Monday, April 29, 2019

Post-blog of the Worcester Public Schools FY20 budget hearing

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

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

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

foundation budget going up $21.7M:

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

Change from FY19:

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

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

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

After a posting issue last week caused a same-day cancellation of the main meeting, the agenda for this week includes the entire agenda from last week, which I covered here. As Worcester Magazine notes, the executive session again includes the superintendent's contract.

In addition to some new recognitions and such, it also includes:
  • requested acceptance of a grant for $110,000 for improving mental health access; it appears that this is $10,000 for professional development and $100,000 to "secure supervision" for community agencies to provide the actual mental health services, which would appear to mean that this is simply to keep the buildings open.
  • requested acceptance of a state grant of $178,560 for teacher diversification, which only runs through August?, to include: assessment of practices in the school district by a state designated vendor to review district policies and procedures and identify the cultural proficiency and anti-bias training neesd for district hirning managers, teachers, principals, and school committee members...
    ...which seems like a report that ought to be made public, plus support for IAs to become teachers.
  •  voting for the delegate and alternate for the MASC annual Delegate Assembly (in November...)
  • a prior year payment of $1,069.10 to a custodian 
  • a prior year payment of $3,038 to a computer tech 
  • a prior year payment of $1,444.43 to a nurse
  • Ms. McCullough, supported by Mr. Monfredo and Mr. O'Connell, suggests the hiring of a Director of Corporate and Community Relations 
  • Ms. Biancheria, along with Mr. Monfredo and Mr. O'Connell, requests "that the Facility Division clean areas of growth at school sites to make student pathways clear and safe." 

For your listening...

If you'd like to hear me riff on education policy, Worcester schools, and local politics, I went on 508 with Mike Benedetti and Brendan Melican on Friday; you can see it here. I'm just honored that they keep having me on even after I still haven't seen season 4 of The Wire.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

April Board of Ed: House Ways and Means budget

backup is here

O'Donnell: HW&M builds off framework of House 1
clarifying question from McKenna: "And that IS the Governor's budget?"
about $218M increase over FY19
increasing over inflation: "one-sixth of the gap proposed in House 1" on benefits; and towards econo disad in deciles 6-10 (1-5 by inflation alone)
I am SURE that no one is going to understand this
"House Ways and Means is accelerating implementation" while using the same ultimate goal
did not fund increment for high needs
adds back in the students dropped as English learners under Governor's budget
adds back about 6000 students
$16.5M on low income; about $6M is for academic support grants; $10.5M for pothole accounts

April Board of Ed: annual report of State Student Advisory Council

There's a backup here, but they have a better PowerPoint, which I'll see what I can share later

looking for stronger world language and culture education and reform in Massachusetts
cognitive beneifts of learning another language
need to produce a global citizen
standards are too loose; need more access and funding for foreign language
"there is movement and there is a push for" greater access to foreign languages
"a student-led social media platform" on Twitter here
disconnect with world language program at DESE
discussion of if state should adopt national framework
high school graduation requirement of at least two years
4th grade baseline
need for feedback from students on language
challenge of disconnect between Department and the students
hope to work with legislators on drafting a bill
Morton asks for impact on knowing another language
"amazing just to be immersed in Chinese"
"I can't imagine what my life would be without Chinese"
"how attractive it is to be a global citizen"
Moriarty thinks it would be great to make the case for ancient languages across the state
A: proficiency in foreign languages taken by normed exam
Fernández speaking in Spanish comments (I believe) that she appreciates the work they're doing on the importance of other language
what about working with populations that do not speak English?
A: early in the stage; "fair and valid point"

April Board of Ed meeting: opening and public comment

Posting this morning from Newton North High, as this is the annual off-site meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, hosted by the home school of the student member of the Board of Ed, which this year is Maya Mathews, a senior at Newton North. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30...we're assuming it isn't going to start on time.

Monday, April 22, 2019

House consolidated amendment A doesn't have anything needed in it

There's a boatload of earmarks, but consolidated amendment A on education and local aid doesn't have anything really needed in it.

  • 7009-6600 which is early college programs, goes from $1.75M to $2M (still less than the Governor, who budgeted it at $3M).
  • 7010-0005 (the DESE line) has updated language, allowing those who work for school districts to be paid for work they do for DESE
  • 7010-1192 is stuffed with a boatload of earmarks
  • 7010-1193 includes the $500K for civics education and $500K specifically for civics education from the JFK Library.
  • 7061-0016 (the low income grants) adds the language around requiring approval of the superintendent for those applying for those grants
  • 7061-0035 puts in $525K for the Hanscom towns (but there isn't more general military mitigation in the House budget).
  • 7061-9406 must be a tweak in language, because it still allocates $700K to Accuplacer (bringing to mind the military spending that the military no longer wants; ASK HIGHER ED!).
  • 7061-9814 adds that it may be used during the summer months
I've updated the spreadsheet; let me know if you see something I've missed.

Worcester meetings this week

Crucial reminder: tomorrow at 7 pm, the Finance and Operations subcommittee has a public hearing on the FY20 Worcester Public Schools budget (4th floor, Durkin Administration Building).

This usually includes an update on the state budget, and, as the House Ways and Means budget came out since the last time the Worcester School Committee met, there is something to look forward to. In fact, it looks as though the T&G got the report ahead of time. There are LOTS of things to say about the budget--and remember, everything costs money!--so go and be heard!

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday at 7 pm in public session. Along with recognitions and thanks, it appears Superintendent Binienda will not be doing a report which speaks of how the goals of the district and her own performance goals are being met, but instead will be having a sort of speed dating show and tell by principals.

