Monday, February 29, 2016

Foundation what?

For those who are seeing the foundation budget account comparisons and wondering what that's about. I'm cribbing some of this from the explanation I've done for new school committee members on how this works, with some additions. If you're new to this, sit yourself down, and give this a bit of time. For who funds which part, read MassBudget on "Demystifying the Chapter 70 Formula"

Once upon a time, a whole bunch of districts sued the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, because they knew that they alone couldn't fund the sort of education their kids should be getting, and they felt the state wasn't doing its part to make sure that all kids in Massachusetts got the sort of education they should.

And they won.

The lawsuit that was decided in 1993 was called McDuffy v. the Secretary of the Executive Office of Education and it was decided based on the section of the state constitution that I quote at the bottom of this blog. The court found (emphasis mine):
In this light, we have considered the proper meaning of the words "duty" and "cherish" found in c. 5, Section 2. What emerges from this review is that the words are not merely aspirational or hortatory, but obligatory. What emerges also is that the Commonwealth has a duty to provide an education for all its children, rich and poor, in every city and town of the Commonwealth at the public school level, and that this duty is designed not only to serve the interests of the children, but, more fundamentally, to prepare them to participate as free citizens of a free State to meet the needs and interests of a republican government, namely the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
And so the state was charged with coming up with some way of sharing the cost of educating children in the public schools across the state, with particular attention to the notion of equity: that communities vary in their ability to pay for the full cost of educating their kids, but kids must have an equitable education regardless, and further, that some kids cost more than others to educate.

In brief, that's what the foundation budget does.

The formula recognizes that most school spending can fit into one of eleven cost areas:
  • Administration
  • Instructional leadership (that's school-based admin, like principals)
  • Classroom and specialist teachers
  • Other teaching services
  • Professional development
  • Instructional equipment and technology
  • Guidance and psychological services
  • Pupil services (excluding transportation, which isn't included in the foundation budget)
  • Operations and maintenance
  • Employee benefits and fixed charges
  • Special education tuition
Every student in a school costs a certain amount in each (with the exception of special ed tuition) of these areas: so a first grader costs a certain amount of admin, instructional leadership and so on. Kids cost different amounts (it costs much more to provide what a vocational student needs, for example). There's also an add-on at the end for special education (a flat percentage) and low income (the actual count of the kids you have).
Taking those costs across the whole of a district's enrollment, and multiplying each out by how many kids the district has, you end up with a spreadsheet like this (this one is Framingham's from this year; as always, you can click to make it bigger):

So it's a math problem, with the answer down in the bottom right corner:
The foundation budget amount per pupil (by category)
The enrollment in each category
The increments above the base 
foundation budget

(Don't forget: multiply before you add! And if you got lost anywhere above, send me a line.)
This is how much, at a minimum, it costs to run the district for that year.

What that means is that there's a particular amount each year that each district is "supposed to" be spending on each of the above categories (at a minimum; if communities decide to spend more, they can). So the district has a certain amount to spend on admin, on instructional leadership, and so on. They don't have to--allocation of funds is always under the purview of the school committee--but this is the assumption that the foundation budget is based on.
Except, of course, that the foundation budget hasn't been majorly updated in 20 years. There's an inflation factor, but no one has gone back and asked if this is REALLY the cost of doing business.

And it turns out that it isn't.

Now, districts have dealt with this one of two ways: if they can afford it, they've been spending OVER the minimum amount required, and pushing that money out to the areas that are badly undercalculated by foundation. If they can't afford it--like, say, Worcester--districts are having to underfund other categories in order to fund the areas that are undercalculated.

Now the two that were called out the most in the Foundation Budget Review Commission report are special education and health insurance. Special education, you'll notice above, doesn't have its own category (there's a sped tuition category, but that's just the out-of-district cost; that isn't in-district). So leave that one aside for the moment. Health insurance is in Employee Benefits.
Well, we talked a lot about Brockton last week, so let's look at their numbers. Here's the blue bar comparing what the state thinks health insurance costs the Brockton Public Schools with the orange bar showing what it does cost the Brockton Public Schools:

That's a $19.5 million difference.
Brockton isn't funded over foundation, so that money has to come from elsewhere in the budget. The biggest account for every district is teachers:
For FY14, Brockton is $8 million short in classroom teachers.

And that isn't all:

So this is why people--very much including me--are hammering on about the Foundation Budget Review Commission. There are real gaps--real missing teachers, real undone maintenance, real missing supplies--due to this being put off and put off.

It's well past time it was dealt with. 

Who is refusing compromise?

Be sure you read the Globe coverage of the charter debate today, and, after you notice that they once again seem not to be able to manage to find anyone to talk on the other side other than the MTA (sigh...), note who it is that appears to be unwilling to compromise here.
The Senate, he says, will look not just at expanding the number of charter schools allowed in the state, but at a wide range of issues that reflect critics’ concerns about charters — from financing, to governance, to admission and retention of hard-to-educate populations, like special needs students and English language learners. 
The approach does not sit well with charter school supporters. “We have the highest-performing public charter school sector in the nation,” said Mary Jo Meisner, executive vice president of communications at the Boston Foundation, which has been a strong charter advocate. “Opening that up to radical change is a scary thought.”
Admitting and retaining the same kids the districts serve...being public about finance and governance decisions. Radical. Scary thought.

MASC's statement before the Ways and Means Committee

Vice Chair Senator DiDomenico  and  Representative Brodeur and Members of the Committee:
Chapter 70
MASC thanks you for giving us the opportunity to appear before the Committee and to file our comments with you. The Governor’s F.Y.2017 budget recommendations propose increasing Chapter 70, general aid to education, by about $72 million reflecting a 1.6% addition to prior year amounts. The recommended funding is well below the $111 million Chapter 70 increase found in the current FY 2016 budget and even further below other recent budgets. MASC recognizes the difficulty faced by the Governor in crafting a balanced FY 2017 state budget while having to fund surging health care costs and state pension obligations. Indeed school committees struggle with these same budget busters, most particularly health care and special education budgetary increases as was noted recently by the Foundation Budget Review Commission. MASC is disappointed that the important recommendations of the Chapter 70 Foundation Budget Review Commission were not included in H 2. Further delaying the implementation of these recommendations exacerbates these inequities as they continue to multiply. Our schools are being short-changed by the Commonwealth, and a population just barely emerging from the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s is reluctant to increase taxes.
MASC respectfully request that the Ways and Means Committees increase the $20.00 per pupil funding found in H2 to $100.00. This method of distribution is received by every school district in the state according to its student population.
Also, we request that you include some level of funding to special education and health insurance costs. MASC recognizes the budgetary problems facing the Commonwealth; however, the budget should not totally ignore the Foundation Review Commission recommendations concerning the spiraling costs of special education and health care.
Finally, we agree with the Governor that special education rates shall remain the same as FY 2016 except for programs that qualify for extraordinary relief pursuant to Section 31 of H.2.
Special Education Circuit Breaker
In the FY 2016 budget MASC was pleased that the Special Education Circuit Breaker account was fully funded and we request that this appropriation remains fully funded in FY 2017. The students benefited by this account are the most vulnerable population that school districts serve.
The Governor proposed that the regional school transportation appropriation be level funded in H2. MASC notes that the FY2016 funding fell well short of the 100% requirement of law, and we request that the Legislature fully fund Regional School Transportation.
Charter School Funding
Monies for districts sending students to charter schools would be raised by $20 million in H2 bringing total funding to $101 million. The charter school law (G.L.c.71, S.89 (gg) provides that reimbursement shall be equal to 100% of the charter school tuition in the first year and 25% of said tuition in years 2 through 6. Section 42 of H2 proposes a major revision to the charter school funding formula. This section changes the formula for providing reimbursements in FY 2017 to school districts experiencing increases in charter school tuitions as follows: 100% of the increase in tuition amounts from FY2016 to FY 2017; for any district with charter payments exceeding 9% of net school spending in FY 2017, an additional 50% of any increase in tuition amounts from FY 2015 to FY 2016; and for any such district, an additional 25% of any increase in tuition amounts from FY 2014 to FY 2015. This proposal can be read to eliminate any reimbursement after FY 2017. At the very least Section 42 reduces funding , which is now reimbursed over 6 years to a three year payout and reduces the current payout  from 225% to 175%.
Keep current statutory language and fund the account accordingly.
In conclusion, we have frequently looked to the Legislature to remedy educational funding deficiencies recommended by various Governors over the years, and your assistance has been greatly appreciated. Thank you for your consideration of our recommendations, and we are available at your request for further discussion of these matters.

