Saturday, July 28, 2018

Look at those columns!

The FY19 foundation budget spreadsheets are posted, and look at that ELL implementation!

Extremely important point: if you compare last year's ELL to this year's ELL, this year will look lower, BUT IT ISN'T! Remember, they've made it an INCREMENT: your ELL students are no longer a separate count with a base+ as the dollar amount; they're now included in your general by-grade (or program; vokes, you get ELL recognition this year!), and then the ELL is additional dollars on TOP of that. Don't be thrown by the change!

If you'd like an idea of what your district is netting out after charter school impact and/or getting for regional transportation reimbursement, you can check the Department of Revenue's cherry sheets.

Friday, July 27, 2018

I really want to like this editorial

I gets so much right! It gets that we need all four parts implemented! It gets that studies have been done! It gets that kids can't wait!
And then...we fall into this:
The Senate’s approach could lead to misallocation of resources. For instance, it’s unlikely that the cost of educating a 15-year-old from Central America with limited literacy in his or her native language is the same as educating a 5-year-old native Spanish speaker. While the 2015 foundation budget review commission recommends a flat increment added to the rate per pupil, a study like the one proposed in the House would ensure that such differences are reflected in funding.

First of all, Boston Globe, this is precisely the sort of thing a newspaper is supposed to be good at: you're supposed to follow an issue, report on it, and then, when a year or more later, people make the same tired arguments, you can say, "Hey, we had this debate already and HERE was the answer that was decided!"
Except you didn't follow the FBRC meetings that closely, so you don't know that this precisely argument--do you tie the money to particular spending---was had at length in the meetings. The conclusion? THE STATE OWES THE DISTRICTS THIS MONEY FOR SERVICES PROVIDED! The districts are already providing services to kids; they just aren't being funded for it. You don't get to layer on NEW requirements. KNOCK IT OFF!

Plus let's be real for a minute: the top rate this year for ELL is $2354 for middle school students, which has been the highest rate since this part was implemented. The recommendation from the Commission was that all students be moved to this rate. Thus for every ELL student they serve, a district gets at most $2354 on top of the amount of funding that comes along for that child already.

What do we need for kids who are learning English? We need additional curriculum. We need maybe some additional services (both for them and their families). Most of all, of course, we need teachers.
Do some quick math: for every ten kids learning English, a district gets $23,540...not going to get a teacher for that. Or for have to get quite a number of kids before you have enough funding to hire an additional teacher.

Can we get a grip for a minute and realize that A) this isn't a ton of funding and B) we already know what districts are going to do with it. They're going to do what districts did, for example, when kids from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands showed up and the funding came through: they're going to get those kids the services they need!

You came so close, Boston Globe! 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

"Our children should not wait any longer."

Advocacy on the foundation budget bill reconciliation coming in from Foxboro today:
Any missed opportunity to invest in our kids stunts all of our collective futures. When we provide adequate educational resources for all children, we provide a foundation, an opportunity for success regardless of the child’s background.
We know that there are competing budgetary priorities for all publicly funded entities, but we are fierce competitors prepared to battle for our children.
Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, and Jason McCourty of the New England Patriots argue in favor of implementation of all aspects of the foundation budget. It was even mentioned at today's press conference:

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Two things to read today

  • EdWeek notes that the push to opt-out of standardized testing has, post-ESSA, gone rather quiet. 
  • This piece from EdBuild on the stranding of low income districts in states in which schools are largely dependant on property taxes is important. It also has implications in Massachusetts, as our districts become increasingly dependant on property taxes. 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

of all of the things Worcester could be spending this money on

...cameras and plastic buckets of what ALICE thinks is important...?

