Friday, April 29, 2016

The Worcester City Council inquires on the missing $12 million

If you followed the discussion at Monday's Joint Committee, Councilor Bergman (in particular) was intrigued about this missing $12 million, from the 2010 calculation of the foundation budget, in which the state used a different quarter to calculation the inflation that year.
And yes, the difference would be $12 million.

This Tuesday's City Council agenda has the two orders coming out of that meeting that resulted:

FROM THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION - Request City Manager request the City Solicitor render an opinion as to legal options in recovering the 2010 miscalculated foundation education formula dollars ($12,000,000.00) and whether or not there is an applicable statute of limitations.

 FROM THE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION - That the City Council does hereby go on record requesting the State Legislature to include in the final FY17 Chapter 70 state budget an adjustment to the 2010 skipped quarter for the foundation budget inflation factor, as referenced in the final Foundation Budget Review Commission Report, that would provide the Worcester Public Schools an additional $12,000,000 in state aid.

Note that the latter would be for THIS budget being discussed now: FY17.

Calling out school reward systems

It's a great relief to see this article in Rethinking Schools calling out school reward systems:
In fact, rewards distance all of the relationships in a classroom, especially those between teachers and students. What our students (and we) crave is human connection. Our relationships are the heart of our classrooms. Yet, instead of a conversation, a hand on the shoulder, a word, a look—students are given a token. Like a slot machine: stickers in, correct behavior out.

What happens when parents refuse tests?

Good read from New Bedford this morning:
According to DESE spokesperson Jackie Reis, individual schools must maintain a 95 percent participation rate in assessments, the consequence for not doing so being that the school would not be eligible for a level 1 accountability rating. If a school gets less than 90 percent participation, the school cannot be higher than a level 3.
“Generally a district’s accountability level is that of its lowest performing school, so it could have implications on the district’s level based on that,” Reis said when asked if there were any opt out-related consequences for whole districts. “And for tenth grade, it’s still a graduation requirement.”

California may reverse their monolingual bill...and they're going to need teachers

Excellent article from the Hechinger Report on California's effort to reverse the ridiculous Unz law that ended bilingual education, except in particular cases.
This does mean, though, that California is going to need more dual language teachers, of which there already is a shortage.
Both, incidentally, are true of Massachusetts, as well: we are WAY overdue on reversing our parallel law, and we already have such a shortage. We need to step it up in getting the kind of education and support dual language teachers need.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

And as we go through testing season

It's worth giving Jersey Jazzman's post with testing reminders a read.

McDuffy redux? (or Legal Action? What Legal Action?)

In response to this section of last night's joint meeting in Worcester--

--I got some questions today on just what was meant by "legal action."

Note that I am going to elide a whole lot of history here to get to the basic outlines.

Historically, schools in Massachusetts have largely been funded (as schools across the US) by local property taxes. Thus the taxes on property within a town were the source of revenue for schools within that town. That has the result, of course, of towns that have more property wealth having more money available to them to spend on schools, and of schools in different (and sometimes adjoining) towns having schools that look very different.
As a result, there were a series of cases* filed by districts against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts over the 1970's and 80's. These gained some urgency once Proposition 2 1/2, which limited the growth of local taxation to no more than 2 1/2% per year without an override, passed in the state, as that limited the amount that towns could increase their funding of schools (among other services) every year.
Why sue the state?
John Adams!
Yes, (the perpetually quoted by me) Chapter V, Section II of the Massachusetts Constitution explicitly makes education the "duty of legislatures and magistrates" in the state. Magistrates are the town officials; the legislatures meet, as they always have, on Beacon Hill. And Beacon Hill wasn't doing as much as they could to ensure that kids across Massachusetts were getting a good education.
The cases were consolidated into McDuffy v. the Secretary of the Executive Office of Education, and the Supreme Judicial Court decision was handed down in June 1993. Essentially, the districts won: the state was told to make sure that kids across the state were getting an appropriate education:
...the provisions of Part II, c. 5, Section 2, of the Massachusetts Constitution impose an enforceable duty on the magistrates and Legislatures of this Commonwealth to provide education in the public schools for the children there enrolled, whether they be rich or poor and without regard to the fiscal capacity of the community or district in which such children live. It shall be declared also that the constitutional duty is not being currently fulfilled by the Commonwealth. 
The decision is dated June 15; on June 18, the 1993 Education Reform Act was signed into law. While most know it for it (ultimately) being the reason we have the MCAS exam, it also set parameters for the creation of statewide standards of education, and it created the foundation formula that funds K-12 education in Massachusetts.
The foundation formula is progressive in two ways: it allows higher amounts of funding for greater student need, and it requires the state to provide for greater amounts of the funding needed in less wealthy districts.
The state implemented the foundation formula on a seven year rollout, but a number of districts felt that progress wasn't being made quickly enough and that the results weren't bearing out what was required, so another round of lawsuits were filed, which resulted in Hancock v. the Commissioner of Education in 2005. The results of this case were much more mixed, as the SJC found:
The Governor, the Legislature, and the department are well aware that the process of education reform can and must be improved...The amply supported findings of the judge reflect much that remains to be corrected before all children in our Commonwealth are educated. The Legislature may well choose to rely on these findings as it continues to consider efforts to improve public education. Her findings are also a testament to the many educators, teachers, parents, business and community leaders who insist that, until that goal is reached, they will continue to demand improvement and will seek the help of our elected officials to ensure that meaningful reform is ongoing.
"The presumption exists that the Commonwealth will honor its obligations." Bromfield v. Treasurer & Receiver Gen., 390 Mass. 665 , 669 (1983). I am confident that the Commonwealth's commitment to educating its children remains strong, and that the Governor and the Legislature will continue to work expeditiously "to provide a high quality public education to every child." G. L. c. 69, s 1.
The Hancock decision did, however, leave the door open for the districts to come back if, as time went along, the state was not keeping up its end of the bargain.
And that brings us rather neatly to the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which found precisely that. That's why, as I've heard him say multiple times now, Mr. Allen told the joint committee last night:
...and the FY16 benchmark is, for Worcester, over $90 million underfunded by the standards of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.
Thus, if the state doesn't come through on action, there is an argument for re-opening Hancock...a McDuffy redux.
And the state handed us the strongest evidence themselves last November, when they issued the Foundation Budget Review Commission's report.