There is a single page response to the request for updates on health education under the new marijuana law.
There is a report on AEDs.

There is a response to a request for graduation rates, disaggregated by different categories. The administration, along with a note, has chosen to include this information in the form of a spreadsheet. I thought we might find it more useful in the form of a graph, and I added all the years available online:
All data from DESE, as submitted by WPS; I've gone back as far as DESE has data online. 
 And because that bunches up at the end, I'm going to do something I usually rail against and rescale that to just the part changing (note the axis starts at 40%):
And yes, that multi-race non-Hispanic line dives for 2016 in the data reported to DESE.
Note what happens to most of the lines from 2014 on.

It is also important to note--and troubling to note that not included in the report is the information--that four year graduation rate is among the contents of the new accountability system:

In 2018, the Worcester Public Schools did not meet the targets for four year graduation in the categories of all students, high needs students, economically disadvantaged students, English learner and former English learner students, students with disabilities, and black students. The district made no change in the graduation rate of Latino students. Only in white and multirace non-Hispanic students did the district exceed its targets.
This is the sort of information that would be relevant to have included in a report of the superintendent to the School Committee. Better that the superintendent call attention to it than DESE does.

Apparently, the week of March 24 was Public Schools Week.

Most of Mr. Comparetto's items from the last meeting were held. There are now responses from administration on the mentorship request (in which they talk about early childhood ed programs and the Worcester Future Teachers program, neither of which is the sort of program Mr. Comparetto is speaking of like iMentor or  Classroom Champions; perhaps this is actually the response to another item?); the Farm to School program; an internship management program (which again doesn't appear to be responding to the query); and an update on the strategic plan (just that it is coming in July).

Mr. O'Connell suggests the use of a "see something say something" appwhich will go nicely with the cell phone ban.
Mr. Monfredo is requesting an "action plan" for children to read on grade level, plus a "quality primary summer school reading program."
He'd also like a presentation on vaping.

There are a whole lot of donations coming in for votes of acceptance:
  • $22,008.00 to the Worcester Public Schools Athletics Department from the Office of District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr. to assist with Freshman Basketball Teams to involve youth in programs that help to prevent crime, gang activity and substance abuse. 
  • $2,303.00 to South High Community School from Andy’s Attic to assist with the purchase of Chromebooks 
  • $28.50 to Tatnuck Magnet School from Yankee Candle 
  • $225.00 to Tatnuck Magnet School from Sports Alive 
  • $500.00 to Tatnuck Magnet School from I.U.O.E. Local No.4 
  •  $2,354.00 to Tatnuck Magnet School from various donors through fundraising efforts 
  • $10.00 to Lake View School from Ruben Ardon 
  • $1,000 to New Citizens Center Secondary from Herlihy Insurance 
  • $9.070.19 to South High Community School from the “Class of 1963 Scholarship in Memory of Robert Aucoin” 
  • $450.00 to the Worcester Public Schools Transition Program for assistance with research from Boston University 
  • $75.00 to Lisa Wolfe and family from the South High Community School Black Student Union
There's also a prior year payment of $7,103.53 to the City of Springfield (I'm going to guess special education?).

The administration is proposing language for the handbook for next year for the Seal of Biliteracy (which is great, but let's get some vetting of this proposal!).

Mr. Comparetto and Mr. Foley are asking for an update from the Sex ed task force.

Mayor Petty is requesting:
Request that the Superintendent produce the last 10 number of years of suspension and discipline data for review by the public and School Committee and a full review of data collection, storage and dissemination procedures to develop best practices for transparency.
Dang! That's a strong statement in the form of a motion.
In line with his public statement prior to vacation, Mayor Petty is also requesting (I'm going to post the full items here; note how the co-sponsorship changes):

  • gb #9-161 – Mayor Petty/Mr. Comparetto/Mr. Foley/Miss McCullough/Mr. Monfredo/Mr. O’Connell (April 9, 2019) 
    Request that the Superintendent provide estimated budgeting needed for a Chief Diversity /Equal Opportunity Officer and her organizational plan for implementation.
  • gb #9-162 – Mayor Petty/Miss Biancheria/Mr. Comparetto/Mr. Foley/Miss McCullough/Mr. Monfredo/Mr. O’Connell (April 9, 2019) 
    Request that the Superintendent report on district processes and compliance with MGL c222 and make any necessary proposals for changes in policy and procedure.
  • gb #9-163 – Mayor Petty/Miss Biancheria/Mr. Comparetto/Mr. Foley/Miss McCullough (April 9, 2019) 
    Request that the Superintendent reengage with Worcester State University in order to refresh and update the 2014 report, “Suspensions in Worcester: A Continuing Conversation.”
  • gb #9-164 – Mayor Petty/Mr. Comparetto/Mr. Foley/Miss McCullough/Mr. Monfredo/Mr. O’Connell (April 9, 2019) 
    Request that the Superintendent inform the School Committee on her plan and timeline for professional development and training on cultural differences, unconscious bias and diversity.
  • gb #9-165 – Mayor Petty/Miss Biancheria/Mr. Comparetto/Mr. Foley/Miss McCullough/Mr. Monfredo/Mr. O’Connell (April 9, 2019) 
    Request that the Superintendent report to the School Committee on her plans to introduce trauma informed care into our schools as well as budgeting requirements for Fiscal Year 2020.
  • gb #9-166 – Mayor Petty/Miss Biancheria/ Mr. Comparetto/Mr. Foley/Miss McCullough/Mr. Monfredo/Mr. O’Connell (April 9, 2019) 
    Request that the Superintendent report on school funding of community nonprofits such as African Community Education, the Latino Education Institute and the South East Asian Coalition.
There is an executive session for contract negotations with the superintendent. 