Ways and Means hearing on Education

I'm at the lovely new Everett High School today ("five floors and a basement," as the student in the elevator told me) for the Ways and Means hearing on education. 
The hearing starts at ten; posting as we go (once we start)
The superintendents of Brockton, Fitchburg, and Chelsea are here (and that's just the ones I recognize); maybe a push on the needs of urban districts?
In his welcome, Everett high school principal calls out change from low income to economically disadvantaged and what that has done to their measurement
first panel is Secretary Peyser, Commissioner Weber, Commissioner Santiago, Commissioner Chester

Sunday, February 28, 2016

And looking ahead on meetings

Note that the finalists for Worcester superintendent are to be interviewed next Monday, March 7 at 6:15 at City Hall.
There is a public meet and greet for those finalists at Doherty next Wednesday, March 8 at 5 at Doherty...
...which runs right into CPPAC next Wednesday, which is the annual budget presentation. (lousy timing)

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, March 3

You can find the agenda here.
Bill Coleman wants to talk about substitute teachers' compensation.
There is no report of the superintendent.
F&O will be reporting out from their Monday meeting.
There is a report back on textbooks (timely, as the district is also buying $700,000 worth of new ones!).
There is a report back on the projected cost of a gymnastics team (which doesn't look as though it has changed much since I asked in 2013).
There's a request to authorize adminstration to have a five year contract for environmental management services (the authorization is for the length).
There are several donations being received.
And Miss Biancheria would like reports on Read Across America Day, the assignment of full-time teachers for long-term absence, and the Recovery High School.
The School Committee is also receiving the proposed relocation plan which was covered in yesterday's T&G. The district has been renting space for Chandler Elementary for a number of years, so the school has been split between its building on Chandler Street and a building at the YMCA on Main. The school is continuing to grow, and managing the single school in two spaces is...less than ideal. Plus, of course, the rental costs money...and not just any money: rentals don't count towards Net School Spending. Add to that the complications of a single administrator covering the grade 9 and 10 program at Fanning as well as at the Creamer Center up on Granite Street, and you start to see why some of these moves make a lot of sense. And, frankly, anything that gets the Parent Information Center someplace that makes some sense to parents (like the central administration building) is progress.
I hope to make this one: 7 pm, City Hall. 

Worcester Superintendent Search rescheduled

For Wednesday.

Worcester School Committee Finance and Operations meets tomorrow

The Finance and Operations subcommittee meets tomorrow evening at 5:00 with three items on the agenda. You can find the agenda here.
The second quarter budget report for FY16 has good news! The account by account update shows an end of year balance (largely due to teacher vacancies; see the report for details), and that means real things can happen heading into the third quarter. In this case, administration has released the frozen $10 per pupil supply money for schools (hurray!) and the projected balance means that the district can buy new textbooks (!), plus security equipment, AED & CPR equipment, and HVAC and boiler replacement (can somebody ask where?). 
Following on Good Harbor's safety assessment last year, the Safety Advisory Committee is reporting out. The big recommendations are creating a safety/communications administration position, with an expanded definition of safety and security; aligning the security budget (which right now comes out of multiple accounts); moving the police liaisons to resource officers and adding two more to cover elementary schools (and in the process, discontinuing the use of outsourced security); adding after school programming, and adding (long term) additional vocational programs.
Finally, there's a report on the Environmental Health Bureau of DPH discontinuing radon testing at City View School.

Advocating on the Foundation Budget Review Commission

Mary Ann Stewart has compiled a Storify of much of the action on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

In defense of the humanities

A good read today in the NY Times

Board of Ed summary

Here's the short version that I sent out to MASC yesterday:
...the main upshot of today’s Board of Ed meeting is that all of the charter items passed: new charters in Brockton and Springfield, additional seats in Boston and Everett, and renewed charters in Springfield and Boston (a Horace Mann). You can find my notes on public testimony here, notes on DESE’s annual report to the Legislature on charters here, the deliberation and vote on new charters notes here, the deliberation and vote on new seats notes here, and the deliberation on renewal notes here. The Board also renewed the certificate for Greenfield Virtual, which isn’t exactly a charter (and they’re discussing how they’re going to manage virtuals).

The Board also got a (brief) update on FY17, voted the new college and career readiness standards (including civics), and got an update on assessment.

A couple of impressions and notes:
  • ·       Several Board members clearly stated that they did not think taking into consideration the impact charters have on districts was under their purview, and thus dismissed such testimony from their own consideration.
  • ·       Boston now is adding 1000 seats to their charters. I’ve seen informal estimates that puts that at around $20M they’ll be looking at.
  • ·       Commissioner Chester stated several times that he did not at all see the consideration of Brockton’s charter as a question of Brockton’s public schools, ‘though he also said he hadn’t considered the question of actual need for the charter, when this was raised by Margaret McKenna.
  • ·       McKenna also raised the question of the qualifications of the charter proponent in Springfield (five years out of college, limited experience, no formal learning in educational leadership).
  • ·       Secretary Peyser asserted that there had been unprecedented investment and increased quality in public education during the time during which charter schools have existed in Massachusetts; he connected this to competition.
  • ·       During the discussion of MLK charter, Chester commented that if the test scores did not improve, he’d be back with a recommendation that the charter be pulled. This was met with an outcry by the Board (started by Donald Willyard), who agreed that they had clearly said in their vote that no losses in level (and, one assumes, losses of charters) could happen based SOLELY on this year’s test scores. Michael Moriarty went so far as to say that he would reject any such recommendation from the Commissioner. I would assume this would equally apply to district schools. 

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Two upcoming state public hearings

Next Monday, the Ways and Means Committee is holding a hearing specifically on education in the FY17 budget! It is at 10 am at Everett High School.

