternative School graduation that the poet she'd quoted was Tupac.
  • The enthusiasm with which Dr. Kareem Tatum was greeted by former students at the same event; he had been their principal earlier in their educations.
  • The valedictorian of University Park Campus School thanking his parents for bringing him to the United States from Vietnam when he was ten. 
  • ...and the deadpan sense of humor with which he gently teased his teachers in his speech.
We aren't done yet! This week at the DCU at 6 pm: 
Monday: North
Tuesday: Tech
Wednesday: Doherty
Friday: South the Creamer Center graduates Tuesday at the Hanover Theater at 10 am! 

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Worcester Public Schools before Council for FY24

 with a reminder of all of this

While we listen to the Fire Department, here are the images that I posted this afternoon on Instagram! 

And the presentation that the superintendent will be presenting is here. 

I'm not taking any notes on this, but here's a note you'll need:

"how can we work together as a go to the state and say 'we want to find a solution that can work' and we need to do this together to find something that can work."

Colorio: asks what enrollment is
"it looks like we haven't been at 24,318 in over a decade"
argues that the numbers don't bear out an enrollment increase; which Allen notes our forecasting does
Colorio: how many new teachers? 75
How many new administrators? "the net increase is five"
Colorio: can you run down recent investments we've made in the schools in various areas?
McGourthy: don't necessarily have a comprehensive list
with that, the city carries debt; $15M capital debt service
(as a reminder, that is three cents of every dollar)
Colorio asks where the teachers are going

Russell: task hanging over the whole city's head
as well as the day to day operations, "from what I can see she's doing a great job"
"but that being said, it's not secret that I've been advocating for things for district 3 for a long time"
"I want to be perfectly clear that I'm not trying to micromanage anything" in city government 
"relaying concerns" from neighborhood
"but the question is where do we go...the question is could we doing something on a temporary basis"
"how many times do we look at a Parks Department construction...and get on a path to where we can correct these items"
going to request a detail report about traffic concerns 
has asked the principal, Mr. Allen, Mr. Hacker...for what it's going to take to rectify the traffic and parking around Roosevelt and Burncoat
Details around where the $3.5M would go
"and if that's the case, that's the case..."
"is there anything we can do on temporary basis"
asks if there is anything in the budget addressing these issues
Allen: looking at different options that wouldn't be those in the full ideal solution for the school
Russell: is there anything temporary thing, leasing spaces
Allen: can certainly look at that: believe the issue is the traffic loop and not the parking per se
Russell: elevate issues, look at options
"if we're going to put a number in multi-millions in the parking issue, it's probably not going to see the top of the pile"
Worcester East Middle School: how are we going with that?
Allen: cost of window replacement is for any window deemed to be inoperable
"where we will have funding struggles is where the project cost will trigger ADA upgrades"
Russell: how much is it?
Allen: will know when it fills that Gap
Russell: have you considered applying for a waver?
Allen: has been discussed
Russell: is the district going to spend the money on something else
Allen: the district is committed to doing the windows at Worcester East Middle
Russell: have there been specific asks?
Monárrez: have to come together and look at all of our needs
Look at enrollment changes 
"need to work closer with each other on all of the work"
"We need to have a strategy to ask our state to have other ways of funding districts as large as Worcester"
"a building will get to a point where the MSBA won't consider an accelerate repair" for a building because it is too run down 
Allen: "MSBA has told us that Worcester East Middle is a core replacement"
Monárrez: funds one core project at a time
Russell: "I agree with the superintendent, it's clearly something we need to work together on"
"what generation are we going to be talking about when we're building a new East Middle School"
and apply that to several others
Petty: seven millions sitting there...asks what one million in bonding gets us
I have no idea what he's talking about here
McGourthy: one million gets us ten million
Petty: I think working together we can get through this