The federal government, too, has opened its coffers for school security spending, according to school officials like Worcester school safety director Robert Pezzella, who said his district specifically benefited from a bigger carve-out for that area in the U.S.′ annual Title IV assistance last year. After getting $60,000 for building security upgrades in the district’s allocation last year, he said the school department could see up to $200,000 this coming year for potential safety needs. 
“We seem to be in good times now,” he said, after previously seeing a “very dry spell” for school security funding at the state and federal levels. 
Worcester has used that extra money, along with its own annual $100,000 school safety budget line item and various government grants, to pay for extensive surveillance system improvements at the secondary level, according to Mr. Pezzella. This past year, the district installed dozens of new cameras and associated software at Worcester East Middle School, Forest Grove Middle School, Claremont Academy and Doherty Memorial High School. Mr. Pezzella hopes to make similar upgrades at Burncoat High School and South High Community School this coming year. 
“It’s much more expensive now than it used to be” to put in that new equipment because of the technology’s move to internet-based software, he said, adding the cost to revamp Worcester East Middle’s surveillance system, which involved putting in between 15 to 25 cameras around the building, was around $25,000 alone, for example. 
The district spent around $40,000, meanwhile, to buy around 1,400 Go Buckets for the coming school year – about one for each home classroom in the district, according to Mr. Pezzella. While the cost of the supplies is built into the per-bucket cost, he added, school officials got to pick out the specific items they wanted included in them, like hornet spray – an alternative to mace, which is not allowed on school grounds, that can be used to potentially incapacitate a violent intruder up to 12 feet away.
 The lack of deliberation that's taking place on this spending in Worcester is an abrogation of process.

Note also, that the positions the article notes in passing? One year, grant funded. When the grant funding vanishes...?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Justice delayed is justice denied

MassBudget released their long-awaited update to "Cutting Class," the report that gave numbers to our original sense that the foundation budget wasn't adequately supporting public education in Massachusetts. The report is entitled "Building an Education System That Works for Everyone: Funding Reforms to Help All Our Children Thrive" (and if I have a complaint about it, it's that the title is way too long; I've already mentally dubbed it "Cutting Class 2: Here's Hoping We Don't Need a 3.")

Some days, it's hard not to be disheartened by working on this. Yesterday, when I clicked open the report and saw the updated cost gap graph--the original of which I've seen, used, talked about often enough that I have it clear in my mind--was one of those times:

Here's the 2011 version:
In seven years, we've increased the gaps by half a billion dollars.

I think you can boil the message of the report down to this quote from the first page:
While there has been a growing consensus about the shortcomings of the existing school funding system, progress on fixing it has been elusive. While our economy is now years into a recovery, with economic conditions as good as they have been in decades, we have not seen significant new investments in our schools that would help them provide all children in the Commonwealth with real opportunity to succeed.
 Here's what the gap in meeting adequate spending looks like for the lowest wealth districts:
Statewide, thus, the lowest wealth districts, which have some of the neediest kids and some of the highest concentrations of them, have only a bit over two thirds of the teachers that they're supposed to have in the classroom. MassBudget reports that of the 322 districts in the state, "146 spend less on regular education teachers than the formula calls for and 254 districts spend less on materials and technology."
And we're supposed to be shifting to greater uses of technology.

At the same time, we know districts that can have been making up the difference with local funds: 
In 2016-2017, districts spent $2.46B (23.3 percent) more than their requirement across the state, with the median district spending 29 percent more. This pattern provides clear evidence that district decision-makers find the current funding amounts in the foundation budget inadequate to meet the needs of their schools.
In other words, local municipalities are deciding on their own to raise and spend local revenue on schools, over and above the state's calculation, because the state's calculation isn't enough.

In direct contrast to the House's contention that more research is needed for implementation, MassBudget went ahead and modeled implementation; after all, check the notes: they have done reams of research on what works for low income students. They offer phased in implementation over five years, with a option for "everyone gets some," which, again, is not constitutionally required.
While I have not yet had time to play with the spreadsheet on how this works district by district, I plan to and you should.
And I hope the conference committee is.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

We have a state budget (almost)

Gin beat me to the Latin:
You can download the whole 331 pages of H4800 here.
In terms of education, as just about always this budget cycle, "not bad" is the theme. The big news is that the Ch. 70 number is not only the Senate number, it also adopts the Senate language, which not only further added to health insurance implementation, it made English learners an increment above the base!
YES, that's some additional FBRC implementation motion!
If you're in Worcester, note that the conference committee taking the Senate number means there will be a revised budget with additional positions: good news!
It remains a $30/per pupil minimum increase, and 100% gap closing (which was in the Senate version as well). The Ch. 70 line also includes the House-included assistance for districts that were particularly hit by the low income change; that money is to be out to districts by September 1.