The Joint Committee on Education has rescheduled their hearing on the education-related ballot questions. That's at 10 am on March 7 in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House.

Assessment update to Board

Chester: moving agressively ahead on a variety of fronts
in process of issuing an RFP for contract
number of advisory committees
Wulfson: on schedule for this spring's administration
giving both "MCAS legacy test" and PARCC, depending on district choices
have engaged educators in a number of work groups as part of design effort for next generation MCAS
have a drive in session at Hudson High School to talk about details of transition to online testing
RFP going out early to mid March: large effort to write that
right now carrying a placeholder in our budget projections: until it goes out, hard to get a price figure on what it will cost
PARCC: studying design structure
to accommodate multiple types of participation from states
a few districts trying out diagnostic assessment from PARCC (optional; DESE has asked them to report back "if it's got any value")
ELA and math standards educator review panel being assembled
Sagan: really concerned with creating a hybrid test going forward
Wulfson: test design and test concept once we meet the vendor
trying to build flexibility into the design
Sagan: what goes with that is assessing our frameworks, which is on a slightly different path
asks when pieces of this will go public?
in next few weeks
recommendation on changes for the fall; adopt any changes midwinter
Noyce: hopefully will not be a complete rewrite
Sagan: still a great amount of detail
Wulfson: we're going to build in extra time for the Secretary's reviews (that's a joke)
Chester: Governor includes additional $5M--Peyser corrects "$5.6M"-- in assessment
Stewart: global question on assessment: did you submit comments on ESSA regulation?
Chester: sure, I'd be happy to
submitted comments on ESSA, "I don't think I submitted anything on assessment"


Board hears about FY17

Chester: hearing on state budget on Monday
very little of funding "is for this agency" says Chester: majority is chapter 70
changes on charter school reimbursement, changes on low income calculation
consolidation on literacy initiatives in early childhood
"very much recognize that this is going to be a tough budget year"
fixed costs in state budget going to increase by projected increase
supplemental budget for this year: additional funding for testing program
Peyser: feels counterintuitive that income is growing and yet the budget is so austere
health care consumes a lot of dollars
hope that after year we'll "be back to structural balance"
hope then to be able to spend it
1.5% for education; but more than other sectors are getting
"not as healthy growth as we'd like to see"

College and Career readiness (as revised)

including civics
passes unanimously

Greenfield Virtual Commonwealth

Chester: two virtual schools up and running
point at which you have to renew Greenfield's certification
were anticipated as being created as innovations under their communities
quickly became clear that these would become statewide schools being governed by a local school committee
now Board issues a certificate to a non-profit that runs the school
gave Greenfield "their own runway"
"when we look at Greenfield's performance, it's less than stellar. It's mediocre"
rely on vendor to make a go of it
"not clear they could make a go of it without that back engine"
Greenfield using K12...TECA using MediaConnections
neither has a great track record anywhere in the nation
part of what Greenfield is looking at is if they'll continue to use K12
interesting policy question is if the current regulatory structure will allow for a viable virtual school short of them contracting with one of these engines
"I'm comfortable pulling the plug on this; it's still new"
there are kids who won't be able to go back
explore options around regulatory
Sagan: whenever we close a school, we hear that and it's challenging
virtual school "but not virtual kids"
Chuang: there is data that supports these kids are different
very very high on 504 plans
considerable high churn, intake, and stability rate
Sagan: asks what is going on with the kids
Chuang: only have two years of data
revisit will be after the next two years
Sagan: we really want to know, is it helping
Chuang: have to get the data to inform these discussions
Willyard: are we looking at a school ...where the low academic performance is because of the students they are taking (Sagan interrupts "or their circumstances")
Willyard: don't show up anywhere to take tests
Chuang: entirely online
there is a home office and their staff meets there, but students don't attend school in that building
Stewart: have you gone through vendor options?
Chester: we have had that discussion
one option would be for a single statewide virtual school "because it does look like this is relevant to a small number" of students
Moriarty: love seeing the Greenfield aspect, hate seeing the mediocrity
resource to the homeschooling community?
DESE; survey parents on reason for enrollment; about 20% coming from homeschool
as kids age into middle school years
Peyser: new requirement that they have to enrollment 5% of their students from Greenfield
Chuang; what is the purpose of the 5% in the statute?
would be some concern if they have to reduce the number of students that they have
Peyser: if they don't enroll any more Greenfield students, they have to cut their enrollment in half!
Chuang: they haven't violated anything as of yet
Noyce: obviously if this were any other school, we would not vote to continue it
their absolute scores are dismal, their growth is dismal
if that's because the children are in the hospital getting chemotherapy all day, that's understandable
we don't have enough information
"what is the best going on out there in the world around virtual schools"
need to ask "are these kids being better served than they are somewhere else?"
if they've never seen the child, how can they make an assessment of that
question if they can wait...Chuang "This is about as late as we can possibly go"
certificate of no less than three years, but can impose conditions within the renewal
Sagan: I think we all support this, but support it with some reservations
McKenna: there's a second virtual school
Sagan: they're not up yet
Chuang: their performance hasn't changed the conversation (regarding performance)
unanimous vote "with reluctance" to renew

Charter renewals at Board

MLK: Chester: looking for continued sustained improvement beyond what we've seen the past two years
"low attrition, high demand...while it needs to do better, when you look at its performance relative to other schools in Springfield, it's in the top tier of Springfield schools"
Willyard: DCA set a bad precedent of revoking a charter mid-cycle
Stewart: not clear about what you'll use on holding harmless on test
what will you be using on mathematics and ELA; how does that apply?
Chuang: a decision that we have left up to the schools with regards to testing
will revisit this after the testing from this year
Chester: "There's no hold harmless in MLK in this respect" (met with immediate outcry)
Willyard: "this is an untested, untried...."
Chester: we said it did not apply to Level 4 and 5
McKenna: very clear that it did
Sagan doesn't want that on the table
Chester: will depend on their assessment
Moriarty: just want to make it clear that if there's a recommendation coming forward to close it, and all that changed was test scores: you almost certainly will not get my support
Noyce: said that there are many other reasons other than test scores when a school goes Level 4 or 5
if only issues is lack of growth, revoking would be premature
Let's remember all of this next year!
Charter granted

Boston Green Academy: Chester:  recommended for renewal with probation
responsive to the conditions we've put on them
not where they need to be
looking for continued sustained improvement
carries 10-0

New charter seats voted by Board

Pioneer Charter
Willyard steps out as he goes there and it would be a conflict; recuses himself
Chester: expansion would add elementary (as a reorg): 750 schools over two campuses
"demonstrating to me that they are up to the challenge of expansion"
Chuang: evidence of perseverance
"has been through our process a number of times"
6-2 (McKenna out; Willyard recused)