Toomey: thanks superintendent
had a thought to use Stop and Shop parking lots which would mean even more students would walk across the street
safety audit: wondering when the Council will see them
Monárrez: once received, it will be shared with the School Committee, which will then make it public
"perhaps available at our July meeting or August"
Toomey: asking about fire alarm replacement and cameras (she's reading the capital budget)
Allen: those have been ongoing projects that we've been dealing with as they come up
expect these and others to be addressed in the findings
training, policies, practices, protocols
Toomey: repairs to Claremont front entrance
paving...could you let us know what that entails
Allen: Claremont walkway and driveway has been unusable for some years; has taken this long to get into the capital budget
Toomey: notice that fuel oil is going down due to 
Allen: still working through RFP process
Toomey: there's an increase in rent and quizzes both
understand that there is a dedicated gas station and how does funding work
Allen: Pullman Street, gas comes through the city
Toomey: are you using municipal aggregation?
Allen: have net metering credits; will defer to the ctiy
Toomey: can I get a detailed list of administrators and salaries?
Petty doesn't vote the request

Rivera: excited to see an increase of wraparound coordinators
overdue to look at a building maintenance plan
"what might have needed a bandaid needs's really an equity issue"
concerned to see UPCS roof as late a date as that
Allen: most of the projects before this were windows, and now are roofs
"have to do bandaids until they get accepted into MSBA" (assuming they bring the program back)
Rivera: are we looking at growth for schools?
new housing by Canterbury, by Chandler
are we prepared, are we looking for the growth of children coming into these schools?
Monárrez: exactly what City Manager and I have spoken about a few times
housing development we know about, what is coming, so we're not waiting til our schools are bursting
Rivera: UPCS not equipped for any type of physical limitations
also concerned about our playgrounds: getting outdoors
hard if in the schools we don't even have that capability
Woodland has to take turns going out; "definitely a huge equity issue"
Allen: working with some community organizations to look at Woodland
the challenge there is the lack of space beyond what is on the footprint
the parking lot but creates traffic and parking issues
don't have a solution at this time
Rivera: these things weren't looked at when these spaces were created
vocational education: hope to shift it
shortage in the workforce
questions equity in AP access at Claremont and UPCS
have there been conversations with other colleges like Clark does
Monárrez: continuum of college and career a position now
formalizing some of these agreements that have been happening, now from district level
Rivera: work on diversity, equity, and inclusion
refugee population, including unaccompanied minors
speaks of a family that had a disheartening experience with a school
have seen labels put on our kids
"under the right administration, these kids just fly"
Monárrez: thank for sharing story
as part of the restructuring this school year, based on what the families said and best practice
hired directors of family and community engagement
very early on in conversation: what is WPS going to do for the needs for social justice
"will continue to train up people"
Chief Diversity Officer was to diversify workforce; moving forward, position has been reworked but will as Chief Equity Officer will be "guardian of equity" ensuring leading though an equity lens
training up leaders including on unconscious biases
equity doesn't sit with one person