*including Jordan Levy and others v. the Governor, filed by Worcester's mayor Jordan Levy

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Massachusetts House passed the consolidated budget amendment on education last night

The amendment is here. While there is a sizable list at the beginning of which amendments are included, most are not actually included in the bill that passed. To figure it out, you have to go account number by account number. Any chance we could possibly make this more user-friendly, Legislators? It is our money. 
Many of those that are in the consolidated bill are local items, rather than statewide items.
There is no change to McKinney-Vento reimbursement, to Quality K, to regional transportation, to district determined measures, to the special education circuit breaker.
The reversal of the current Massachusetts standards is not included.
The dual enrollment line item increase did go up to $2M. The $10M pothole account also passed, and it stayed an item specifically earmarked for districts hit by the change to economically disadvantaged.
There is a commission on the rising cost of college included, and there is a commission on low-incidence disabilities.
More as I have it or find it.

Liveblogging from MASC Day on the Hill

The agenda for the morning is here.
Jake Oliveria, president of MASC: resources available to allow you to advocate with reps
recognizing students who are here today
"some of the best lobbying we do here in the State House is usually done over lunch"

Good editorial in the Springfield Republican today

on the Rise Act:
Shadowing this debate is an often unspoken skepticism about whether public education can be lifted. In some quarters, a sense of hopelessness exists that feeds into the notion that charter schools are a rescue operation for education, not just an alternative.
That's a terrible, untrue and self-defeating attitude and one the RISE Act rebuts. Problems exist in public education but they also exist in charter schools, starting with the selectivity involved in the admission process.

"It shall be declared also that the constitutional duty is not being currently fulfilled by the Commonwealth."

This is a wonkish one, but absolutely vital to our discussion of school finance in Massachusetts.
These cases are remanded to the county court for entry of a judgment declaring that the provisions of Part II, c. 5, Section 2, of the Massachusetts Constitution impose an enforceable duty on the magistrates and Legislatures of this Commonwealth to provide education in the public schools for the children there enrolled, whether they be rich or poor and without regard to the fiscal capacity of the community or district in which such children live. It shall be declared also that the constitutional duty is not being currently fulfilled by the Commonwealth. 
conclusion of McDuffy v. Secretary  
The House took up their budget yesterday, first hearing all amendments that had any financial impact (my list of education-related amendments is here). The most notable change the House made in the budget over the Governor's budget is the $55 per pupil minimum, as compared to the $20 per pupil minimum the Governor's budget had.

Now, let me start by allowing that not believing in a progressive funding system is a perfectly legitimate political position. One can think that school funding should not, at the state level, be allocated with regard to what districts and what students have the highest needs. I'd argue that it's wrong, and, in Massachusetts, it's certainly unconstitutional, but that is a political position.

It appears, unfortunately, to be one that some in the State House, on both sides of the political spectrum hold, whether they know it or not.

To see what I mean, you may want to take a look what what I've put into a spreadsheet, which starts with last year's budget, adds the Governor's proposal, and then adds the House's proposal. In every case, there's not only the dollar difference, but also the percent change (a more meaningful measure, I'd argue, given the massively different sizes of districts).

If we were running a truly progressive system--if we were running JUST the foundation budget, without minimum aid of any sort--you'd expect the gains in state aid to follow changes in enrollment (straight enrollment increases or increased need) for districts that have less municipal wealth (in other words, poorer districts).

As you'll see if you sort by percent change (column E for FY16 to Governor's budget; column H for Governor to House; column J for FY16 to House), that isn't what is true of this budget at all.