Brooke Charter and Neighborhood House
Chester: received quite a few requests including 14 from Boston; bringing forward 2
if all requests in Boston were able to be filled, it would have been 2700 seats total
Chester "both have just an impeccable performance record"
Brooke running three schools under three charters
expanding to include high school grades as well as consolidation
Chuang: track record on Brooke is stellar
"performance on subgroups in particular"
"very strong request"
Noyce: heard testimony that six year college graduation rate
Chuang: a number of reports around post-secondary measure
based on first 27 students that had reached that age
Fryer notes that it's conditional on going to college
Noyce "that's still higher than what I recalled"
Sagan: calls forward Brooke person saying "you can take a bow for your results"
comparison on any post high school attainment
Brooke stat is based on eighth graders (and Brooke doesn't do high school)
Stewart: Board received a number of emails
questions around attrition?
Chuang unclear where that data is coming from
students who are leaving for other opportunities within high school
Stewart: asked for discipline policies
"what stood out to me...very black and white"
did call into question issues "of cultural competency"
"this is having an impact"
"Once upon a time, these schools were starting as labs of going in was basically R&D"
"the cuts are happening in Boston Public Schools, and reimbursement is not happening"
"it makes no sense"
Doherty: had chair of school committee and chair of education say "please don't do this"
expanding these seats will add $20M to their problem
"I don't think we can say 'well, that's your problem; it's not our problem'"
Chester on PARCC results: capitalize on results
"make sure it's not a tightly held secret"
Chuang: "very little evidence of attrition" at Brooke
"we've explored every angle"
Fryer: probably about the best school I've been to
"I've haven't been on this Board long, but there's never been an earlier vote."
McKenna: didn't think Jackson and O'Neil were testifying against
thought they were sharing
I believe Jackson was testifying against; O'Neil is perhaps best characterized as giving background, from my read
Craven: fully support, thrilled to be able to vote on these options
"right now these are the options that are available to these children"
Sagan: "This is a remarkable school; we need more of these schools."
carries 8-2, Doherty and Stewart opposed

Neighborhood House
Chester "has earned this...through running an outstanding educational institution"
Chuang: add several hundred middle school options to Boston
Peyser: obviously want to reiterate about the quality of the school
Neighborhood House has been at the front of the line in terms of trying to collaborate
"model and the beacon for working together...educator to educator"
"I think the impact that they've had has been quite significant over the years"
carries 8-2, Doherty and Stewart opposed

Board of Ed considers new charters for Brockton and Springfield

memo is here
Sagan: strong work by the staff, and those who put forward the proposals
list of those who review and analyze and critique
thanks Board who went to hearings for schools that were forwarded and those who were not
"at least one member of the Board attend"
Chester: comments on the front end that apply for both of these proposals
"set a very high bar" for charters
received 10 prospectuses; invited 7 to apply; 2 declined; 5 applied; 1 was withdrawn; 4 final considered; 2 being recommended
"when I bring a charter school recommendation forward, it isn't because of a calculus of what a district has not done"
'though that's actually part by reg of what is considered
both districts doing strong work
"in no way reflects that I don't think that Brockton isn't paying attention to what it should be paying attention to"
New Heights has applied twice in the past; in both cases "we felt they were not ready for prime time"
some back and forth about what is being taken up when

Sagan: no comment from Springfield superintendent? Anything to conclude on that?
Chester: I would not try to speculate on why
Stewart: did have comparison of current charters in Springfield and the Springfield Public Schools
Chuang: judging this application on its merits
Stewart: head of teachers' union, teacher in system
support from charter board
Collins'  "comments were really profound, I thought"
"does have an impact when another school comes in, in terms of drawing away resources in that regard"
Moriarty: general tenor was very supportive, particularly in the Brightwood neighborhood
"already a known quantity in the city of Springfield"
objections "were broader objections to any charter school"
Sagan: "constituents don't exist yet" for charter school
McKenna; would like to understand what kind of support the leadership will get from "Building Excellent Schools"
leader "has been out of college five formal training in education"
is "participating in fellowship program right now"
will have mentor who founded Excel-Chelsea
professional development and coaching for the board as well
McKenna; "handing the lives of a lot of at risk kids basically to the unknown"
Sagan relates another charter that worked...
 McKenna: need more assurance that the supports that are needed are "going to be there, because it's asking a lot"
relating choice of family to be sent here from Dominican Republic
"drill sergeant with a heart"
worked at Upward Bound, came face to face with the achievement gap
went to Teach for America
"my students accomplished so much in my classroom"
"have worked tirelessly to get where I am...I understand the challenges that come with opening a school"
McKenna: "I don't doubt any of that. But that was not my question."
Fryer: is somehow involved in this program?
"It looked more like a cult than a program" when he went to talk to them (enthusiasm)
(McKenna comments that this doesn't make her feel any better)
"everyone was working on plans..."
"it's not like the cup of superstar principals in western Mass runneth over"
Chester: very deliberate ramp up
Doherty: I don't think it will be a surprise to anyone that I will be speaking against this motion and the others to expand others
had good fortune to be on AFT Board when Al Shanker began to talk about charter schools
experiment with new ways of teaching and especially those kids who were disadvantaged
"we've gone way, way beyond that"
creating " a separate track that is separate and unequal"
"all of the research and all of the studies show that charter schools in the Commonwealth" serve a disparate population
amount of money being drained from traditional schools to charter schools: $400M across the state
all of these school districts are being left behind with more difficult children to educate, limited resources
thinks attrition rate has been misrepresented
think that when the figures come out on the waitlist "will be very much exaggerated"
"nobody is talking about the waitlist of children to get into quality preschools and kindergarten"
would rather see money going to early childhood education
policies that may be good for a small number of students
"we have a responsibility to provide the best possible education for all the children in the Commonwealth, not just some of them"
Stewart: feel like we're at a tipping point with regard to schools in urban areas
reimbursements have not kept up
assumes districts can absorb 75%
Springfield is not in a position for this
"need to think about how this is impacting our cities"
Noyce: very common for people from the district to come and say that this will hurt others
struggle with role of Board
see role as carrying out laws that Commonwealth has passed
"don't think it's up to us to say that we shouldn't have more charter schools if the law says"
law doesn't say to consider financial impact
strong charter application faced with concern "that something like $200 per student" is being lost
"if the money didn't go to charter schools, it wouldn't be spent on preschool; it's being spent on other things in the district"
Doherty: my view on the role of this Board to do what is best for all of the children in this Commonwealth
"just because the law allows...doesn't mean we have to go up to the limit"
Peyser: "charter critics believe that giving parents choices a zero sum game"
think that it inherently makes district schools weaker
funding increases and academic gains across the state over this time
"think that they're confusing the demand among elected officials with the demand among parents"
"we need to encourage improvement and further success in those schools"
complains that comments are the same that he's heard for twenty years
charters are a little over 4%
"a modest increase"
"I do think we ought to look at the proposals on their merits"
Willyard: parents who choose to enroll their students in charters
"we're not a judicial body...not up to use if we should lower to cap"
McKenna: as a former member of the Boston School Committee? There are a lot of reasons that the Boston schools improved (aka, it wasn't the charter schools, Mr. Secretary)
Stewart: charter schools do not exist in isolation; they're individual fiefdoms within a district
"we need to be looking at a holistic approach"
Springfield charter granted 8-2, Stewart and Doherty opposed