Update in Worcester this week

The Worcester Coalition for Educational Equity, taking inspiration from the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, is calling on others to join them for a 6 pm event on Tuesday (before City Council) and a 6:30 event on Thursday (before Worcester School Committee) in both cases at City Hall.

Also, over the weekend, efforts to gather signatures for an advertisement later this week in the T&G  in support of Superintendent Binienda were being gathered by School Committee member John Monfredo and those who opposed sex ed in the Worcester Public Schools, in at least one case at a local church.

In case you missed this editorial

From Reps. Mary Keefe and Aaron Vega on the Promise Act and what we owe the children of the Commonwealth

Saturday, April 20, 2019

What we owe each other

Inspired this weekend by the various observances of justice, of proclamations of good news, and also by this 2012 piece from Charlie Pierce, which includes the following:
It is the doctrine of the oligarchy that there is nothing that we hold in common, that the commonwealth is a myth, that it is even a sign of softheadedness and weakness. The oligarchical power feeds on the sense that we are all individuals, struggling on our own, and enobled by the effort... A basic philosophy of selfishness is being inculcated into our politics. It will render us incapable of reacting when our democratic patrimony is swindled out from under us. There are thieves abroad in the land, making off with the blessings of the political commonwealth, and their most basic alibi is that it never existed in the first place. Once we accept that as our true history, the future is pretty much lost.
I was at an event last weekend about education policy and the question came, as it often does: how are we to fund what is needed in education in Massachusetts?

Part of the answer is that we already do. We just don't do it everywhere.

There's been a lot of talk online (publicly and otherwise) around fairness and a lot of sharp elbows around keeping what is perceived to be "mine" this spring. What I'm not seeing nearly enough of is concern for first recognizing and then meeting greatest needs.
This may mean recognizing where there are not the same needs.

Among the various workbooks posted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for our perusal, as usual, is one that gives town-by-town calculations:

If you head right, over in column L, we find a column that is of great interest:

"CEY % found" is what the header says, which is "Combined Effort Yield as a percentage of foundation."
What's that?
The combined effort yield is the calculation, based on property taxes and income taxes, of what each town and city could afford (by a uniform calculation that applies to every town and city across the state) to contribute to their local district's budget. Bluntly, it's a measure of community wealth.
The "% foundation" calculates what percentage of the local foundation budget is covered by the local municipality's combined effort yield. How much of that local "adequate" (scare quotes intentional) school budget could be funded by local property wealth if that was all that was being used?

Important note: Massachusetts has districts that are funky outliers in many ways! Before we go any further with this, it is crucial to remember that we have, for example, whole towns in which single digit numbers of kids are going to school. Apply that sort of foundation budget against ANY town's community wealth, and it's going to be overwhelming in the ability of the town to fund. Those are not the ones to latch on to.

Keeping that in mind, if you sort by column L (largest to smallest), you get a list for which the first 25 is this: 

We start right off with two outliers: Mount Washington and Gosnold, which come close to framing the state's southern border, as Mount Washington (population 167 at the 2010 census) is the community that is the southwest corner of the state, and Gosnold (population 75 at the 2010 census) is the town of the Elizabeth Islands that trail off the southern end of Falmouth, so only Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are farther southeast. Check those foundation budgets! It appears that Mount Washington has a single (middle school?) student and Gosnold has two elementary and one middle school students. Yes, those districts have significantly more ability to fund than that. 

You'll see then that, not surprisingly, we bounce back and forth a bit between the Berkshires and the Cape, both regions with, often, significant property wealth and small (and shrinking) school enrollments. Outside of Alford (part of Southern Berkshire Regional), however, the foundation budgets aren't necessarily outliers. This does, though, give perspective on why the Cape and the Berkshires fought to get income (something which many of those towns don't have as much of) included in the revamped calculation of combined effort yield, rather than straight property wealth.

As we skim down, we start to get into more of what are (if you're using the more facile sites) considered "good schools": Weston, Cambridge, Lincoln, Wellesley. And look at how much of the foundation budget those local districts can cover of their foundation budgets by the combined effort yield: 
  • Weston at 340.6% 
  • Cambridge at 278.5%
  • Lincoln at 249.8%
  • Wellesley at 228.1%. 

They can, in other words, afford to pay two or three times the foundation budget of their schools!
Off the bottom of what I've clipped above, we also get: 
  • Newton at 188.9%
  • Brookline at 180.3%
  • Concord at 174.6%
  • Watertown at 159.7%
  • Wayland at 159.4%
  • Carlisle at 147.3%
  • Somerville at 143.7%'ll note that we're dropping pretty rapidly here, though, even if you keep in mind I'm dropping the Cape and Berkshire towns. I could continue here, but remember that the statewide average last year was 130%! 

I note this first because the above towns are actually funding their schools at levels that otherwise elude us. In FY18: 
  • Weston funded their schools at 221.3% of foundation
  • Cambridge at 234.6%
  • Lincoln at 206%
  • Wellesley at 177.7%
  • Newton at 169.8%
  • Brookline at 182.2%
  • Concord at 219.3%
  • Watertown at 181.8%
  • Wayland at 179.5%
  • Carlisle at 215.4%
  • Somerville at 132.2%

These are towns that are, at the very least, covering their foundation gaps in health insurance and special education, ensuring that underfunding doesn't impact other parts of the budget.