What else is going on?
  • The always messy line for DESE (because everyone sticks earmarks in it) is down a bit, but it looks as though that is a matter of what earmarks are in it.
  • METCO comes through at $22.1M, same as the Senate.
  • The early literacy line is up $50K, a bit over $2M in total, with a few earmarks.
  • It looks as though conference committee took a whole bunch of the educational earmarks and stuck them into one line item (7061-1192), so if you're checking for something, you might start there. The line totals $1.6M. The one thing of more general interest is that it includes $50K for the Berkshire County Task Force. 
  • School-to-career connecting activities comes in at $5M, with some earmarks.
  • The line for ELL programs is up $1M from the Senate to $2.5M.
  • Institutional schools is the same as the Senate, at $7.4M.
  • Adult ed comes in at $33.3M. 
  • Regional transportation got the Senate W&M amount of $68.8M.
  • The Senate effort to reimburse transportation for non-resident vocational students came through at $250K.
  • McKinney-Vento reimbursement for homeless students took the higher House number of $9M.
  • The AP line is higher than the Senate at $2.8M (Senate had $2.5M). 
  • The lunch line stays at $5.3M and keeps its $10K earmark for Weymouth.
  • The breakfast line is $4.9M, including earmarks.
  • As above, Ch. 70 largely takes the specifics of the Senate, including the ELL language, though it also includes the $12.5M pothole for low income, which came from the House. The minimum per pupil increase is $30; 100% gap closing. 
Important point on the language in Section 3 for Chapter 70: DESE "shall submit to the house and senate committees on ways and means not later than September 1, 2018 its further recommendations for additional adjustments to the chapter 70 foundation budget calculation for fiscal years 2020 and beyond." This means the Legislature is REQUIRING A REPORT on improving reporting on the calculation of low income students BY SEPTEMBER 1. As this was among the major arguments the House was making in favor of their education funding bill, it appears the budget has now dealt with that.
  • The promised $15M for districts that have students evacuated due to Hurricane Maria is included.
  • Circuit breaker hits an unprecedented $319M; it really looks as though they're trying for full funding! There is a $200K earmark for Best Buddies, as well as $250K for extraordinary relief (for districts seeing extreme increases).
  • District accountability audits are funded at $891K.
  • The federal impact aid makes it in with an increase; now $1.4M.
  • Charter reimbursement takes the House W&M $90M (the Senate had $100M).
  • Innovation schools come through at $200K.
  • Education data analysis is (weirdly down $1514?) $522K.
  • CORRECTION: on the battle over the MCAS: $32M came through (what DESE asked for, the Governor put in, the House amended to, and the Senate didn't have): there is a specific set aside of $1M for the history/civics/social studies assessment.
  • MCIEA gets the Senate (as amended) amount of $400K for development of alternative assessment and accountability.
  • The Accuplacer/JFYNetworks (which at some point someone is going to figure out what they're about) line is $700K.
  • Targeted intervention is up to $7.5M, though $150K of that is for youth workers in Everett and Chelsea.
  • Expanded learning time is $13.9M (same).
  • The line that allows DESE to actually spend the fees it collects from certification on certification rather than having it go back into the general fund made it in.
  • Recovery high schools at $3.1M (same as Senate).
  • After school programs at $4.2M with a lot of earmarks.
  • Safe and supportive schools are up $100K to $700K.
  • WPI's Mass Academy is in $1.5M
  • YouthBuild comes in at the $2.4M of the Senate.
  • Mass Mentoring the same $750K as the Senate.
  • Conference committee did include the $56,920 in regional bonus aid
  • Prevention of child sexual abuse is funded at the same $400K from the Senate.
  • The push for rural school aid yielded real dollars this year, with $1.5M included for "school districts serving fewer than 11 students per square mile" plus a required report on future needs on such aid. 
  • And the summer learning competitive grant program comes in at $500K.
The budget has to be passed by both the House and Senate, then it goes to the Governor, who may veto what he likes. We're running up against the end of the session on the Legislature's ability to override those vetoes.