King: last comments are music to my ears
talk a little bit about any cost savings that were realized
has cost savings on transporation been quantified?
Allen: about 3 and a half million a year
some put back into transportation for service improvements
King: families having piece of mind
looking forward to you guys being able to experience that
daughter at Chandler Magnet
wondering if there is any cost savings due to La Familia merging into Chandler Mag
Allen: saving the lease cost and the cost of a principal (if looked at in isolation)
King: ADA upgrades 
issue of equity: support Fair Share amendment 
"is there any sort of calculus going on or strategy currently in play for the cityside and schoolside to work on access to that funding?"
Batista: currently no strategy, but that would be a conversation 
King: have heard a little about capital funding, increases of SOA, ESSER, city contribution increase
"incumbent upon us...there are times we have to intersect to advocate for our kids"
what sort of staffing and costs will there be for the Chief Diversity Officer?
Monárrez: there right now are budgeted for four additional coaches, $350K
King: want to talk about administrative positions
outside of schools, we know waitlists for clinical resources
good to see nurses, psychologists
those infrastructure, coping positions, impact the public health outside
"that comes from this administration and the School Committee"
Worcester Tech "had become a prep school": concern about equity of access
Rec Worcester: school side took on some of that, as I recall
what that amount is
McGourthy: WPS provided support for Rec Worcester programs going on in their buildings
believe that is the number that is carried within the WPS budget itself
during the pandemic, that changed
Allen: on school side, it was $100, 000; now not allocating funds
King: not sure what happened with earmarks
Batista: trying to sustain and support what we were currently doing
expanded too fast without the structure in place to support it
King: expect some sort of intersection next school year
Batista: currently focusing on summer; next year would be part of conversation with superintendent and youth office
King: safety audit
asks what happened with prior safety audit a couple of years ago
Allen: the recommendations were not adopted
one of the reasons that we needed to reengage at this point
King: push for clinical support
Monárrez: four different providers in schools
ESSER funding; then SOA will come into play
King: resources for mental health for youth in community
Batista: ARPA dollars
million dollars for crisis response team
Shannon dollars for preventative measures and intervention work
think Rec Worcester itself is such a program
King: how many dollars are we providing over required, if you take into account the loan, OPEB contribution...(this isn't a thing)
is there a round number you can give me 
McGourthy: FY24: $124M; city is contributing $138M; debt service of $15M; doesn't include OPEB contribution
"there's not one clean number...when you look at it
"upwards of $30M above the required contribution...but because of the required contribution, that is expected to be $1.5M above required"
King: former city manager would decide a certain number of dollars over net school spending "and he would hang his hat on that"
Batista: am familiar, $1M, depending on resources
King: free cash, have in past given funding "for books" (when? what?)
When was the last time?
Batista: just done in October
King: once that goes over, the School Committee figures out what to do with that?
Batista: that's correct
King: kudos on middle school coaches
city has a lot of competing issues
appreciate joint committee last Monday; looking forward how we can all do better together
"I think Roosevelt is unique"

Petty: long night, where the issues are
"especially for the city to put more money into schools"
commend superintendent for the infrastructure you've put into place

account passes

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.*

I generally gauge how the Board of Ed meeting went by how relieved I am that we have strong local control laws in Massachusetts. And last week, boy howdy, was I glad that we have school committees working with superintendents in Massachusetts.

As I have thought back on it, it isn't, in retrospect, solely the irresponsible decision to devote Board of Ed time--and a promise of state funding--on student cell phone bans the day after an entire high school fled their building due to an active shooting swatting incident (which turned into an actual gunfire incident after a police officer fired his gun in a school bathroom accidentally; that officer remains actively working for the Danvers Police Department), a panel discussion which had zero discussion of responsibilities we have to students in teaching them to manage their time and attention, nor of the current realities of education in the United States, nor of looking to the future of work for our students. 

That was inane and not supported by research and part of a very long tradition of education always being freaked out by whatever the latest thing is--look up educators responses to paper, or store bought ink, the ballpoint pen, or even computers sometime--but while that was an indicator how troublingly out of touch the Commissioner is, it was another section that is even more worrisome. 

About 3 hours and 35 minutes in (video's here), you can watch a presentation (which isn't posted) and then discussion (I guess?) on what's being termed the Department's "Educational Vision."

Let me start from me on this: as someone who taught and as someone who now is in public office, I really think that it's important to explain things in ways that people can follow and understand. This presentation, as with the presentations I've seen associated with this work, is very lingo-driven and very difficult to follow. This is not a public-driven or -derived group of work.

I also think it's just wild that a state department is just out here...making up what their vision is, without reintegrating that to the state? or the Constitution? Or founding documentation?

I had thought it was odd when this vision work had been mentioned in passing at earlier meetings that there had been no mention of outreach: no one seemed to be going to listen to people about what they thought maybe the vision or direction of the Department ought to be. It's easy enough to be make quips about this, but it turns out it was because...
The PowerPoint isn't online, so you're getting photos's using what they came up with in 2019...
I am struggling to put into words how stunning it was thought that this was the place to start, or even move from. We're not going to ask if we're in a different place; we're not going to ask if we have things to learn from the pandemic; we're not going to ask if this means we need new priorities...we're just starting from this.