I also point this out because one of the choices the state legislature is making, even as it chooses not to move ahead with the funding needed in the foundation budget for kids who are learning English and kids who have low income, is to continue to fund 17.5% of the foundation budgets of districts like those above; moreover, the Legislature continues to increase the state aid of these districts at $30/pupil, again. This is done, one presumes, from some notion of "equality."
Here's what the other end of column L looks like, however: 
  • Worcester CEY 27.9% of foundation
  • Orange CEY 27.8% of foundation
  • Lowell CEY 26.2% of foundation
  • Southbridge CEY 26% of foundation
  • Fitchburg CEY 25.2% of foundation
  • Lynn CEY 23.8% of foundation
  • Fall River CEY 23.3% of foundation
  • Brockton CEY 22.5% of foundation
  • Chelsea CEY 21.8% of foundation
  • New Bedford CEY 20.9% of foundation
  • Holyoke CEY 19.9% of foundation
  • Springfield CEY 15.9% of foundation
  • Lawrence CEY 14.1% of foundation

The state notion of "equality" pushing those increases per pupil doesn't extend so far as to ensure that all, including those above lacking local resources, districts are funding at the levels above foundation the top districts are. It doesn't extend so far as to ensure that all districts don't have the health insurance and special education gaps hit the classroom. 

There has been a notion advanced this spring that somehow the latter districts don't "deserve" to have local representation; that because they are poor, and thus majority state-funded, their districts should be state controlled. This is predicated on the false premise that the wealth within a municipality--a municipality made of particular kinds of historical decisions about whom could live there and whom could not, among other things--belongs solely to that municipality. This is of course an extension of the dispute over to what degree what we as individuals earn belongs to us an individuals.

The Constitution of Commonwealth, however--and, reaching even farther back, the history of Massachusetts even as a colony--states straightforwardly that the distinctions of family or town wealth are not what is to determine the type of education a child receives in Massachusetts "for the preservation of their rights and liberties." To use such determinants is simply unconstitutional. We as individuals, children as individuals, are not "left to struggle on our own" as Pierce states above; we are a commonwealth. 

We should act, and budget, as one. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday in Newton

...for their annual off-site meeting at the home school of their student member; this year, that's Maya Mathews who is a senior at Newton North High.
She will be doing the annual report of the State Student Advisory Council.
There will be an update on the FY20 state budget process, with an update on the House Ways and Means budget.
There will be an update on improvements in the state IEP process.

For informational purposes, there is also a third quarter report on underperforming schools and one on grants approved by the Commissioner.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Spring break reading

I've caught my breath enough to catch up a bit some of the more national publications. These are some things I'm reading, and I'll add reflections as I have them.
  • Washington Post has an interesting piece of what it looks like to live not viewing your (white) child as the exception with the escape hatch in Washington, D.C.
“I want my kids to know they are no better than any other kids from any other background and to pull them out of their feeder school because it’s predominantly black school, that sends the wrong message,” Clapp said. 
  • Ed Build has released an interactive update on efforts across the country of predominately white, weathlier districts to secede from their predominately students of color and/or poorer school districts. There is coverage by Vox on this here.You might also read this piece in Hechinger Report by Emmanuel Felton (writing a book on METCO!), which works out where this is happening (not just the South!) and some of the reasons why.
    If you're in Massachusetts, please recall that this isn't happening here only because we have never had regionalized districts for the purposes of integration at all; it can't fall apart because they never came together. I'll also note that Felton uses Newton, MA, as an example of the sort of wealth disparities associated with school funding, as it brings in more taxes than the entire city of Detroit. 
  • I haven't read this yet, but the Learning Policy Institute has evaluated ESSA plans around equity. They focus on: 
    • suspension rates;
    • school climate;
    • chronic absenteeism;
    • extended-year graduation rate; and
    • access to a college- and career-ready curriculum.

    Three of these Massachusetts included in the ESSA current plan.

And on Worcester

Coverage here from MassLive of yesterday's student press conference

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

An amendment which deserves its own post

The question around the state budget and requests for added revenue is always "where is the money going to come from?" I think it's only fair to pass along that there is an amendment that answers some of that: 1357.
Amendment 1357 is for a long-term increase of the capital gains tax. If you read the amendment, you'll find there are exemptions for those who are low income.

Need more? Here's Robert Reich on why we'd do this (at the federal level, but the principles are the same):

Worcester Youth Organizations call for action, accountability

Ahead of this afternoon's 2 pm press conference at City Hall, you can read the full statement from the Worcester youth organizations calling for change here.

UPDATE: The YWCA of Worcester just released the following statement. It closes:
The YWCA particularly calls on the School Committee to stand with the Mayor in calling for action and we further urge the School Committee to hold those in the system who perpetuate inequity accountable.
As Maya Angelou told us, “Do the best you can until know you better. Then when you know better, do better.” Our students and their futures are counting on it.

Monday, April 15, 2019

House FY20 budget amendments

As always, I post only amendments that have statewide impacts; if you're looking for an earmark, you're on your own.

Amendment 12 would add $100K to the budget for the Berkshire County Task Force, which has been looking at further cooperation and possible regionalization among Berkshire County schools and districts.

Amendment 27 adds $300K for Bottom Line which counsels first generation students to and through college.

Amendment 44 would bump regional school transportation reimbursement to $92,320,633, which I assume is fully funding (note this is a substantial jump, as it is in at $73M).

Amendment 71 would establish a new grant line of $15M for expansion or establishment of new preschool programs.

Amendment 95 is for the creation of a Regional Schools Foundation Budget Review Commission; the language here is interesting, by the way, as part of it says it would look at is inequalities between towns in regional districts. Regional districts, though, were formed through local efforts, not state ones. Do regionals really want the state weighing in on their inequalities?