UPDATE: to note that both chambers had passed the budget by the end of the day.

Monday, July 16, 2018

And on the House education funding bill?

Lively Worcester School Committee agenda for July

Not a dull agenda for July!

First, note that there is a Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meeting on Thursday immediately preceding the full School Committee meeting at 3:30 pm at City Hall; it appears as though this is only to approve the four new courses listed, 'though they persist in just listing every item that has been referred there on the agenda, which is not okay.

The full Committee meets at 4 pm (it's summer) at City Hall, but note the "now they're here, now they're not" schedule:
  • 4:00 p.m. - Regular Session 
  • 5:00 p.m. - Executive Session 
  • 6:00 p.m. – Regular Session and Proposed Strategic Plan
The message appears to be that if you're there for the strategic plan, you should come at 6.

There are recognitions and congratulations.

The superintendent's midcycle review opens the meeting; this appears to be a 46 page PowerPoint (which is sideways online) in which Superintendent Binienda has filled out the rubric required of school committee evaluators, marking herself as "proficient" in all standards save human resources; law and policies; all of the family and community engagement section; commitment to high standards; communication; and managing conflict, in which she has rated herself "exemplary." Per the state, an "exemplary" rating means quite literally one could be used as an example of this standard and could teach it. Appropriately assessed, it is quite rare. This appears to be followed with what looks like an update on district work--changes and updates in curriculum, required implementation of changes in standards, continued PD and such--as evidence of goals.  
If you think this is what a superintendent self-eval should look like, I'd urge you to look at what superintendents and school committees in other districts set as goals and discuss as evidence. This is really troubling.

The pre-meeting TLSS meeting will report out.
The Superintendent has posted: School Bus Service Manager, School Bus Router, Acting Transportation Operations Supervisor, Transportation Liaison, and School Bus Driver - Full Size Bus as non-represented (non-union) positions.

The strategic plan, as above, is on the agenda. From the agenda, it looks as though the Research Bureau and Worcester Educational Collaborative are going to be presenting a sort of summary (?); there is no public hearing session, and the committee is meeting in regular formal session, so it isn't clear how or if things are going to be deliberated formally in order to refine, amend, or develop the plan.
As part of the same item, there is a presentation on the WPS rebranding effort, which would look like this:
You can see the PowerPoint for the process of development.
Did anyone ever ask how much any of the previous parts cost?

Miss Biancheria is requesting the number of staff on leave.
The committee needs to select their represenatives to the MASC Delegate Assembly.

Mr. O'Connell (supported by the rest of the committee save Mayor Petty) has submitted the following item:
To discuss projected litigation as to the obligation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assure an “adequate education” to Massachusetts children, including potential plaintiffs, litigation funding sources, and a timeline.
This is of course the push for a new foundation budget lawsuit, which you may have read more over the weekend.
The new crowdfunding and educational surveys policies are up for review.
Apparently, the $7.4M in revolving funds weren't approved during the budget deliberation, so they--and the updated budget total--are now.
There's a--quite good!--appropriate school response to immigration activities policy memo for approval. It appropriately centers on the child, requires district response for ICE activities at schools, and reinforces the district's non-involvement (as per requirements) in enforcement. My only complaint is we should have had this years ago. Nonetheless...

There's a prior year payment to College Board for testing and to an instructional technology coach.
Mr. O'Connell wants to be sure there are sufficient AEDs.

There's a request that the committee approve the student handbook; the changes are here. Interestingly, this is being added to the "student access" section: "Certain individuals, including school personnel, police, and employees of certain state agencies may be granted access to students in the performance of their official duties." That seems...troubling. They're also cutting inclusion of the actual due process language on student discipline, putting it only on the website, which also seems troubling.
In the homework section, what was a minimum per-subject homework policy of 45 minutes is now being amended to add "or 1 hour for AP." The homework policy was already ridiculous in being time-based; this just makes it 15 minutes worse.
Also, the non-discrimination policy doesn't have "pregnancy and pregnancy-related" added yet and it should.
The entire policy manual of the Worcester Public Schools is also up for approval.