Here are the ten districts seeing the biggest percent change under the Governor's proposed budget (sorted by column E):

AVON 32%
WALES 15.7%

That's the $20 per pupil minimum increase at work.

The House, of course, jumped that per pupil minimum up to $55 per pupil. As best as I can tell from going through the numbers (so no, this isn't inside baseball), it looks as though that was deliberately selected to be just high enough to pull in Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Brockton, and similar, which are the districts that were struggling to get their economically disadvantaged counts anywhere near the real number of poor kids that they serve. Rather than fix the calculation for this year in some way, the House just stuck in a minimum increase. However, that doesn't best serve the kids that are actually poor, including, ironically, those districts. Here are the ten districts that see the biggest percent gain going from the Governor's $20 to the House's $55 (sorting by column H):

WESTON 2.47%
DOVER 2.3%
MARION 2.29%

Note, of course, that this is added onto the above, as it's a gain OVER the Governor's. Thus the top ten list going from FY16 to the House budget is the same as the Governor's.

Any list in Massachusetts that goes from Weston to Wellesley is eye catching, of course, but the Governor's budget, which give substantial increases to places like Cambridge and Edgartown, which fund their schools at 50% or 100% more than the minimum required, also warrant attention. This is state aid going to districts that not only can well afford to fund their schools from local resources; they're doing that and more, and they're doing so, wanted or not, with a substantial assist from the state.
This state aid ALLOWS wealthier districts to fund at more than minimum, thus avoiding the consequences of the undercalculation of the foundation budget, while at the same time continuing to fund poorer districts at the minimum allowed.

That's wrong.
And in Massachusetts, it's unconstitutional.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Joint meeting: Education and Finance & Operations talks Foundation Budget Review Commission and FY17

which isn't going to start on time...F&O agenda is here.
Present is Bergman and King on City Council, Foley, Colorio, McCullough on School Committee
UPDATE: Rosen came in late. Also present are both Interim Superintendent Rodrigues and Superintendent-elect Binienda 
Foley: FBRC outlines how the state is underfunding education, as it's not been updated over the twenty years of the foundation budget
"still struggling with ways to try to address this"
Bergman: "as the schools go, so the economic engine of the city goes"
discussion has to be necessary
Allen: impact that FBRC would have on Worcester if adopted
the presentation is here

A good read from NPR on school funding

It's well worth reading NPR's second chapter in their school funding consideration. Note their key takeways are: yes, of course money matters IF--

  • it goes to kids who need it most
  • it dependably increases
  • it goes to the classroom
  • and the impact made isn't only measured by test scores.
On several of these, Massachusetts, as reflected in the article, did quite well.
We aren't doing nearly as well any more. 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Worcester meetings this week

It looks like a bumper crop of school-related meetings this week:

Monday morning at 7:30, there is a meeting of the negotiations (with the superintendent-elect) committee. As those are negotiations, I'd assume they'll immediately vote to go into executive session. As we're now at six weeks and counting since the vote to appoint, one wonders what the hold-up is on the contract.

Monday night at 5, there is a Joint Education (City Council) and Finance & Operations (School Committee) meeting. It appears that the discussion is budget. 

Tuesday at noon (erg!) there is a Governance and Employees Issue meeting.  There are a few issues on that agenda: cell phones is on there, though I assume there will not be student or staff comment, given the time of day. The item on a major overhaul of WPS policy (looooong overdue) is also on there.

Also on Tuesday at 5:30 is an Accountability meeting. That has the amount of testing on the agenda. Also, the "Arrested Futures" on student arrests is on the agenda, which certainly warrants attention, as well as the October 1 student count. 

And the full committee meets Thursday.  They'll be opening with the annual school choice hearing (Remember this means school choice IN; school choice OUT is allowed, at the state level). There are a number of recognitions, both happening and requested, plus all of the above subcommittees reporting out. There is no report of the superintendent. Ms. Biancheria, interestingly, is asking that a grievance be reconsidered.
Bill Coleman, adding the School Committee to his rounds of public petitions, is asking that a portrait of the new superintendent be installed in every school. I will leave the historical and literary analogies to others, but they do leap to mind, don't they?
Mr. O'Connell is asking that the School Committee consider the Rise Act (which has passed the Senate; I assume they'd be weighing in on House action).
Mr. O'Connell is also requesting the update of a couple of policies--administration of medication to students and student activity accounts--from recent MASC updates. He's also asking that they update their substance abuse prevention policies (which MASC hasn't updated yet, as the regulations from DESE haven't been issued yet).
The audits are coming! (not attached; I'm assuming you should look for them to turn up in F&O)
Mr. Monfredo is asking that the School Committee go on record supporting the Fair Share amendment.
The School Committee is being asked to set the dates for their budget hearings: there's no backup attached; my best guess is June 2 and 16 at 4 pm.
Mr. Foley is asking that the Committee invited Treasurer Goldberg to talk about the $eedMA program of saving for college.
And there are donations! $100 from Worcester Refugee Assistance Project to Greendale Head Start; $1000 from  Worcester District Medical Society to support the CPR project; and $10,000 from Digital Credit Union  and the DCU for Kids Charitable Foundation for scholarships for graduating seniors.
Finally (but coming first) there is an executive session scheduled to reconsider the grievance (as requested by Ms. Biancheria above) and to update the committee on the superintendent-elect negotiations.
Executive session is at 6; the school choice hearing at 6:45; the regular meeting at 7.
On blogging: I won't be there for the full meeting Thursday; I plan to blog the joint meeting Monday night. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