Amendment 101 calls for a commission on two generation approach to early childhood education (parents and children).

Amendment 123 adds $1M for the creation of school-based health programs.

Amendment 162 for $200K for expansion of Alliance for Inclusion and Prevention’s training and workforce development for trauma treatment for students in Boston and Gateway Cities.

Amendment 165 (h/t Rep. Malia) pushes the recovery high line back up to where it was last year.

Amendment 243 would create a Lead in School Drinking Water Trust Fund for $20M.

Amendment 244 boosts the McKinney-Vento line to $27M (which, as $9M was 37%, I imagine is intended to be full funding).

Amendment 248 authorizes use of the water pollution fund for school deleading.

Amendment 311 boosts the after and out of school programming from $3.5M to $10M.

Amendment 324 outlines circuit breaker reimbursement of up to $50K in such a way that it probably only applies to Watertown, the district of the reps proposing (?).

Amendment 340 is the "thank you but we'd like to see ALL increases in charter tuition be reimbursed, not just when it is higher than five years" amendment that you may have been seeking! Good work from Rep. Ultrino! 

Amendment 441 a "technical amendment" on the teachers' retirement system, which appears to be more than that but I don't know the current language well enough to tell you what the change is. Check it if this matters to you. This mirrors a bill filed by the Mass Teachers' Retirement Board that would allow a one-time window for a change in status (Retirement Plus or not) of teachers; when some teachers switched systems (if, for example, they had been a paraprofessional), not all options were necessarily made clear and there were glitches. This would give them a chance to switch. h/t to excellent source! 

Amendment 480 would add back in $3.4M for the non-resident transportation reimbursement left entirely out so far.

Amendment 482 would allow districts to charge a fee for students who attend out-of-district vocational schools at the same level as any such fee charged in-district students, and with no fee for students whose families are at or below 300% of the federal poverty level.

Amendment 514 takes that $16.5M pothole for low income students and bumps it to $126M, adding $110M! Nice one, Rep. Higgins! 

Amendment 581 would establish a Foundation Budget Review Commission every five years.

Amendment 606 wants to add $1.5M for the Civics Projects Trust fund.

Amendment 615 would boost charter mitigation to $126M, which I assume is closer to where it would need to be if you're actually going to reimbursement all districts.

Amendment 619 adds the oddly specific amount of $930,932 to the early college line...

Amendment 626, however, then allocates that as Governor Baker did as an addition to the foundation budget! This is the first I've seen of someone working on the foundation budget! 

Amendment 636 appears to be just changing language and time on the allocation of the Bay State Reading Institute.

Amendment 638 would add $1M in planning grants for new vocational programs.

Amendment 707 has something to do with transporting children in DCF care back to their schools of origin, but I can't tell what.

Amendment 716 bumps the school breakfast line to $5M (from $4.8M) and does not add an earmark.

Amendment 734 would take the $1.75M early college line and make it $3M as it was in the Governor's budget.

Amendment 819 would bump the school to career connecting activities to $5M (from $4.5M).

Amendment 831 boosts the yearly cap on spending of the Mass School Building Authority to a new $750M for 2020 (it's $602M otherwise), with growth then tied back to what it has been (the lower of growth in dedicated sales tax revenue or 4.5%).

Amendment 840 would add $150K for financial literacy.

Amendment 857 is one that I don't understand why it never gets through: it allows DESE to pay teachers and administrators if they're working for the Department.

Amendment 865 is essentially a lines of authority clarifier, that those applying for the low income grants need superintendent approval.

Amendment 883 adds additional funding for youth homelessness.

Amendment 924 raises the early college pathways from $1.75M to $3M.

Amendment 932 would also boost regional school transportation reimbursement but by $5M.

Amendment 946 (h/t Mike LeBrasseur; I missed this one!) would have circuit breaker kick in at 3 times the statewide average per pupil cost of foundation, as opposed to 4 times, as it is now.

Amendment 992 would bump the minimum per pupil aid to $50/pupil (oddly, this does not correspondingly change the chapter 70 line, which would need to be changed).

Amendment 1099 would bump Safe and Supportive Schools by $100K.

Amendment 1115 would add $3M for trauma kits in public buildings and then require them.

Amendment 1150 would add $5M in rural school aid (for districts with not more than 21 students per square mile).

Amendment 1183 would allow those who are 17 at the time of the preliminary election but would be 18 at the time of the general election (and are registered to vote) to vote in the preliminary election.

Amendment 1192 bumps early college high schools from $2M to $4M.

Amendment 1231 amends the "not less than" to $1M (from $250K).

Amendment 1279 would just straight boost Chapter 70 by $100M.

Amendment 1360 would just create a $5M pothole fund for changes in Chapter 70.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

And speaking of the Foundation Budget

Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz presents on the PROMISE Act at the Progressive Mass issues summit
(and yes, those are Worcester numbers behind her)

“I think it would be a real shame if kids had to take the state to court to get us to comply with our Constitutional mandate.” Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz at Progressive Mass today  

The annual student school board meeting

I have seen student legislatures, but I've never seen this:
River Edge students took this idea and ran with it during a student-led school board meeting on Wednesday, which gave them the opportunity not only to discuss where they would like to see air conditioners or what basketball hoops are beginning to age, but hit on a harder topic: how to stop racist comments in their community.
The student-led school board meeting has been an annual tradition in the district for 26 years. It aims to give students a taste of civic engagement and serving their community at an early age, said Superintendent Tova Ben-Dov.

This sounds great. 

House Ways and Means FY20:

Bringing to mind this classic from Peggy Lee...

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee released their FY20 budget. The cherry sheets, specifying the amount of aid by municipality and district, have not yet been updated; however, DESE did us the enormous favor (due I think to pleas from the school business offices) of sharing the Chapter 70 spreadsheets for House Ways and Means (they aren't online; that's my dropbox). I've updated the spreadsheet that I've been using to track the K-12 accounts for FY20 here. I also found the write-up that Roger Hatch did for MASS useful. Amendments were due Friday--yes, very much not a lot of deliberation time there--and can be found here; I'll get to a post on those in the next week, as deliberation won't start until Monday, April 22.

We'll get to the accounts in order eventually, but I want to start with the ones that worry me most first.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Worcester updates

Another week in which it's good that Worcester is a two newspaper town...
More as I have it! 

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The House Ways and Means budget was released today

It's the House Ways and Means budget until the full House passes it.

You can find that online here. The local aid (including Ch. 70) numbers are all the way at the end of Section 2 and 3. So far, the Department of Revenue hasn't yet updated the cherry sheets, which will have the charter reimbursment and regional transportation (among other) numbers on them.
I've been updating this spreadsheet which compares FY19 (as passed) to the Governor's FY20 and now to House Ways and Means.
I'll have a full riff on this tomorrow (preview on Facebook here), but as usually, my tweets are opinionated (and today, mostly budget-related).

The Council on Fair School Finance is back, they have the data, and they're ready for action

The Council for Fair School Finance, the coalition behind McDuffy and Hancock, has reformed (disclaimer: MASC is a member), and they've issued a white paper reviewing where we are and what happens next. I'd urge you to read it all (it's nine pages), but some highlights:
The court’s decision in Hancock was guided by the hope that the Commonwealth eventually would attain compliance with its constitutional mandate through the continued dedication of much-needed financial support,and through diligence in reviewing the funding scheme to keep up with the "demands of modern society."
That has not happened.
Since Hancock, however, the Commonwealth has faltered. Its "reforms" — charter schools, high-stakes testing, “empowerment zones,”and outright school and district takeovers — have not improved education, closed the achievement gap, or provided communities in need with the financial resources to meet their constitutional duty.
The five lowest performing districts in the Commonwealth are majority-minority districts, with over 60 percent student-of-color enrollment. By contrast, among the top quintile of highest performing districts in the state, only one mostly enrolls students of color...Across the state, less than 30 percent of the students at the highest performing quintile of districts are children of color, compared to 64.6 percent of students in the lowest performing quintile and the state average of 41 percent... the level of education that Black and Latino Massachusetts students receive is 'more similar to that of the average student in the lowest performing states' than that of  "their more privileged peers in the Commonwealth itself."
The Commonwealth’s funding formula has an unconscionable disproportionate negative impact on students of color, who are overwhelmingly more likely to live in communities that cannot contribute money over and above minimum required local contribution.
...This inadequate school funding formula has led to a wrenching reality: segregated schools where access to the educational opportunities is dictated by the color of one’s skin.
If the educational rights of our children are not met with sufficient financial investment, particularly for those cities and towns under the most severe underfunding, the Council is prepared to seek redress in the courts

Student advocacy at work

This is a great story coming in from New Bedford's School Committee meeting on Monday on student advocacy around menstruation and schools:
Zhang spoke with fellow Keith students eighth-grader Alizeh Johnson and seventh-grader Najah Burks, accompanied by Jordan Pouliot Latham, development associate at the YWCA. Superintendent Thomas Anderson said after meeting with them, he invited the young women to come back to the School Committee to provide an update on their project. They spoke during public comment at the February committee meeting, asking for pads and tampons to be included in the fiscal 2020 budget.
“Many girls in New Bedford are low income,” Zhang continued, and parents may not want to spend their limited money on menstrual hygiene products, and even if they do, they may not be able to afford them since they’re not covered by government assistance programs like SNAP and WIC.
Being able to use an unlocked bathroom on the same floor that their class is, instead of visiting the nurse which takes several minutes, will help menstruating students stay in class longer, she said.
They started with the superintendent, who took them seriously and invited them to share their concerns with the School Committee, as this is a budgetary issue.
It isn't only a budgetary issue, however; too many schools severely limit bathroom access during the school day, which is a policy issue:
She said students understand that teachers would prefer they use the bathroom in between classes, but that’s not always possible. It’s not safe to go an entire day without changing a pad or tampon due to the potential of Toxic Shock Syndrome, infections or rashes, she said.
“We need teachers and staff to support menstruating students,” Johnson said.
And sign of a thoughtful elected official? Being aware you're still learning:
Josh Amaral admitted he was ignorant to the issue and its scale, but said it’s a “no brainer,” and that like providing lunch, it’s an essential health need.
More of this: more of thinking about students' holistic health, more of taking student concerns seriously, more of remembering students are people, and more of learning during meetings.

ESSA adherence on testing

With the issue last week with a question on the MCAS ELA, there are some renewed calls for a testing moratorium. Check out what's happening with Arizona, which is testing, but isn't meeting requirements: their Title funding is on the line.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Worcester weekend update

For those looking for the latest updates on what's up in Worcester around concerns of racial equity, systemic bias, the renewal of Superintendent Binienda's contract, and the Worcester School Committee: 

  • This was actually earlier last week, but there was this telling not-really-exchange when Dianna Biancheria called Jim Polito's radio show. 
  • Thursday morning, Walter Byrd interviewed Superintendent Binienda
  • John Monfredo was interviewed by Walter Byrd: note his comment on having students come in to talk about overcoming any barriers they had have, and the degree of concern around his former student and her family.
  • And then there was this weekend candidancy that wasn't. Consider this a reminder that you really should read this cover story in last week's Worcester Magazine on how sex ed died in Worcester.
  • More pastors joined Worcester Interfaith's call for a non-renewal of the superintendent's contract and for Worcester's school leadership to deal with systemic bias. Rev. Aaron Payson of the Unitarian Universalist Church issued this statement of support and Rev. Nathan Pipho of Trinity Lutheran Church this statement, including: 
    Tellingly, Superintendent Binienda’s initial response to our concerns calling us “not well informed,” shows a community leader unwilling, or unable, to respond to this issue. Dismissing our concerns highlights the failure of Superintendent Binienda to maintain the trust and respect of other community leaders necessary for establishing community partnerships crucial for reforming the Worcester Public Schools and providing equitable education for students of color.
    As a faith leader in the City of Worcester, I am motivated by Christian scripture that describes the people of God as “that great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9). When students in our school system face different treatment because of their skin color or physical ability, demonic cracks appear in holy community. When public leaders dismiss legitimate concerns raised about the treatment of God’s children in the Worcester Public Schools, we turn our backs on holy community. When we fail the least among us, we fail Jesus Christ himself.
    The list of Worcester Interfaith co-signatories can be found here.  

Monday, April 8, 2019

Worcester Public Schools FY 20 budget hearing

That will be after the House budget is released (this Wednesday). The only WPS FY20 information released thus far is here.

For those who live in a Facebook event universe, I just created one for this. For the first time in I don't know how long, I can't actually attend. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Must read from the Globe on foster care across the state

It looks as though this is in tomorrow's paper:
Despite its wealth, Massachusetts ranks near the bottom — behind only Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Illinois — in finding stable placements for kids during their first year in foster care, according to data from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. About one quarter of children placed in Massachusetts foster care in 2015 had to be moved more than twice, according to state data obtained through a public records request. That’s jumped to more than 30 percent last year.
Also, Worcester? Note that the boy followed in the story is from our city. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Update from Thursday in Worcester

If you're trying to figure out why it is that there has been this uprising in the community around the renewal of Superintendent Binienda's contract, I highly recommend reading this piece from Bill Shaner (having quite a week) of Worcester Magazine about the superintendent's response to their work on student perspective on their teachers and teaching:
In the meeting, both the students, others present and Binienda herself confirmed she made a comment about Asian students not wanting to be teachers. They don’t want to be teachers, she said, because they’d rather be doctors or work in tech.
If you don't see why the superintendent of a diverse district making this comment is a problem, I would suggest reading up on the myth of the model minority and of stereotype threat. Also statements beginning "X [group] doesn't" is a problem.

Further, the students subsequently were called into their school adminstrations' offices--people who wouldn't know of what had happened were it not for calls from the superintendent--
They said, and the superintendent confirmed, two of the presenting students were called to their respective principals’ office in the days following the presentation
The superintendent said that one was to follow up on a teacher asking about a student's immigration status, but the student's characterization of that is not positive:
The principal met with him and pressured him to give the name of the teacher who asked him questions about immigration, he said. After the student reluctantly gave the principal the name, he said, the principal pulled him in for another meeting, hours later, with the teacher in question. At the meeting, the teacher denied having ever asked about his immigration status, and both the principal and teacher talked about possible damage to the reputation of the school and teacher.
That is not, obviously, the main concern in a teacher asking about a student's immigration status.
This is not at all outside the experience of many students in Worcester.
This ongoing reversal among some of who is threated by racism is represented as well by John Monfredo quitting the Mayor's Commisssion on Latino Education over a meme that quoted him, leading to this column by Clive McFarlane (also having quite a week)

Thus it perhaps is not surprising that this is the front page of today's Telegram and Gazette:

That article is here. Worcester News Tonight covers it here.

More, of course, as I have it.

How sex ed in Worcester really died

A tour de force of a public documents request via Bill Shaner walks through what went on via email that killed comprehensive sex ed in Worcester, at least for this year.
Keep in mind that most of the messages are among a small group of people who have known each other for decades--good point by Lance Harris this morning--

--and that it is still the case in Worcester that there are those who believe (in some cases correctly) that some emails or calls to the right places will get things done. Thus that piece doesn't entirely surprise me.

I am very concerned, however, about this exchange, and the perspective it offers on Worcester's longest serving member, Brian O'Connell:

On Jan. 24, Mullaney connected the fight to national issues.
“The world is a stupid, stupid place,” she said. “Look at what happened in the NY Senate yesterday re: abortion. Covington Catholic. Brett Kavanaugh – all these things go back to abortion and the infiltration by the left of the American nuclear family.”
O’Connell agreed.
“Like you, I worry more with each passing year about truly frightening developments like the proposed New York legislation, Covington Catholic and so much of the deliberation surrounding the confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh,” he said. “Catholic anti-defamation initiatives truly need to highlight implicit or explicit anti-Catholic bias when it occurs, calling it what it is.”

That would be frequently-incorrectly-characterized New York change in the abortion laws (no, it does not legalize infanticide), the students of Covington High School harassing a Native American man at the anti-abortion march on Washington, and the Justice Kavanaugh deliberation which turned on a question of sexual assault, none of which, of course, were "Catholic anti-defamation initiatives."
But it is telling if you think it is.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

And the latest updates from Worcester and systemic bias

Worcester Magazine is reporting that the superintendent released disciplinary data to date in an effort to demonstrate changes are underway. I sat down to take a look at it alongside the data the district reported to the state last year, and I quickly found that I couldn't do much with the data. Here's why:
  • most importantly, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports from districts, including Worcester, percentages of students disciplined; as the information page says, "The Student Discipline Report includes the number of students in each group and the number of students disciplined." What was released today was the number of incidents of discipline, which doesn't tell us anything about the number of students. We aren't comparing like to like.
  • The superintendent hasn't given any total of students disciplined, which is what the rest of this works off of. We also should have how many students there are in each category, to make comparisons accurate. 
  • The superintendent has not related the number of emergency removals, which has been an ongoing issue of concern to many in and out of Worcester, as the city has been such an outlier in the high number of them. You can find those numbers reported by the district from last year in the last column at the Department's page. 
  • The state has no "long-term suspension" category; it is unclear why the district has reported this here or what it should be included in.
  • One should be able to find some relationship between the percentage of students disciplined (as reported to the state) and the number of disciplinary actions as the superintendent released today, though, which is why I'm finding it difficult to square a report that says that Worcester had 800 total in-school suspensions last year through February (as the superintendent reports), when the 3.3% of the total population, or 910 students, had in-school suspensions last year for the full year. That would appear to require a severe tapering off of such disciplinary measures in the fourth quarter of the school year. Likewise, assuming one should add the long-term suspensions to the out-of-school suspensions for a like comparison, the superintendent reports 1524 incidents as of the end of February last year, when the year's total for students out-of-school suspended was 1517 (5.5%) by the end of the school year.
  • That of course doesn't even get into what's reported for this year, which even still shows substantial gaps, but it's difficult credit a drop in numbers when the numbers from last year aren't even internally consistent. Again, the numbers the Department has are the numbers the district gave them. It's up to the district administration to square them. This report doesn't do that. 

Worcester election season round # ?

Two from this week already:

  • For about as long as I've been paying attention, spring of an election year in Worcester brings the biannual City Council filing of items around schools, and while this week's item on policing wasn't the first (there were, for example, items requesting specific sports teams at specific schools), it met with a strong rebuke. Let's acknowledge, of course, that this reaction stems as much from where the item came from--Councilor Lukes--as it did anything to do with the item, as it seems councilors also took the chance to swear one by one that they would of course always support any police department request

  • If the way this Governance meeting played out doesn't strike you as odd, brush up on your roles and responsibilities. The School Committee does policy/budget/evaluation/goals, and the administration does day to day management. Pop quiz, then: from whom should a list of specific directives on how the schools would manage heat come? 

Morning update in Worcester

Around the question of disciplinary disparities, systemic bias, and the administration:
  • Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Joe Petty (the mayor chairs the School Committee in Worcester) released a statement supportive of the points being made by the Worcester Coalition for Educational Equity. I'll put the full text after the jump. This is also usually where I link to the Telegram, but the coverage of this has been coming from a reflexive defense of the administration, rather than a questioning of the issues, which is not making the coverage very useful. Try Worcester Magazine
  • An attempt was made to create serial deliberation via reporter in checking on the status of the superintendent, who is currently in contract negotiations with the school committee. And if you read the article, the headline is not accurate.
  • And there's a follow-up column from Clive McFarlane today. 
  • And the Worcester Coalition for Educational Equity is asking other organizations to sign onto their statement. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Round-up from yesterday in Worcester

Following up on yesterday's column and the post on disciplinary disparities, there were a number of other things that happened:
  • School committee member John Monfredo called into Hank Stoltz's radio show to deny that any racism in the Worcester Public Schools; you can find a transcript of that here.
  • The full statement from the Worcester Coalition for Education Equity was published.
  • Worcester Magazine interviewed John Monfredo, got a statement from Superintendent Binienda, found lots of unanswered calls, and wrote something up. 
  • The Telegram wrote something just on the two statements.
  • Worcester News Tonight did a piece on it. 
  • WCEE sent out invitations to a press conference and call to action for 6:30 on Thursday at City Hall, before Thursday's School Committee meeting.
More as I have it. 

Massachusetts isn't using its fiscal capacity and it's poor kids that are hit

Bruce Baker has released his latest version of The Adequacy and Fairness of State School Finance Systems, and, as Kristin Johnson noted on Twitter this morning, Massachusetts isn't doing what it could:
As Baker noted:

And I'll bet you could guess which districts those are.
In particularly, in our "number one but not for all" state, note what this is doing to our low income kids:
This is particularly important because there is a real danger that the real recommendation (remember what Rep. Vargas did at the FBRC hearing) of 50-100% of the per pupil post update is going to be lost. There isn't much low income representation at the table when it comes to negotiations behind the scenes, and when something comes out, it's inevitably going to be quick, and there's going to be pressure to get it through.
And we keep being told that this is our one shot in this generation.
The data is clear; we have to raise the rates SIGNIFICANTLY--double isn't too much to ask--in order to fulfill the recommendations and more importantly our Constitutional responsibility to our kids.
All kids.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Worcester's student disciplinary disparities

In light of today's column, Worcester, you might be looking for the data in "Discipline, Equity, and Opportunity" which reported out to the Mayor's Commission on Latino Excellence in Education a few months back. This chart in particular is relevant: you can clearly see that the percentage of students being disciplined who are Latino or Black is out of proportion with their enrollment in the district.
It's worth noting that this was raised during the last election and again came up in relation to Worcester's use of emergency removals during this past fall. 
It also struck me this morning how parallel this is to an exchange that Rep. Katherine Clark had with Secretary DeVos this past week in if you see systems or students as the work to be done.