Now we're told that this then went through the Department's Racial Equity Decision Making Tool, which the Department appears to reference in a very on again off again fashion (put the charter school creation through this):

Somehow, this says this involved public input. Please let me know if that involved you, or if you even heard of it. 
That somehow then yielded this:

In essence what then has been done is that the Department took all 400+ of their programs and organized them under these themes, as best as I can tell. 

So rather than consider if what the Department is doing aligns with the above, it took what it had and sorted them.

The Board discussion then...did not involve or relate any of the above.

So, look: I am one person, who happens to serve on a school committee in Massachusetts, and who follows Board work quite closely. If I don't understand or follow and struggle to believe that this is what the Department should be doing, where are we, exactly?

*The Emperor's New Clothes, Hans Christian Anderson

Monday, May 29, 2023

And so to Council


The vote of the legislative body of a city or town shall establish the total appropriation for the support of the public schools, but may not limit the authority of the school committee to determine expenditures within the total appropriation.
MGL Ch. 71, sec. 34

While I haven't said anything about the recommended FY24 WPS budget this year--I think perhaps the longer I do this, the more leery I get about pre-deliberation--I do want to note a few things as the bottom line of the WPS budget is before the Worcester City Council tomorrow.

We’re now told: after graduation. 7? Maybe? 

The total appropriation for the FY24 WPS general fund (no grants, no revolving funds) recommended for adoption is $467,693,121. Of that, $129,215,192 is recommended to come from the city. 

from page 14 of the FY24 WPS budget

Thus of the increase, 90% of it comes from the state.

Should that be what is adopted, that would put the city at $1.4M over the minimum required spending. 

You can find that on page 418, by the way, which is always one of the first places I check with our budget. That outlines actual municipal spending on schools, including the cityside spending that "counts" as school spending. It looks like this for FY24:

That right there, plus the schools' capital budget as I mentioned yesterday, is really the only thing the Council has any purview to discuss tomorrow. They cannot, as MGL Ch. 71, sec. 34 notes, control in any way the allocations internal to the school budget; that is entirely under the purview of the School Committee.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Equity in funding school buildings

 taking off a bit here from a morning Twitter thread

The Boston Globe's piece this weekend on the Massachusetts School Building Authority features this grabber quote:

Districts with a majority white student population got about $10,000 per student for school projects, the Globe found, while districts made up mostly of students of color got about $6,400 per student.

That's terrible, right? The Globe, though, only quickly glances at why ("students of color, who tend to be clustered in urban districts with deteriorating buildings") in the previous sentence, and it's really a major part of the story.

A district can only put forward one major renovation/rebuild project to the Massachusetts School Building Authority at at time. This is in the spirit of fairness, but it also is out of a concern for any municipality or district's ability to both fund and manage more than one such thing at a time. There have been exceptions made: most notably perhaps, Worcester has had buildings under construction when a new project entered, as the MSBA was assured that the city could fund and manage more than one. 

Most students of color in Massachusetts are concentrated in 20 or so of the largest urban districts in the state. As those are large districts, they have more school buildings. They still can only apply for one project at a time on it. 

There are also many, many more school districts that are not the cities: there are about 314 school districts in Massachusetts.

As the practice is every district can have one at a time, the "one at a time" necessarily is going to hit many more white kids than kids of color, by virtue of where each tend to go to school.

Noting that, though, would mean we'd have to talk about how most kids of color are concentrated in a limited number of districts--districts that also have been historically underfunded--which also have more buildings.

The demographics on this are stark, with wild swings in demography when crossing city lines. I always recommend people pull open DESE's district profile page and compare any city to the surrounding suburbs.

That segregation--and that's exactly what it is!--doesn't happen accidentally. It also doesn't change unless and until we choose to do something about it.