House Child Nutrition bill would hit remove some from universal free lunch

The House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education released their reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act yesterday. That links to the bill: the release is here; the summary is here. While there are several things going on with the bill, there is one alarming change for a number of districts across the country, as pointed out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (among others):
If Chairman Rokita’s bill becomes law, 7,022 schools now using community eligibility to simplify their meal programs and improve low-income students’ access to meals would have to reinstate applications and return to monitoring eligibility in the lunch line within two years, as we’ve explained.  These schools serve nearly 3.4 million students.  Another 11,647 schools that qualify for community eligibility but have not yet adopted it would lose eligibility. This is due to the bill raising the percentage of students needed for Community Eligibility to 60% from 40%.
CBPP has put together a spreadsheet on which districts in particular would lose eligibility; this of course doesn't include districts that have been fighting to get their eligibility up to 40% (through making sure the records are all in and students are all registered for the programs for which they are qualified).
In Massachusetts, this includes a number of charter schools (including, Worcester, Seven Hills) and at least some schools in the following districts:
  • Athol-Royalston
  • Gardner
  • Gill-Montague
  • Greater New Bedford Tech
  • Hawlemont Regional
  • Orange
  • Quabog
  • Salem
  • Southbridge
  • Taunton
  • Wales
  • Waltham
  • Wareham
  • Webster
  • West Springfield
And, again, this doesn't include the districts that have yet to get to 40% but are working to be sure their records are complete.
Should this be of concern, get in touch with your representative.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April Board of Ed meeting is next week

Please note that I WILL NOT be liveblogging this one, as it happens at the same time as MASC's Annual Day on the Hill, when school committee members from across the state come to the State House.
You can find the agenda here.
The Board's Monday night meeting this month is devoted entirely to social and emotional learning. Remember how I told you that I was sure that the Rennie Center was heading in this direction? Check out who is speaking at the Monday meeting.
On Tuesday, after the usual array of comments, the Board will be hearing about the LEAP, Low-income Education Access Project, which is looking at the disparity that happens in some cases between the access that low income and higher income students have to special education.
They'll be getting updates on Holyoke and on Southbridge, as well as on the Level 5 schools.
They're having a preliminary discussion of some regulations recommended for rescinding.
The Commissioner will be updating the Board on the House FY17 budget.
There will also be a continuation of the discussion on the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

Friday, April 15, 2016

House amendments coming in: UPDATING AS THEY COME IN

You can find them here.
As of yet, nothing on the foundation budget.