Brockton: Chester "confident" that they've brought a stronger proposal
got a partner for early college "that's done this work across the country"
grade 13 proposal no longer part of it
"innovative components including summer bridge program"
three towns that are not contiguous geographically
proposing that school be required to provide transportation plan
"entering and exiting students....not planning to push any students out...there was some lack of clarity about that in the application...feel confident about that at this time"
recommending adoption
Chuang notes early college discussion with higher ed board last month
Sagan: model to cover costs?
Chuang: detailed and intricate model
size of model is very deliberate, something to look at in terms of deployment of resources
based on kinds of rates that Massasoit already charges high schools who do dual enrollment
Noyce: EdWorks: non-profit? Yes
regional school:is there a balance of how many students from each? application speaks to what the balance be
anticipate majority would be Brockton
Wulfson: but it's a lottery enrollment...
Noyce: large numbers testifying both for and against
certainly elected officials and school administrators testified against it
Brockton a high performing urban school district that offers many opportunities
parents who testified that as good as Brockton might be, they wanted something different
all students being offered options
Chuang: 6-12 with this program of this size isn't an option currently
Stewart: what really impressed me was the innovation being offered in Brockton Public Schools
elected from Brockton, many from Taunton at hearing
a lot of what I heard from many families who were supporting said their kids were afraid to go to a big school
"efforts by Brockton to make a big school feel small"
many more coming against the school
Doherty "I won't repeat what I said before; obviously it wasn't persuasive"
when we have a situation when the mayor, the school committee, and the delegation
"I think it's inappropriate to force down the throat of a community" a school that they don't want
Sagan argues that this would have kept board from receivership in Holyoke
constituency doesn't exist yet for charter
Fryer: how does this work in terms of charter cap
Chuang: cap is district-specific: not near 9% in Brockton
Moriarty: Rep Cronin suggestion that there isn't evidence of sufficient support
asks for clarification
Chuang: have vetted demand; don't do own assessment
"parent choice is a dynamic thing"
will look to see if they have the enrollment that they have projected
"rubber will meet the road by the next Board meeting"
they'll either have the students or not
McKenna will vote against
"there's a question about desire as opposed to need"
set up a shiny new thing "there are always people who are going to say yes"
is there unmet need? "I'm not so sure of that"
"hard to see"
"I'm not so sure it's so new and shiny"
and this time it's more complicated
have concerns about their ability to pull it off
"every child goes to college...I don't think every child goes to college or should go to college"
"I don't think that's the need in Brockton"
not easy to do
"I don't have confidence that the group of people bringing it forward can do it; I don't have confidence that there is need for it"
Chester: "I hadn't thought of need being a criteria"
McKenna points out that it is...and it is...
Chester: number of kids who need remediation in public colleges and universities
"I'm very intrigued by a proposal here that ensures that kids leave high school ready for college level work"
McKenna: early college is best used as retention in high school
data on whether it lowers remediation is a very different kind of issue
Just going to point out here that McKenna is past president of Lesley and current president of Suffolk; she doesn't really need to have college retention explained to her. 
Peyser: proposal does talk about two paths
may be others who aren't ready to do college courses, intend to have path for them
"I don't think it's success lies on all of those students going to college"
Sagan: haven't been here when there were recommendations that were not approved
"enthusiastic about trying it and see"
Brockton approved 7-3

DESE's report to the Legislature on charter schools

The memo is here
You heard about the count; there's more
Chuang: required to have lottery
not required to be a mirror image of sending districts, but required to have plans to work towards
"emphasize the complexity of comparability"
"statewide comparisons are tricky...because charters are predominately concentrated in urban areas"
and because of that, you'd expect that statewide charters would have to be higher need than statewide in districts
and the chart gets even messier now that we've converted to economically disadvantaged
Sagan clarifies "this is related to the federal lunch...we didn't suddenly solve poverty"
Wulfson: acceleration dating back to 2010 Achievement gap
Chuang: filtered information for new students
when you suppress to new students, gap closing faster particularly in ELL, Boston and aggregate of Gateway Cities
applicant pool reflective of students in Boston
attrition rate with another crazy graph
"a lot of noise and variability"
attrition is from end of one year to beginning of next; working on mobility, churn, stability
Sagan asks when...they're working on it
Doherty asks about cohort stability: same kids who stay all the way through
haven't done it for some time
question around backfilling (and if it masks urban public district attrition)
also question of who is leaving
Wulfson: comparison of a single school to a school district, doesn't work, as district may mask as student moves from school to school
Stewart: heard you use about five different words: would like to know nuance and differences
McKenna: get information to us and the public
anecdotal concern is that kids leave during the school year: "That information is key to this discussion."
backfilling for half the grades that they serve; must round up if you have an odd number of grades
high school only through grade 9
"have actively encouraged increasing points of access"
all of the expansions "have committed to above and beyond expansions"
have heard a lot in the news about the waitlist data
33,903 updated from fall "consistent with what happens every year as offers are made in the fall"
rollover issue in on the way of clearing out
"allowed schools to waitlists made prior" to updates
75% of schools have decided to completely eliminate rollover
next collection will establish at student level which are rolled at not; several large schools do still roll
Peyser: those parents are still actually on the waitlist, it doesn't mean those families don't want to go anymore
Wulfson: "Well,we don't know"
could take ten or more years for it to clear out
Sagan: "We don't know that the list will be any different"
Chuang: large numbers of fresh names in new report; will make distinction in next report


Mass Board of Ed February meeting: opening remarks

and the agenda is here
posting as we go once it starts
I suspect we'll be hearing a lot of public testimony today due to the topics at hand

Commissioner Chester: Dorchester Collegiate did not appeal their vote, so "it's is complete"
Studies (I'll link if I can find them) included updates from teachers' perspectives on standards implementation in five states
teachers reporting that they have taken new standards adopted and have made substantial changes in their approaches to instruction and curriculum
Test comparisons study what elements of MCAS and PARCC are stronger (than the other)
Eagle school: approved by DESE for education
coordinating with early ed and DCF
"have been very engaged in it"
applying for a competitive grant through JP Morgan Chase "New Skills for Youth"
$35M to it
up to 25 states receiving up to $100,000 in first phase; second phase of $650,000 for up to three years for some of those
College Board releasing the AP exams from 2015; "The results for Massachusetts will be quite, quite positive"

Public comment:
New Charter school testimony up first:
Senator Brady (Brockton), Rep Dubois, Cassidy, running for Rep: "here to speak against the proposed New Heights Charter School"
"have been through this many times"
overwhelming calls against
"Brockton Schools have done everything right"
"no need for" this school
Brockton among the lead plantiffs in suits against state on funding
Brockton had a charter that failed
internationally recognized by what they've been doing
lists range of successes across the system
"no elected official in the state oversees...charter schools"
Cassidy: "I'm just totally against it"
Rep. Cronin: "we are not hear to debate the merit of charter schools and the role they should or should not serve in Massachusetts"
ask that they adhere to the regulations
"If you do, you cannot properly vote for this charter."
fails to meet requirements of regulations: demonstration of support for charter school in community
"The demand for this proposed charter school simply does not exist."
very risky proposition for this Board to take
"they do not want this charter school; they want increased funding for their public schools."
fails to offer an alternative program which does not exist in Brockton
"no evidence that this untested program will have" greater success in preparing students for college than Brockton High
92% of Brockton High graduates go onto college
lacks required support, lacks alternative proposal
"those who seek increased charter schools: this will be a poor reflection of your mission"
would undermine the very mission that you are required to uphold
Rep. Dubois: rush to privatize and undermine public education is only going to hurt our children