Mr. O'Connell wants to review indirect costs again.
Miss Biancheria has asked that the "Accountabilty and Student Achievement" subcommittee be renamed "School and Student Performance" which is apparently what the office is being renamed, as well.
There are donations to be accepted:
- $8,000.00 from SME Education Foundation/General Motors to Worcester Technical High School Advanced Manufacturing Program
- $250.00 from WEDF to Woodland Academy
- $500.00 from Metso USA, Inc., to support the Exhilarate Worcester Initiative at Woodland Academy
- $250.00 from WEDF to Tatnuck Magnet School
- $250.00 from WEDF to Lake View School
- $2,000.00 from Saint-Gobain to Lake View School
- $738.82 from Lake View School PTO to Lake View School
- $2,000.00 from Furniture Trust Organization, Inc. to Worcester Alternative School
- $600.00 from Sunbelt Rentals Inc. to South High Community School Diesel Program
- $250.00 from WEDF to Lincoln Street School
- $250.00 from WEDF to New Citizen Center
There is an executive session for Plumbers, Steamfitters and Tradesmen.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Take notes

As I've been following the discussion around the House bill, I had this haunting sense that this discussion--do we move forward with just sped and health insurance? do we need to do all kids?--seemed familiar.
So I checked my notes.
As I think I've said before, I started this blog lo these many years ago as a record for those who couldn't make it to Worcester meetings around school finance, as recognition that the Telegram & Gazette was never going to cover everything. And then I started going to state meetings. And here we are.
Thus, to my knowledge, no one else has notes out there that follow the discussion that was happening three years ago May about what the Foundation Budget Review Commission was going to do. The FY15 budget (passed in June 2014) had given the Commission a June 20, 2015 deadline. They had begun meeting in the fall of 2014, had held hearings over the winter, but as of May, had come to consensus only on health insurance and special education.
In order to get an extension, they had to get legislation passed by both parts of the Legislature.

My notes from that May 5, 2015 meeting are here; if you scroll down to "Chang-Diaz and Peisch offering proposals to discuss about moving forward," you'll see what I mean: Representative Peisch wanted to push ahead and get the proposals they had for those two items out there for the deadline. She argues that there is a clear interest in those two proposals, that it sends a clear message to the Legislature to come back on deadline with those two items. (I'll note that Peisch was consistent in this, as she said the same in speaking to MASBO that same month.) She doesn't talk a lot about anything else needing to be in the report.
Senator Chang-Diaz notes the concern that leaving off other recommendations lessens the urgency for them, and others argue that the report doesn't fulfill the charge of the Commission in only doing special education and health insurance, particularly given what they had heard at public hearings.
Interestingly, Commissioner Chester argues for the need for greater deliberation, 'though he says he isn't sure they'll come to consensus.
Eventually, on a motion from former Secretary Paul Reville, the Commission votes unanimously to issue an interim report in June that not only reports out special ed and health insurance, but lists the issues to be resolved, to request an extension from the Legislature, and to issue a final report by November 2015.
Which is what happened.
This was enough of a heated disputed, however, that it came up at the following meeting on June 9, 2015, when then MASC President Pat Francomano asked that the minutes be clarified to include specifically that the report would include a list of items still to be dealt with, which was not included to his satisfaction. At that meeting, there was an extensive discussion on potentially tying any new funds to specific requirements, which disturbed me enough that I wrote about it the next day. I noted elsewhere this week that this argument has also come back:

Thus while the positions of who is arguing to move ahead and who is arguing to stop have changed, the "why" has not. The urgency of the needs BEYOND those of special education and health insurance haven't, it seems, gotten any more traction than they had three years ago, when they wouldn't have made the report had it been left to Rep. Peisch. There is, of course, irony that somehow we're going to magically have the comprehensive report some think we haven't gotten in four years of work in six months, but I suppose it's easier when that work has already been done.
Additionally, much of the conversation of this past week has been the same parties making the same unsuccessful arguments that they made three years ago. Those arguing just to move on special education and health insurance, leaving out ELL and low income, and on tying districts that are owed hundreds of millions of dollars already under the current system somehow needing to prove worthliness are old, tired, wrong, and privileged.
It's a shame the House bought it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

House on the foundation budget

I've been tweeting coverage of the House taking up bill H4730, implementing some parts of the Foundation Budget Review Commission.
Rep. Peisch in her address said, among much else, that there was no specific recommendation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission on English language learners. This is not the case; if you read page 10 of the report, there is a specific dollar amount included. If she was concerned about a full statewide calculation, that is easy math. We don't need more study for that.

Both Rep. Sanchez and Cabral spoke in other languages (Sanchez in Spanish, Cabral in Portuguese) while addressing English language learning.

Most notably, Rep. Vega, who had proposed a bill that would fully implement the recommendations, withdrew his amendment, so no rep had to take a position on it.

UPDATE: At 4:20, the House adopted a technical amendment with no debate and began a roll call on the bill. The technical amendment requires the report they're requiring on ELL and low income students to come back with specific actions in time for inclusion in the FY20 budget.

UPDATE: Bill passes 147-0

The bill thus goes to conference committee, where House and Senate members will attempt to come to an agreement over the bill's particulars.

Commissioner says no new Level 4 or 5 schools this fall

Breaking news from the MASS Executive Institute this morning:

You can follow the rest of what's happening there at their hashtag #MASSUPTEI18

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The House is leaving the most vulnerable kids out: UPDATED WITH WHAT'S IN

Sure enough, per State House News (paywalled):

The bill, which is being polled by the Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday afternoon, would specifically make adjustments to the formula in how it accounts for special education and health insurance costs.
The five-page bill also directs the Department of Education to conduct a study on how the formula meets the needs of low-income and English language learner students with the goal of making recommendations to the legislature on ways to serve those populations.

We did a study. Three years ago.

Time to call your reps and tell them leaving poor kids and kids learning English out is not fair, equitable, just, or okay in any way with you.


I've put the bill in my Dropbox here for your perusal. I also just did a Twitter thread starting here on what's in it and what's not. Here's what it looks like:

  • On in-district special education, the House bill bumps the assumed enrollment to 4% for most districts, 5% for vocationals. That's more than the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendation of 3.75% of regular districts, 4.75% for vocationals. Better than recommendation.
  • On out-of-district special educaton, the House bill multiplies the statewide average per pupil foundation budget by THREE before subtracting the average plus the out-of-district cost rate. The Foundation Budget Review Commission multiplied by FOUR before the subtraction. Worse than recommendation.
  • There is then a very, very long (longer than the funding section) section on data collection. This was part of the FBRC recommendations, but is also already being partly dealt with through MASBO working with DESE. The final section allows for a researcher "subject to appropriation" to do this. Meh.
  • On ELL and low income, the House bill sends them to DESE for study, calling for an independent reseacher (which the bill does not fund), to report back in December of 2018. The House bill calls for precisely what the Foundation Budget Review Commission researched and responded to, plus work DESE has already been doing on capturing all low income students in the count. THIS STUDY HAS ALREADY BEEN DONE THREE YEARS AGO (check page 9 and following) and continues to kick the can on our most vulnerable student populations. Much worse than recommendation

What should you do now?

  • Call your reps.
  • Tell them you appreciate the House taking action.
  • Note that this bill DOES NOT implement the recommendations of the Commission.
  • Ask them to propose and support amendments to IMPLEMENT the already-studied-and-vetted-and approved recommendations on English learners and low income students. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Thread from me on what to watch for as the House takes up ed funding


Per State House News, Speaker DeLeo today said that the House would take up a school funding bill this week; the bill is not yet released. What we know (via tweets from various reporters):

Now, there IS other language that could fully implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations other than the Senate language.

We should, however, be careful, as I noted earlier in this Twitter thread; it's going to very tempting to some to JUST do special education and health insurance. Those are the "everyone has some." What does that leave out? The poor kids and the kids learning English. That would be incredibly unjust.

Let's you forget what those recommendations are, they involved months of study, not only by the Commission but by those consulting and working for them, and included the following:

Regarding ELL students:
1. Convert the ELL increase from a base rate to an increment on the base rate.
2. Apply the increment to vocational school ELL students as well.
3. Increase the increment for all grade levels, including high school, to the current effective middle school increment of $2,361. This would increase the range of ELL-only weightings and expand available funds for staff-intensive high school age interventions.
Note, of course, that the rate above is from 2015; we are now in FY19, so the rate would need to be increased accordingly. We should note, of course, that those who have the most to lose by ignoring ELL students is the vocational schools, which until now have received no funding for English learner students.

And regarding low income:
1. Increase the increment for districts with high concentrations of low income students. The Legislature will need to determine specific increments based on further review of data and debate, but based on its review of national literature, practices in other states, and model districts within our own state, the Commission offers the guidance that that weighting should fall within the range of 50%-100% and that multiple concurrent interventions are necessary to effectively close achievement gaps. The final decision should provide high poverty school districts with enough funding to pursue several turnaround strategies at once.
2. Ensure that any new definition of economically disadvantaged (necessitated by districts’ shift away from collection of free and reduced school lunch eligibility data) properly and accurately count all economically needful students.
3. Leave the exact calculation of each increment to legislative action.
Note that the Commission had done an extensive review and thus had recommendations about what was necessary in order to be successful. They drew on work not only across Masssachusetts, but study across decades of what worked. This was not a harum-scarum report that made stuff up; there was actual data to support the conclusions.
The plan further required that plans be posted online and that districts be allowed flexibility in implementation. 

Thus those two sections are not late additions or subsets or any of the other secondary status they've been afforded in some of the coverage. Yes, the health insurance and special education sections are MORE EXPENSIVE; that doesn't make them MORE IMPORTANT.
In fact, what will demonstrate if the Massachusetts House truly supports the Constitutional guarantee to our education will be if they support the ELL and low income sections. THESE ARE THE NEEDIEST KIDS. These kids, we know, need extra support. If the House ignores them, or further kicks the can, claiming "more study is needed," they don't really support the Constitutional guarantee. It will be the most vulnerable kids--poor kids and kids who don't speak English--who are hurt by such a bill.
And can we, Massachusetts, really afford, particularly in this time, to further disadvantage such children?

On loving kids

From this weekend's Philadelphia Inquirer
The children of God are trapped in a cave outside of Mae Sai, Thailand — some 8,000 miles away — but they are also hopping atop moving trains and wading across dangerous rivers to flee the gangs in San Pedro Sula, or they are trapped in neighborhoods in Philadelphia or Chicago where the murder rates are too damn high. God’s children are our children, too, but we grown-ups can have funny ways of showing our love and mercy.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Worcester has buses!

As I've said before, I may be too excited about this...

For the transportation geeks (is that a thing?) out there, the tip off is the second photo, where it says "Owned/Operated by the Worcester Public Schools." All of the other big buses in Worcester say "Durham" there. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Michigan case and "access to literacy"

I've seen a lot of displeased reactions to the dismissal in federal court of the case in Michigan, finding that students do not have a fundamental right to "access to literacy." I've seen a few things missed, however.
This was federal court, meaning the plantiffs were making a U.S. Constitutional argument. However, there's a clear, longstanding record on education largely not being covered under the U.S. Constitution; it is reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution. The case generally cited on this is San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, which at heart was a school finance case, arguing that the Texas funding system, being heavily dependent on property taxes (sound familiar?) was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court found, 5-4, that the system did not violate the equal protection clause and there was not fundamental federal right to an education.
This is why most cases on school funding are made in state courts, citing state constitutions' language on education. In the case of Michigan, this had already been tried, citing the Michigan constitution:
That constitutional provision states that "the means of education shall forever be encouraged," and "the Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free elementary and secondary schools."
The earlier case was decided against the plantiffs:
But the Michigan Court of Appeals dismissed that lawsuit in 2014, saying:
"The cited provisions of the Michigan constitution require only that the Legislature provide for and finance a system of free public schools. The Michigan constitution leaves the actual intricacies of the delivery of specific educational services to the local school districts."
 And the Michigan Supreme Court declined to take up the case on appeal.
Note that in all of the above cases, the responsibility of the state to have schools was not under question. What the constitutional parameters (both state and federal) of that responsibility requires is what was being decided. The case decided this week doesn't appear to much change what we already knew of the federal responsibility.
as always, I'm not a lawyer...I just spend time following this stuff.