UPDATE: a few of note (and updates as available; note that I am writing up only those amendments that impact more than one community; amendments that would build a playground in a particular town and the like are not included below):
Second update: as of this evening, there are 1307 amendments. All those having to do with PreK-12 education are below:
  • Amendment 387 would implement a permanent Foundation Budget Review Commission that would report out every three years, with the next report due January 2018.
  • Both amendments 353 and 436 would amendment McKinney-Vento up to $24M and $20M respectively : UPDATE add 523 also for $24M and 960 for $20.8M
  • Rep. Harrington has in amendment 436 moved that minimum per pupil aid be moved to $100. 
  • Amendment 441 moves regional transportation reimbursement from $60M to $65M.
  • Rep. Sannicandro in amendment 440 adds transportation of students at recovery high schools as a requirement BUT ALSO provides for their reimbursement. 
  • Amendment 678 would, in cases of major student enrollment increases, extend the student enrollment reporting deadline to December 15.
  • Amendment 696 from Reps Decker and Smizik would disallow the use of student assessment data in teacher evaluation; if you're interested, I'd read the language, as it's pretty specific.
  • Disappointingly, amendment 702 is directed to not allowing undocumented students to have in-state tuition. The three sponsors are Lombardo of Billerica, O'Connell of Taunton and Diehl of Whitman, for future reference.
  • Amendment 731 increases the dual enrollment line to $2M.
  • Amendment 761 would reimburse districts for the cost of IT changes necessitated by MCAS 2.0. That's from Rep. Orrall who has been outspoken in opposing the change in testing (and the Common Core, which we'll come back to).
  • Amendment 802 would create a commission to look at the education of children with low-incidence disabilities, with the aim of educating them better and with less cost.
  • The Turning 22 program support is raised to $7M by amendment 811.
  • Amendment 845 was the one we were tweeting about earlier today, coming in from Rep. Ultrino of Malden: full (as best as we can tell) funding of the charter reimbursement line item at $134M. Amendment 1232 raises the reimbursement to $95M.
  • Amendment 912 which raises math and science AP support back to $3.2M also has a number of co-sponsors; it has some fairly substantial language attached, so read it if this is of interest.
  • Amendment 950 for targeted intervention is raised to $8.4M from $7.3M
  • Rep. Peisch sets aside $150,000 for healthy relationships work in schools in amendment 961.
  • Amendment 974 from Rep. Peisch raises the assessment account back up to $29.5M.
  • Rep. Ferguson of Holden amends the pothole for districts that are struggling this year with unrepresented poverty by allowing districts to also look for funding for "significant overpayment of local minimum contribution" which has caused hardship. That's amendment 977.
  • Amendment 979 increases the Quality K grant from $18.5M to $23.9M; amendment 946 raises it to $23.9M; Rep. Mahoney's amendment 1151 also increases Quality K, but to $18.8, reserving at least $1M for the Worcester Public Schools.
  • Amendment 990 is $575,000 for the Safe and Supportive Schools grant
  • Amendment 993 from Rep. Peisch reinstates the MCAS low-scoring support at $4.2M.
  • Rep. Pesich adds "non-profit career technical institution" to those eligible for dual enrollment in amendment 1021.
  • Amendment 1035 adds funding reimbursement for out-of-district vocational transportation.
  • Reimbursement for early education has been a big concern, and amendment 1103 raises that line from $10M to $20M; there are a lot of co-sponsors on that one.
  • Transportation is added to the special education circuit breaker in amendment 1039.
  • Quite a number of co-sponsors (including most of the Worcester delegation) of $500,000 for alternative education in amendment 1058.
  • Amendment 1082 increases the circuit breaker for special education from $276M to $283M.
  • The John and Abigail Adams Scholarship to public colleges and universities in Massachusetts for those students who do well on the MCAS would be extended to private school students in amendment 1096.
  • Amendment 1109 establishes a commission on McKinney-Vento transportation; amendment 1116 holds that any Gateway district spending more than $800,000 on such transportation must be fully reimbursed.
  • Amendment 1110 adds $120,000 in the department of agriculture line specifically for Farm to School.
  • Amendment 1202 increases vocational dual enrollment to $2M from $750,000.
  • Amendment 1209 increases early ed by $2M, provided those $2M are spent on Level 3 and 4 districts.
  • Head Start goes up by $1M in amendment 1205.
  • There is $10M set aside to work on the early education waitlist in amendment 1212 from Rep. Livingstone from Boston.
  • Amendment 1270 and 1273 both from Rep. O'Day; the former sets aside $4M to work on housing for unaccompanied homeless youth; the latter puts aside $150,000 to take a look at the scope of the need.
  • Rep. Orrall puts in amendment 1294 what she has previously filed as a bill: a reversal of the 2010 vote of the Board of Education on the Common Core. I'd be interested if it's actually possible for the Legislature to do this, as the setting of standards is a power reserved for the Board of Education in Massachusetts.
  • Amendment 1301 is directed at Greenfield Virtual Charter; if my count is correct, it cuts this sentences from MGL Ch 71, sec. 94: "In the case of a commonwealth virtual school that is established by a school district, not less than 5 per cent of the students enrolled in the commonwealth virtual school shall be from the school district that established the school." This had come up at the Board of Ed, and it would have the effect of NOT limiting the number of students from Greenfield.
  • Rep. Peisch in 1303 sets aside $200,000 for preschool planning grants. 
And that's what I've found.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The House budget is out! UPDATED

You can find the whole thing here; K-12 education starts with the 7010 accounts. I've tweeted out what I've found for the highlights. MASC and MassBudget have both promised analysis findings tomorrow.

First question: Does it deal with the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings?

I think we can stay with "no" for that one. In the outside sections, there is language (scroll down to section 46) establishing a commission to look at the measurement of low income pupil populations within districts. The commission has to report back by mid-December of this year. However, it's abundantly clear that this is dealing with the Governor's budget switching to economically disadvantaged from free and reduced lunch. The House budget uses this calculation as well, but without changing the law in the outside sections, as the Governor's budget does (which I don't understand, to be frank).AHA! It's there, if you scroll all the way down to just before the local aid numbers on Section 3.
The concession the House budget gives is a one-time pothole account for the districts that were particularly hurt by the change to economically disadvantaged. It's funded at $10 million.
It isn't going to be enough for those districts, to be honest, and the question is if it will be enough of a distraction to keep attention from the larger issue, which is the whole foundation budget still needs to be fixed.

There will be lots of attention to the increase in Chapter 70. Yes, it increased. It also did so in a way--the per pupil minimum, which is not part of the foundation formula--that is unprogressive. That means that this slope from Professor Baker:

will only continue to get worse if the House budget is what we end up with.
(If you want to see what this looks like for your community, check Section 3 in the Governor's budget and then in the House budget [you'll need to use the tab to get there] and scroll WAY down. Then poke around a bit and notice which communities went up and which didn't. That's how you get unprogressive education funding.)