Walker, from New Heights
third time before you, started in Fall River first year
last year did not have some things that needed to be in place
this year working with EdWorks; met with Massasoit Community College
outreach to parents: "our response has been awesome"
have over 600 applications
have a transportation gap: committed to getting students there from Randolph and Taunton
language didn't capture inclusiveness, working on that
"confident that we'll provide a highly successful charter school"

Madeloni, MTA,
testify against both charters
if you approve "will begin down the slippery slope that Springfield and others are already on"
charter schools serving Springfield don't reflect ELL, sped, foster children, low income
"resegration of district schools...civil rights of our time"
would further destabilize Springfield public schools
using public funds for public schools should be coming from leadership
Baker budget undermines further: slashes funding on second & third year; ignores FBRC; does not increase at same rate as funding
Peyser came out against Fair Share amendment
"nothing less than shameful"
"strike a blow for quality public schools for all"

Kathleen Smith, superintendent, Brockton Public Schools
ask them to reject application for New Heights
why would you approve a charter school when there is no need?
why secondary when we win awards for success in secondary school?
why approve when there is no demand?
"Hired outsiders do not constitute community support"
why approve when there is little more than lip service for varied needs?
"we of course will continue to serve the 500 homeless students....we will continue to serve the English Language Learners...we will continue to serve the students with disabilities...and we will now do so on a decreasing budget"
"essentially a moral question"
why approve a charter that hurts the many?

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson, chair of the Education Committee:
ask that they support Boston Green Academy, but reject third condition
reject additional seats in charters
in BPS:

  • For 48%, English is not their first language;
  • 20% have disabilities;
  • 86% are students of color;
  • 72% have high needs;
  • Over 3,000 are homeless.
"those who chose BPS will be impacted financially...$119M going to charters vs $93M going to BPS"
will hurt early learning,
NAEP rank as highest of large urban schools
"BPS faces a daunting deficit" of $50M
this will add $19.5M to it, not covered by ch 70 or by reimbursement
notes that exam schools also have a "long waiting list"
underfunded charter reimbursement nor chapter 70 will cover that
speaks of a student at Charlestown High, asking to save Diploma Plus program he went through
"I would be either a drug dealer, a gang member, or at Northeastern University"
persistence numbers, 6 years post graduation: charter schools, 42% graduates from college; BPS, 52%

"We must be honest here. Luis is not the type of student served in almost all charters. BPS, focused on the achievement gap, was the only place he found hope. Please don’t dim that hope for the other 57,000 children who choose BPS, and are my charge, and yours."
"should support our public schools and do right by them"
Boston School Committee chair Michael O'Neil: highlight relevant financial implication: $145M
charter school reimbursement line has not been adequately funded $28M under for Boston
have a proposal before to expand secondary charters
 BPS has a number of high quality high schools with room
have to cut $13M from this year's budget: cuts across many of our schools
"cuts that will impact the vast majority of our schools"
$500,000 per secondary schools
"Every time you provide more create a situation that is considerably more difficult for the majority of students"
cites the ways in which Boston is using best practices: all students, reform of discipline practices, etc
"I note that many of our best practices have not been implemented in reverse"
think of impact on every one of 57,000 students

parents from Brooke Charter and Neighborhood House Charter
"quality education must persist"
"the community, the stories, the love"
"not just about high stakes testing; it's about forming citizens"
"investment in the future of our children and our community"
"Brooke has been able to do so much more for less"
"I would prefer to have my child attend a successful high school rather than one that's just improving"
"can't even begin to describe to you what Neighborhood House has meant to us"
disputes disciplinary..."he's never been suspended...never been made to feel that's he's a problem"
"I don't want my kids going to a school that is improving. I want them in a school with quality that already exists."

Peggy Wiesenberg: parent, Boston: parent of three Boston Public Schools graduates
urge them to vote no on proposed amendment to Brooke Charter and to Neighborhood House
"these chartered elementary schools are not simply requesting to add seats of like kind"
radical redesigned: new K-12 districts
"inopportune time for Board to approve" parallel systems
greater alignment of college and career readiness
ten year facilities and master planning process
"Gates-funded Boston Compact"
"not the time for two members to do an end run"
seeking to expand to their maximum enrollment
"for credibility, I suggest that the Board should hit the pause button"
"I think what is happening is mission creep"
"what you are considering today is radically different" than what was considered in 1993 Act

parent testifying in favor of expansion of Pioneer Charter in Everett
"they push him ahead and he can do anything"
has urged others to apply
"hopeful that others will have the same opportunities as my family"

MLK Charter, Springfield chair : "scholars feel safe and love, and are polite and eager to learn"
thanks Commissioner for support
ask Board for support
Principal joined in 2015 "understand necessary components of an academic program"
all necessary components to make difference and "continue our improvement"

Boston Green Academy Horace Mann headmaster: charter renewal
have met or partially met all eight conditions
"most importantly, our academic" results continue to improve
glad to have support of Boston community
"know that we are not satisfied as a school"
"so many people have given so much to support our schools"

Beth Anderson, Phoenix (which runs alternative programs)
thank for five year recommended renewal
"don't just graduate with meaningless credits"
"and it's messy for folks at DESE to sit in that with us as we figure out how to do that better"
"Phoenix needs to serve even more students"
"can figure out how to scale high risk kids"
"alternative accountability and assessment system...that resonates with non-traditional learners"
she's proposing to work with DESE on creating such a system, but no details offered

virtual schools  (Greenfield up for renewal)
experiment: new
describes a "flipped" bell curve: "do not have mass of typical students in the middle"
know why parents seek out a school like ours
conclude that our staff is doing "phenomenal work" with students
comparison only by gradespan, not by type of students "calls for a need for a greater understanding of virtual schools"
Tech Connections Academy : 980 students
advocating my entire life for chances for every student
situations that vary from family to family
"high quality education" regardless of where it takes place


Monday, February 22, 2016

A word on Springfield and Brockton

Here's some work I've been doing for MASC. DESE has shared with us the full report of district-by-district finance information regarding the foundation budget for FY14.
Ahead of tomorrow's Board of Ed meeting where the Board will decide on new charter schools for Springfield and Brockton, I thought it important to share what those districts are already facing in their foundation budget gaps.
(as per usual, you can click to make them bigger)

The foundation budget account that has biggest undercalculation--special education is in multiple accounts--is, of course, the health insurance account. For FY14, that account was undercalculated by $30 million:

As a results of health insurance and special education, Springfield underspent on teachers in FY14 by $36 million:

And that is not the only account in which there has been underspending: both other teaching and operations & maintenance are significantly underfunded, as well:

For the city of Brockton, in FY14, health insurance was undercalculated by $19.5 million:

As a result, for FY14, classroom teachers were underfunded by $8.2 million for FY14

And, again, that is not the only category that is significantly underfunded: other teaching, PD, instructional materials & technology, and operations & maintenance:

So, is the biggest problem facing the Springfield and Brockton public schools whatever charter seats that may or may not be open in their cities? Or is it that their district school system, which educate the vast majority of children in both cities, are chronically underfunded and the state has not dealt with it?

Important analysis from MassBudget on low income and free lunch

Two reports came out from MassBudget last week:

  • First, there's an analysis of how direct certification--that's the process by which districts are now figuring out who is eligible for free lunch by their enrollment in other programs--is going with some suggestions on how to improve it. As we're still missing significant numbers of kids,(possibly over 100,000!) impacting not only who we feed but how we fund education as a whole, that matters. 
  • Second, take a look at their thoughts on low income counts. The Governor's budget, of course, moves every district to the new economically disadvantaged measure, and then scales the funding by the concentration of poverty in the district. There are some issues with that, and some districts in particular that are getting hit by it, and MassBudget has some suggestions on how to improve it. Do particularly take a look at their district-by-district analysis of how the various scenerios would work out; in the case of Worcester, for example, results in $11M additional dollars for FY16, were the state to use the Governor's scaling, but FY16 (scaled) low income figures.
And after you read them, share with your legislators! This has implications not only for FY17, but also for the foundation budget numbers going forward.

School committee superintendent search meeting today (?)

There's a meeting posted for the superintendent search for 5:30 today, but there's no agenda posted that I can find...

UPDATE: It was cancelled.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Governor Baker's priorities

As a reminder: charters serve less than 4% of the children in Massachusetts (and will never serve all); the foundation budget underlies funding for all public education--for all children--in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Board of Ed meets next week

The Board of Ed meets next Monday night and Tuesday morning; you can find the agenda here. It is largely an agenda on state receivership and charter schools.

On Monday night, the Board will receive updates on both Holyoke and Southbridge, two of the three districts in state receivership (we don't seem to be getting updates on Lawrence anymore).  As yet, there's been no official announcement of a state receiver for Southbridge.

On Tuesday, the majority of the agenda is on charter schools. First, the Commissioner announced today that he is recommending that charters be granted for the Libertas Academy Charter School, which would serve 630 students in grades 6-12 in Springfield, and the New Heights Charter School of Brockton, which would serve 735 students in grades 6-12. Note that both schools are in what the state classifies as the lowest ten percent of districts, which is the only place that the first two charters any year may be granted.

The Brockton application has been turned down before, and the community has been outspoken in not wanting or needing such a school.

He is not recommending that charter be granted to the International Academy of Montachusett Charter School, which would have served the Fitchburg area, and the Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School, which would have served the Sturbridge area.

The Commissioner is also recommending expansion of existing charters to new grade levels:
  • The Pioneer Charter School of Science, which is in Everett and which serves a region that also includes Chelsea and Revere, hopes to add 420 new students and grades K-6 to its current 7-12 program of 360 students. The expanded school would serve up to 780 students in grades K-12.
  • The Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston hopes to add 428 new students and grades 9-12 to its current pre-K-8 program that serves 400 students. If approved, the expanded school would serve up to 828 students in grades pre-K-12.
  • The three Brooke charter schools in Boston – BCS Roslindale, BCS Mattapan and BCS East Boston – have requested consolidation into a single regional Brooke Charter School and the addition of 691 students and grades 9-12 to the three K-8 schools that are currently authorized to serve a combined 1,530 students. Each of the three K-8 campuses would remain open, and Brooke would add a single high school. If approved, Brooke Charter School would serve up to 2,221 students in grades K-12.
It appears that Brooke has already been hiring in anticipation of that expansion being approved. Note further that additional "free" seats were added to the Boston pool when the Board voted to close Dorchester Collegiate at their last meeting.

The Commissioner is recommending the extension of the probation but renewal of the charter of MLK Charter in Springfield. The Board is also receiving a recommendation on Boston Green Academy Horace Mann Charter School and on Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School, but those are not posted as yet.
The Board also has a vote on the revised definition of College and Career Readiness (incorporating civic learning and engagement (see notes from last month's discussion with the Higher Ed Board here).
There's an update on the FY17 budget.
There's an update on student assessment.

I don't plan to go to the Monday evening portion, but I will be there and blogging on Tuesday morning. 

Thomas Green Award nominations open!

Use your February break to nominate a great municipal employee!

Do you know an exceptional city or town employee deserving of special recognition?

Since 1988, The Research Bureau has celebrated the unsung heroes of public service. The Thomas S. Green Public Service Awards highlight those municipal employees who provide outstanding and exemplary contributions to government and the community. This prestigious award is open to all municipal employees in Greater Worcester, except division and department heads. We are now accepting nominations for 2016.
Nomination Criteria:
  • Exceptional competence and efficient handling of all assigned responsibilities
  • Enthusiastic performance of tasks above and beyond the call of duty
  • Cooperative, helpful, and friendly attitude toward the public and fellow employees
  • Community involvement outside the scope of job-related responsibilities


Please see The Research Bureau website to download a nomination form and learn more about the Thomas S. Green Public Service Awards.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Aggregate wealth complications in Buckland

There are some complications on the aggregate wealth formula going on out in Buckland right now, where the zip codes don't match the town lines:
Buckland’s roughly 1,900 residents are actually served by four post offices, each with its own ZIP code: Shelburne Falls (01370), Buckland (01338), Charlemont (01339) and Ashfield (01330). Most of Buckland’s households have the Shelburne Falls ZIP code, and they have smaller homes and incomes than those living in the affluent, upper Buckland and using the 01338 ZIP code.
How much money towns are required to spend on education is determined by equalized property values, which the state gets from the Buckland Assessors office, and by the aggregate income of residents, which the state is now getting from only one ZIP code.
After attending a recent talk on school financing, Town Administrator Andrea Llamas wrote to DESE School Finance Administrator Roger Hatch, saying it appeared that possibly only the per-capita income for residents of the 01338 area was being used, then extrapolated, to calculate school finance information for the entire town.
While this has come up in other towns, this time it seems DESE is taking it seriously and even taking suggestions on how to fix it.
Hatch asked if the town has the ability to identify how many Buckland residents use the Shelburne Falls ZIP code. “If so,” he wrote, “that would allow us to weight the different per-capita incomes in proportion to number of residents.” He said he would welcome ideas on how the current estimation method might be improved.
“If that is the case, then it raises serious concerns for Buckland’s minimum contribution calculation, because the majority of households are in the 01370 (Shelburne Falls) area, an area that is more typical of the moderate family residences and incomes of Buckland than the larger and wealthier homes typical of the upper Buckland 01338 area,” Llamas wrote.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Worcester Public Schools wins Meritorious Budget!

For the third consecutive year, Worcester Public Schools is the recipient of the Meritorious Budget Award, presented by the Association of School Business Officials International. The award recognizes Worcester Public Schools for excellence in preparation and issuance of its budget for fiscal year 2015-2016.  Congratulations to Brian Allen and his team for their continued exemplary performance.
swiped from this week's "Creating Connections" from Dr. Rodrigues (Worcester parents, recommended!)

Governor Baker's "Truth About Charters" press bit

While we await the Governor, you might want to peruse this article from this morning. And I don't say that because I'm quoted. Twitter hashtag for this is #TruthAboutCharters

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Centro community forum on Worcester superintendent search

Present tonight: Mayor Petty, Councilor Rivera, Rep. Donahue, School Committee members Foley and Monfredo, along with parents and other community members. Names cited below if I know them.

Latino students are 44% of WPS students
how can we guarantee that the needs of Latino students are met?
Latino community has a "long history of activism in education"
1970's fight resulted in a consent degree around education of ELL students
1980's resulted in Latino Education Institute to close the achievement gap
history of leadership around education
gathered to make our voices heard
"perhaps not reflected in mainstream institutions"
five sets of values: equity, leadership, access, diversity, community
  • What is the candidate's experience in leading a large urban system?
  • management of disparate systems
  • student discipline in schools? dual language and other opportunities?
  • staffing to reflect community?
  • balance of power with local community? involvement of parents and community members?

"We're all in this together" until the education budget needs funding

Last night's comments by Worcester City Manager Augustus to CPPAC that Governor Baker had done a "pretty good job" putting the state budget together, and that schools and city were "all in this together," reminded me of the blowup at the local government meeting with Governor Baker the day before.
“The administration’s public focus is overwhelmingly on charter schools, and while our excellent vocational schools have also received your attention, the majority of public school students are not significantly helped by this budget,” King Phillip Regional School Committee member Patrick Francomano told the governor during a meeting with local officials. Francomano, the immediate past president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said the group is also concerned that Baker and his team “ignored” the recommendations of a 21-member Foundation Budget Review Commission, which held extensive meetings and suggested making formula changes to address the growing costs of the “two biggies” – health care and special education.
“Some of our constituents say that the administration’s commitment to true public education is disingenuous, while others say we are failing to fulfill our constitutional obligation. We are hoping very sincerely that we can continue to work together to assist and improve public education for all of the students,” Francomano said. 
To say that it wasn't well received by the Governor is putting it lightly, but what is telling is how fast the Mass Municipal Association--the group that represents city and town governments--was to back away from any agreement with MASC:
Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoff Beckwith, both during and after meeting, sought to distance his group from the comments made by members of the Association of School Committees. 
“In no way do we question the administration’s support for public education,” Beckwith said.

Here's the thing: it's lovely that the Governor is increasing local aid by what he said he would. That in no way changes or removes the responsibility he has for the state's side of public education IN the actual cities and towns that the aid goes to. The state itself has issued a report---which came out of a commission on which the Governor was fully represented--that the education budget is undercalculated and underfinanced. The Governor, in his budget recommendation, chose to ignore it. That IS NOT supporting public education.
And that means it isn't supporting cities and towns, either. Education budget or no, we ARE all in this together.
We should act like it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CPPAC: Mayor, Superintendent, and City Manager on budget and superintendent search

City Manager Augustus: appreciate all of your interest in the WPS
making sure your children's schools are reflected in the city budget and all the policies in play
have been and maintain a great love for the Worcester Public Schools
"so critically important"
rancor "has not happened since I've been City Manager"
have finite resources
ways we can work together, find economies, coordinate advocacy strategies
One City, One Library: fourth one will open in spring; Libby, Lilly traveling libraries
six after school sites: more than 200 kids showing up a night at Quinsig site
"none of that money is coming out of the Worcester Public Schools budget"
hope to continue to open in more sites in the city
importance of DPH working with WPS on flu vaccines
"not as us and them, but as one"
that's how we're thinking about the budget
"I have to think that I think the Governor did a very good job"
local aid has gone up, ch 70 has gone up
"there are bigger conversations going on about the foundation budget itself"
true cost of educating children in the Worcester Public Schools
based on Governor's budget: "I think we can assume the Governor's numbers are the floor and not the ceiling"
"those suggest the city of Worcester could reduce contribution to" WPS by about $700K
"makes no sense to me that we would do that"
"have made a commitment that we would do better than that"
will be something over minimum
have given $1M more than what was minimally required to WPS for each of past two years
(note: if the city gives $1M over required, and does so by not reducing the $600K or so allowed, that means the city contribution will only go up by about $400K for next year)
"now there's this other number, the net school spending number, and we're going to aim for: that's the North Star"
lots of other things we want; trying to balance all of these various things
city contracts: mid year 2% increases; increase in co-pays and deductibles
"way to try to balance things out"
WPS employees are "still paying old rates" (not true of all incidentally), could come up in contract negotiations
Q: if students are opting to other districts that fund well over foundation, why wouldn't you take the approach to fund beyond foundation?
Augustus: kind of the approach I've been trying to take; some think we should cut taxes
Q: recovery high school, but no transporation provided; limits access
could such funding happen? Rodrigues: affects more kids who live outside Worcester; only four are from Worcester
our students either drive themselves or we provide transportation

Rodrigues: school choice students leaving Worcester; not about asking city for more money
formula is so defunct right now, that we don't get the money that we need
state needs to make corrections to the formula, but billions of dollars
"our money is always one year behind; what drives the budget is the enrollment of the district"
FY17 is reflective of the students enrollment on October 1 (of this school year)
"no more students, no more money"
and inflation was zero
"we're going to start the year with the same income, but the expenses go up"
majority of budget is salary and benefits
typically about 1800 to 2000 students per grade level; layer by layer what services are needed
"always reinventing"
"if we have a gap in the budget, the money has to come from somewhere"
projecting enrollment for each school and each grade; needs by school
Q: is there anything in state budget that allows midyear growth?
Rodrigues: have projection of growth, "but realities is what we have"
this was the pothole account, which often doesn't get funded
Q: but how is it calculated?
Rodrigues: different layers of students provide different layers of money
Q: how much money do we lose to school choice? and can we end school choice?
Rodrigues: school choice is a state law: district can opt to take kids in, but we have no choice on kids leaving
Mayor: kids all leave for different reasons
Rodrigues: some parents choose Worcester because they work here; same scenerio
back and forth here about communication which led to people asking about the Twitter feed and Facebook page

Mayor Petty (on the superintendent search)
have asked if there's more money, to prioritize the schools
"I get more compliments in the last month in the communication"
City Councilors appreciate hearing every week
"we do so many great things out there, it gets lost"
"do a search internally...and not do a national search"
"lots of good people in the Worcester Public Schools"
public hearings last week, job description passed
job description went out internally today
Feb. 29, applications due; March 3, finalists selected
March 4 application materials will be publicly posted on website
March 7-11, finalists will be interviewed
March 14-16: meet and greet with finalists for public
can tell School Committee members what you think
"pretty much an open process"
March 17, selection of the superintendent
so next superintendent can start July 1
Q: can parents be involved, or is this going to be a closed process?
Petty: if it were going to be a national process, I was going to put a group together; with an internal process, there's just three or four people
Q: some question of if it meets equal employment opportunity regulations by being only an internal search?
Petty: will look at it tomorrow
back and forth here about appointments; all previous within recent memory were national searchs
Q to SC: why an internal search? "I was really taken aback...even if we have a really great viable candidate...what was the preciptating factor"
Monfredo: I didn't think we should spend $35,000, and if you look at the searches we had before, we had internal candidates, anyway
parent responds: how do we know we have the best candidates if we don't measure them against the best out there: "if we spend $35,000, and we have the best person here, great! But if we don't spend the money, we don't know that."