Regional transportation aid is up by a million. Circuit breaker reimbursement is up by $5 million.

There's a new teacher preparation line item for $1.7M, which I'm unclear on what it's doing.

There's also a new line item (7061-9406) for $700,000 for (quite specifically) JFY Networks to do statewide college and career readiness, tested by before and after Accuplacer exam. If anyone wants to look into why we're specifically allocating that to them, I'd be interested. Given that the Higher Ed Board has been working on pilots that move away from using Accuplacer (with some success), this whole thing strikes me as odd and a bit sketchy.

Otherwise, about every line item is either down or the same.

Notable is the charter school reimbursement which is $15 million less than Governor Baker's budget. It also doesn't make the change in how it works that the Governor proposed.

The assessment line item is funded at $3.7 million less (when they're saying we need more to develop the new test).
Targeted intervention is down by $500,000 from Governor Baker's budget.
AP math and science grant is down $500,000 from the Governor's budget.
After and out of school grants are down $500,000 from Governor Baker's budget.
Safe and Supportive schools is down $300,000 from Governor Baker's budget.
And Mass Mentoring is down $100,000.

They don't do the early learning merger that the Governor proposed (watch those line items).

I really don't have anything to add to what was said in the closing of the Foundation Budget Review Commission:
...the good work begun by the education reform act of 1993, and the educational progress made since, will be at risk so long as our school systems are fiscally strained by the ongoing failure to substantively reconsider the adequacy of the foundation budget.
The House budget continues this ongoing failure. 

Oh, and Worcester? Exactly the same as the Governor's budget. The same $3.2M increase up against an $11M level service budget. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

TONY WAGNER! closes NSBA conference

"such respect for school boards in work across the country"
"the formulation of the problem is often more essential than the solution" Einstein

Making School Work for African-American Girls: National Women's Law Center at NSBA Conference

National Women's Law Center presenting today
a lot of work on implementing Title IX, women and economic issues, health, equity
reporting out on report from last year: Unlocking Opportunity
girls of color faring worse than national average girls on almost every measure of academic achievement

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Most Disadvantaged Districts in the U.S.--and Massachusetts has one

Well, Massachusetts we've waited and waited on the Foundation Budget, and we can now say that, we, too, have a district listed on the "most disadvantaged school districts"(see page 3) in the U.S.

Sorry, New Bedford.

It was hinted at when we turned up as high as we did (see Appendix B) in Bruce Baker's report in 2014 on school funding. It has repeatedly been called to our attention (despite DESE always ignoring it in their press releases) on the EdWeek "Quality Counts" report cards.

Bluntly, Massachusetts no longer has a progressive funding system. We. Do. Not. A child in a district that is poor DOES NOT have the same advantages WITHIN THE SCHOOL DISTRICT as a child in a more wealthy district, let alone the extra supports we know children from poverty need in order to succeed.

That's wrong, for sure.

In Massachusetts, it's also unconstitutional.

Social Media for Board Members: presentation by the Maryland Association of Boards of Education at NSBA

Maryland Association of Boards of Education is here on Twitter, BTW.

Coming up as part of the presentation
  • brief what it is "not a lot of slides now"
  • your activity on social media
  • other board members
  • your school system on social media
statistics on social media are larger every year
a lot of which one matters to you depends on who your audience is : choose your venue by audience
"is there a problem with board members on social media? I think there is"
"how to tell your story on social media and not become your story on social media"

GASB Update: NSBA session on Governmental Accounting Standards Board

"I always like it when I get in front of a group because everyone gets to the front of their chairs in excitement"
not accounting 101, but give you some things to look for in your finances

FY17 Worcester Schools budget

as assembled from what I can find online, as Thursday night, I was at the State House. The School Committee is posted online; the budget presentation starts at 30:10. The PowerPoint from Mr. Allen is here; as always, all slides cribbed from that.

Not news, but worth noting: Worcester's utterly getting creamed by the budget calculation this year. Flat(ish) enrollment (down 229, most of it in preschool) is offset by an increase in ELL students, but that is then combined with combined with NEGATIVE inflation. That means no increase (as noted almost immediately in Mr. Allen's presentation) save that ONE TIME increase due to the low income calculation change, and that's only due to Worcester having a high concentration of low income/ economically disadvantaged kids. Also, the appeal of the Title I census number was denied, meaning a loss of $1 million in Title I funding.

As we already knew from previous presentations, level service for next year costs $11M. What's coming in, though, is only going up by $4.6M.
And that doesn't get to anything the principals and schools were requesting, none of which was outrageous, but involved things like content area increases in secondary schools and badly needed support staff across the board. That added up, systemwide, to $11.7M.
And if I may, I'm sure that barely scratches the surface of what is actually needed. This is a system, after all, that is, by foundation calculations, 661 teachers short, remember.

SO a $25.5M increase in need facing a $4.6M increase in revenue.

NSBA Conference: Saturday General Session including Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts: wanted to be here to say thank you "for your passion and compassion"
"proud to stand before you and say that I am a product of the public school system of this country"
first job was driving a school bus

Saturday, April 9, 2016

NSBA Conference: ESSA update

updating as we go...
Zola runs policy and advocacy in DC for NSBA
all material is on the app
"we're only about 50% done; we have the law. Now we have to implement"
"be careful what you ask for"
got more local control; our responsibility to do right by this new law

NSBA Opening Session: Dan Rather

posting once we get there
so much ground I want to cover with you today
Lincoln: never take the time to deny it; the audience will find out soon enough.
moment of silence for "people serving in dangerous places far from home"
product of public schools, including "little Sam Houston Teachers' College" (at the time had 900 students)

Friday, April 8, 2016

National School Board Association Conference posts coming!

I (and the rest of the MASC staff, as well as plenty of School Committee members from across the country!) am in Boston this weekend for the National School Board Association annual conference. I'll be posting here from sessions through Monday. The Twitter hashtag is #NSBAConf, if you'd like to follow along there.

Pre-enrollment charter report is posted

You can find DESE's memo posted here. From there you can download workbooks, if you like.
These are the projected enrollments of the charter schools for next year; charter tuition is based on these. As MassBudget explained earlier this week, however, those are subject to reporting of actual numbers next school year, multiple times. 

Rescheduled Worcester Legislative breakfast is Monday

Monday at 4. Agenda (which hasn't changed) here

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Debate of the Rise Act in the Senate

You can find the bill here. My summary is here. You can find amendments here; my cheat sheet is here. 
updating once we start. The Senate President just gaveled them in and is doing recognitions.
The gallery is filling up; among those here, Secretary Peyser! Not kidding.
just regular business so far. They have the doors to the balcony open. 

AS OF NOON: Senate stands in recess...and we don't know for how long...

2 pm: back in they come....more as anything happens. Rumors have been rife. 
Senate minority asks for summoning of quorum

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Amendments to the Rise Act UPDATED

The following is simply drawn from my notes on the amendments filed to the Rise Act, so I can following along during tomorrow's deliberation (which I plan to liveblog and tweet). I don't promise that they represent all the nuances that may be in each, but they at least hit the main point. The name indicates the main sponsor of the amendment.

  1. Moore: local approval for charters required for local funds to be used; no local approval=state must fund directly
  2. -withdrawn-
  3. Flanagan: charters must follow ch. 30B in purchasing
  4. Flanagan: district and charter must agree on start times, and district (always) only responsible for 50% of transportation costs
  5. Brady: no cap lift on charters
  6. Brady: no change in the Level 3 schools language
  7. Lewis: specifies ELL and special ed data as being part of subgroups to be considered in evaluation; also improvement plans must be compiled by district
  8. Rodrigues: charters eligible for MSBA funding
  9. L'Italien: tightens "at risk" language on charters that can exists as alternative over the cap; also drops "opt-out" from lottery language (the term, not the concept)
  10. L'Italien: "high risk" language only for high school (grades 9-12, not 7-12); insists on "early warning system" not a replacement
  11. L'Italien: like 3 in requiring ch 30B NOW WITHDRAWN
  12. O'Connor Ives: similar to 10 in tightening alternative ed language
  13. Chang-Diaz: calls on DESE to establish regs for lottery; provides for regional charters to be included in a lottery 
  14. Chang-Diaz: requires reporting on reasons for students who leave (both district schools and charters)
  15. Keenan: special commission on dyslexia
  16. Tarr (co-sponsored by L'Italien): report by DESE on innovations of charters
  17. Tarr (co-sponsored by L'Italien): plan for all students reading at grade level
  18. Tarr* (co-sponsored by L'Italien): no solicitation or gifts for families applying to charters
  19. Tarr (co-sponsored by L'Italien): Board of Ed can reconsider granted charter in 6 months if not meeting requirements 
  20. Tarr (co-sponsored by L'Italien): requires a 30 day confirmation that new charters are meeting their requirements
  21. Tarr (co-sponsored by L'Italien): provides for Board revoking charter if charter is not meeting requirements 
  22. Tarr: requires regs for Ch 71 Sec 89 (MGL on charter schools) and regs for waivers of charters not meeting suspension and attrition requirements
  23. Rodrigues: substitute bill (S.2208)
  24. Tarr: establishes a charter working group
  25. Chang-Diaz: adds date to requirement of charters to abide by Ch 222 (date discipline reg changes were implemented)
  26. Moore: requires state to fund charters directly; funds increases to charters on 100/50/25 basis
  27. Pacheco: no cap lift through Sept. 1, 2018
  28. Ross: foundation budget funding for special ed from prior five year ACTUAL average (both in-district and out-of-district)
  29. Chang-Diaz: calls for study of effective and efficient funding (per FBRC recommendation)
  30. Humason: charter regional transportation depends on full funding of regional transportation reimbursement
  31. Chang-Diaz: defines in-district and out-of-district rates for special education (per FBRC)
  32. O'Connor Ives: revamps innovation fund (from section 1) for innovation schools and Horace Mann charters
  33. Welch: adds end time to what must be agreed upon between charters and districts for transportation
  34. Barrett: advanced notice to charters if they aren't lining up with district attrition rates
  35. Barrett: advanced notice to charters if they aren't lining up with suspension rates
  36. Barrett: alternative education exempt from attrition quotas
  37. Barrett: provides for Board to waive attrition quota
  38. O'Connor Ives: covers collective bargaining within the Level 3 section
  39. Barrett: provides for Board to waive suspension quota
  40. Pacheco: requires retroactive approval locally of charter schools
  41. Barrett: provides for charters to remediate their suspension and/or suspension data
  42. Barrett: eliminates requirement for charters to meet with superintendent and have local hearing with school committee
  43. Barrett: requires DESE to do impact analysis (not district)
  44. Barrett: paraprofessionals
  45. Barrett: paraprofessionals
  46. Barrett: paraprofessionals in Levels 3, 4, 5, respectively (44-46)
  47. Dorcena Forry: deals with excessing of teachers (as is done in Boston)
  48. Chang-Diaz: drops the double of "regulation by Board" language (simple language edit)
  49. L'Italien: puts charter schools under school committee oversight; requires that school committee members not be part of charter school (teacher or the like)
  50. Spilka: cleans up the math of the foundation budget calculations (doesn't change anything of recommendation) AND SOME LATE ADDITIONS!
  51. Tarr: substitute bill (S.2210) does create a foundation budget commission; doesn't reform charters
  52. Chang-Diaz: adds "fully" to districts receiving mitigation.

* I should perhaps note that Senator Tarr represents Gloucester; it appears their experience with a charter school has stayed with him.

Yes, MassBudget takes requests!

If you've ever wondered how charter schools in Massachusetts are funded, here's your answer.

ESSA and Chapter 70 reform: Implications for Massachusetts Education

Speaking today:
Pat Francomano, immediate past president, Mass Association of School Committees
Senator Pat Jehlen
Commissioner Mitchell Chester
Professor Martin West, Harvard Graduate School of Education

and moderated by Linda Noonan of Mass Business Alliance for Education

posting as we go

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Rise Act isn't dead yet

Per Senator Rosenberg* this afternoon, Speaker DeLeo responded to a question on the charter reform issue by saying that he looked forward to differences being hammered out in conference committee. That would require the House to have voted on some sort of a charter bill as well.
Thus, the Senate votes Thursday, and the House plans to vote on something.
That doesn't sound like DOA to me.

*in a phone call. So, yes, I'm my own source on this one.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, April 7

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, April 7. You can find the agenda here.
The report of the superintendent (and the big thing on the agenda) is setting budget priorities. It's worth reading the backup for this (the PowerPoint you've already seen from the preliminary presentation in February). It lays out what you probably already know if you've been watching this: the increases in the budget ($4.6M) don't come close to covering a level budget ($11M), never mind the increases the district actually needs ($11.7M at least!).
The meat of the message (from the memo) is here:
 Given uncertainty as to student enrollment and demographics, the state’s foundation budget inflation factor, adoption of the Foundation Budget Review Commission Report, fixed cost increases, and additional contractual or compliance spending demands, it is likely that a reallocation, reduction, and deferred spending on positions and non-salary items will be necessary in order to have a balanced budget. This means that while some areas of the budget will see increases, there will be other parts of the budget may also see a reduction of teachers, other positions and non-salary spending.
So, pay attention. I'd further note that the time frame on all of this is going to be somewhat compressed due to the superintendent transition (just the fact that they're setting priorities in April is late).

That's the big one.

There are a few recognitions.
There's a communication coming in from a citizen regarding the MOU between the schools and the police department.

There are several midyear resignations.
The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior year payment for  $3,536 for McKinney-Vento transportation for homeless students.
There are several requests for recognitions.
It looks as though the School Committee got an email on the Goddard Scholars program, as there are not one, but two items regarding expanding it.
Mr. Monfredo wants administration to create an early learning committee to consider lobbying for full-day preschool funding, discussing a two year kindergarten program, and "gradually advancing 4 year olds yearly, based on readiness" (and I don't know what that means).

The vet tech program at Worcester Tech is getting a grant of $347,882.

There are donations of $500 for the Worcester Tech robotics team; $100 for the CPR project; and $1000 for the CPR project.

There is a Rice Square/Lake View sharing best practices grant coming in for $6658.

There is an executive session before the meeting for negotiations with the incoming superintendent (no contract as yet); collective bargaining (no group specified); and two grievances.

The policy handbook is going off to subcommittee. 

I do not plan to be there; here's hoping the press coverage is good!

Commissioner Chester on testing

Interestingly, DESE felt it necessary to post a message from Commissioner Chester regarding testing.
Probably, if you follow this, nothing there that you haven't heard before. 

ESSA and Chapter 70 reform presentation Wednesday

On Wednesday of this week: