Thursday, October 3, 2019

Liveblog of Senate deliberation of S 2350 "The Student Opportunity Act"

The Senate opens its session at 11 am.
The bill is here.
The amendments are here.
The session can be viewed online here.
I was here early enough that my polite request for permission to take a photo was granted. Newly redone!
posting as we go

11:09 and I count one Senator here
11:15: the Senate has been called to order and they're passing resolutions honoring people and other procedural items. We've picked up a few more Senators. 
Senator Jason Lewis and his office have started this twitter thread.

And here we go!

Senator Jason Lewis "rising today with great excitement and enthusiasm"
"recognizes that access to a public education is a fundamental right"
"long and proud history when it comes to public education"
and cites John Adams
and Horace Mann: "his framework for a school in every town" became a model for the nation
"first in the nation funding formula" that all districts would have what they needed to meet the need of their students
"we have not kept up" with the funding part of the bargain
"our schools and districts have been struggling to keep up"
"among the close to 1 million public school students" there are vast disparities
"significant, persistent, and troubling achievement gaps" along race and socio-economic lines
"these achievement gaps are driven by opportunity gaps"
student he spoke to learned how to apply to college via YouTube videos as she couldn't get time with guidance
Globe stories on very different education system
"a comprehensive reassessment of the funding formula and a recommitment on our part"
cites the Foundation Budget Review Commission
recognizes Senator Chang-Diaz for her leadership on FBRC
to a round of applause that is more than perfunctory
have begun implementing the recommendation; have to "enshrine in our statutes"
"provide certainity and predictability" to our local districts
has been an honor to visit districts and get feedback "firsthand"
"has been invaluable to helping us to understand all of the challenges"
could not have reached this point without the support of Senate President Spilka and Speaker DeLeo
additional $1.5B in new state aid: "new funding over and above what we would be providing" for inflation and the like
will benefit all districts
"going to be a game changer for our Gateway cities" and other districts with English learners, high rates of poverty
I am not going to type up his summary
"we recognize that this is not enough"
adding more funding for mental health supports
students leaving to attend a charter school does put financial pressures on a school district
special education costs are a very specific challenge for districts
transportation costs "can be as high or higher than tuition costs"
being phased in over the next four years
upgrading school facilities: lifting cap on MSBA
"will allow to accept more schools into the pipeline" for repair and renovation
21st Century Trust Fund: seek funding for creative ways to address to close gaps between and among students AND for districts with declining enrollment or rural to collaborate across districts and potential consolidation
put together a public plan with input "so we know every district has thought through how they will address the unique challenges of each district"
"do NOT include provisions that would hold back any funding" through this process
data on how students do AFTER college
there will be a data advisory commission established
"we recognize that there is some further work that needs to be done"
rural schools: finance, governance, greater collaboration
"other side of the foundation formula" calculates the local and state shares
directing DESE and DOR to report back on specific issues that need further analysis
recognize organizations and people who have worked "for years"
Thanks Fund Our Future, MASS, MASC, MTA, AFT
and local officials, starting with school committee members
and thanks to the Senate staffers

Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, who opens by thanking Senator Lewis
"it is detailed, thoughtful, durable legislation"
"this is also about our values"
"this bill stands as our commitment that in Massachusetts, zip code must not be destiny"
the work began even before the FBRC
in 1978, a student named Roburn Webby saw that she and her classmates in Brockton didn't have the same rights
"that case [Webby v. Dukakis] took fifteen years to make its way through the court system" during which time she aged out and was replaced in the case by Jamie McDuffy
the 1993 SJC decision "clearly laid out the right to a quality education"
in 2010, communities organized to achieve the 2014 Foundation Budget Review Commission
five clear recommendations in October 2015
they would make no difference on their own
"these stakeholders had to file another lawsuit"
"our session today continues nearly half a century of work"
"I want to address myself directly to the people who are not in this room" but are the reason why we are here today
for those who testified at FBRC hearings
for the students who testified in Mattapan "we see you"
for the Commissioners who quietly pushed for five recommendations, not two
for those School Committee members who passed resolutions
for those who met with legislators
"this bill is for you"
To the Senators: "There is a difference between charity and justice."
"we are refusing to accept the iron law correlation between" economics and outcomes
"we are anchoring ourselves" to the commitment in the Constitution
"in Massachusetts, we have the courage of our convictions"
"it is who I know us to be"
everyone in the chamber has been a cosponsor to the Promise Act
"five separate times over the past years" the Senate has passed all of the recommendations
"this is what refusing to give up looks"
"but today, finally, we can get it right"
asks the vote be taken via roll call

Senator Bruce Tarr (minority leader)
collaboration so that our students might have the best possible opportunity to realize there potential
"it must be an exercise of the whole"
reconsideration was to be done regularly
" took a long time, and in those years, opportunities were lost"
praises Chang-Diaz's work on traveling around the state and understanding the challenge
and to send the message "we are listening"
"everyone needs to be the benefit of what we do"
praises Lewis for his "pursuit of that very same concept"
asks for applause for Lewis
"we have been persistent in the minority arc...that when we make commitments, we need to maintain those commitments"
commitment to circuit breaker, charter school tuition reimbursement
"there is one area where there is still a gap between what is mandated in statute and what we have been doing" and speaks of regional transporation reimbursement
actually all transportation is to be reimbursed, but that doesn't get remembered
asks Lewis for a full data set of the impact for every community by the time the bill is fully implemented
would hope for that information so we can understand the impact on the districts we represent
realize that all such will be projections
cannot believe the committee has been working without numbers
Lewis: thanks Tarr for his thanks and work
"same thing that has been done in previous years"
partnered with DESE's team on Chapter 70 formula "to understand how changes we would consider making, what the impact of those changes would be"
looked at dozens and dozens of scenarios and models
able "to say with a fair amount of certainity what the overall impact" will be
"there's a lot of assumptions that go into doing this kind of modeling"
assumptions about inflation, enrollment changes, economic conditions
can make some good assumptions statewide on enrollment, economic conditions, inflation
"what becomes much more challenging is to translate that into a district by district level"
enrollment growing, losing, fairly flat
"we also know that local economic conditions may change" dramatically over the next seven years
"can't predict with any certainty whatsoever" on an individual school district or municipality
"we think it would be misleading and even irresponsible to put a bunch of numbers on paper" and let communities think that is what they can expect
notes importance of items outside of Chapter 70
statewide impacts as well as local impacts
back to Tarr: who argues that you get the state number by adding individual communities
which misses the point, of course
notes Lewis has met with individual members with information
and he is making the same point
"Is there a complete data set held by the committee?"
Lewis: point misleading nature of releasing information
Governor includes predicted local contribution
"and the key piece of context that is missing in that spreadsheet is that the vast majority of our school districts spend in excess of" minimum required spending
"the fact that the required local contribution goes up does not have ANY fiscal impact on the vast majority of our communities"
notes that increases come in Gateways which will receive Chapter 70 aid "tenfold or more" over their local increased required spending
Tarr: the very statement of inaccuracy implies that there is a larger set of information
"if there are inaccuracies, we ought to know what they are"
says he doesn't want to belabor this point (to snickers in the gallery)
moves for Republican caucus until 2, asking for release of information

back in session and taking up amendments
Tarr (who has the first several amendments); wants to know more about the bill
argument from Senator Michael Rodrigues (chair of Senate W&M) that Senate Ways and Means has looked at and passed the bill and feels it can be done from existing resources
Tarr asks what implementation would look like
Rodrigues says the funding this past year would be reflecting in increases over next several years
"consistent funding stream"
Tarr asks for the phase in over the life of the bill over low income over the life of the bill; how that element will be implemented
Rodrigues asks for a brief recess to be accurate

Senator DiDomenico: a lot of people working hand in hand
his district wasn't held harmless in shift of low income
"this is my proudest vote in the nine years I have been a state senator"

Rodrigues: phase in over seven years
circuit breaker over four years; charter reimbursement over three years
estimated to be $300M each year when inflation built in
Tarr: how many will receive only minimum increases?
how many communities will have to contribute more?
how many communities will be required to spend more than the increase they'll receive in NSS under the bill?
he didn't ask the most important one, which is who will have to contribute more THAN THEY DO NOW
Lewis: no way to know with any certainty of provision of what the foundation budget will be
"that said, what I can say, is every community, every school district, will be getting more aid under the bill than they would get if this bill is not passed into law"
only a few communities where their local contribution will be required to be greater than they otherwise would be spending
"the vast majority will not be impacted by having to spend more money from their local budgets"
most that are are the Gateway cities that will see the largest increases in Chapter 70
Tarr: hoping that we could get information that substantiates the information that supports that
an understanding of one's local foundation budget calculation alone with do that

Amendment 3, 4, 5, 6 held

Amendment 7: Tarr "we know that the foundation budget was intended to be reviewed periodically"
"the consequences of that gap is the price tag today"
"to prevent us from ever again finding ourselves in the situation" we are in today
reduces reconsideration to 5 years rather than 10 years as in the bill
Rodrigues: hopes that it is not adopted
goal "is very clear and is something we can all agree to"
"the frequency of those reviews was something that was discussed at great length as this bill was being developed"
"takes that length of time for a formula change to be" considered, drafted, and implemented
Tarr: agree with the facts, but suggests that it supports a different conclusion
suggests it will be even longer between the identification of the problem and the solution to the problem
roll call on the amendment, which fails, but a number of Dems vote in favor: Chang-Diaz, Eldridge, Gobi, Rausch, Moore, and Comerford
Amendment 8 fails
Amendment 9: fails
Amendment 10: Tarr to make more students eligible (it lowers the trigger)
12 and 13 withdrawn
Amendment 14  on hold
Amendment 15 fails
Amendment 16 fails
amendment 17 hold
amendment 18 fails
amendment 19: charter reimbursement
Pacheco: one of the problems we have had is we don't fund charters appropriately, as well
amendment says cap on the number of charter schools approved for any year in which the mitigation fund isn't fully funded
"if we aren't even funding the charters we already have, why would we fund additional charters at this time?"
this comes from "the rank and file teachers of the Commonwealth"
asks for roll call
another "We all got a message on the statewide vote...people said 'no, no, no, stop doing what you're doing!' on charters"
put on hold

amendment 20: Tarr on unfunded mandates
"to help school districts save money"
Rodrigues mandates place burdens on our school districts
school mandates are in place for a reason
"how we keep our schools and districts accountable"
urges a no vote

20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, on hold

amendment 28 on special ed funding assumptions
Comerford: 20 out of 24 have well above the threshhold
"it is a drastic underestimation of what it takes to deliver services"
understand the promise of this bill
"however we are missing the boat with special education"
"I implore this body to consider the distinct need that our levels when it comes to special education is far too low"
amendment fails

amendment 29 charter review
Comerford: had conversations and found that the way our Commonwealth manages charter has forced discussion in ways that are unwise
look at the way we fund charter schools, how they are enrolled
would create a commission "so we can bring the conversation out into the light where it belongs"
"I would never tell another mom where her son or daughter should go to is our job" to figure this out so communities would no longer be put against each other

amendment 30: Tran
helps make sure that a homeless student can get to school
Rodrigues: would cost an additional $16.2M if it passes
bill is focused on implementation of Foundation Budget Review Commission
bill on a roll call fails

amendment 31, 33, 35, 36 on hold (I think)

amendment 37, 38, 39 on hold

amendment 40 Friedman: local option reserve fund for recovery high schools
service students who have substance use disorders
"they're expensive; like all special ed, they're expensive"
"this is revenue neutral for the state"
amendment passes

amendment 41 fails
amendment 42: study on average recovery high cost
Friedman: get a level of funding same as other schools
to determine the real cost of educating students in recovery high schools

43, 44 on hold
amendment 45: school violence prevention
Finegold withdraws the amendment

amendment 19: Comerford on Pacheco's
create a working group to look at charter schools, their fiscal impact
"to deal deliberately" with the issue of charter schools in an informed and thoughtful way
Lewis argues that the working group is the place for this; the amendment is not to detract from the bill
amendment is identical to bill pending in education committee (which hears it next week)
Pacheco "want to see this language in this bill now"
not an issue in the Senate, not an issue the House
notes his service on [Taunton] School Committee
"the people of the Commonwealth spoke on that issue"
"I'm somewhat disappointed that we have to keep talking about this issue; I thought it had been resolved; I guess not"
"I hope that when this bill comes back from a conference, that any of those loopholes that remain are closed"
Jehlen: thinks that Lewis has "done an outstanding and amazing job"
grateful to Comerford and Pacheco "for raising the issue of charter school finance issues"
brought charts on the amount of money sent to charter schools since they started in 1996
no elected official decides how many seats and the funding
Board of Education which says it has no responsibility to consider the impact on other children or what the cost will be
appreciate the bill's commitment to 100% of our responsibility, "but it's been 100% of our responsibility"
"as we underfund charter reimbursement, the first place it goes to charter schools"
hope this working group can take leadership
there's a hearing on this issue next week (Monday, in fact)

Senator Brady of Brockton: long overdue
"we have to speak loud and clear to protect our constituents, and protect our public schools"
Pacheco: to all those organizations who helpd build this bill
"I want you to know that you all need to hold all of us in the Legislature...accountable"
"would urge that with the hearing that's coming up...we may or may not ever see that bill"
amendment fails

Senator Kennedy: speaking to amendment that has just failed, I think
plans to vote no on most amendments

amendment 46 on hold

amendment 47 fails
amendment 50
Senator Timilty is actually up and arguing that Easton should be part of the Cambridge labor market
Brady is a co-sponsor
amendment 51 fails
52 and 53 are on hold
amendment 54 fails
amendment 55 requires high school students to meet with a guidance counselor each year
O'Connor: includes guidelines for a plans
path straight to college isn't traditional anymore
benefits of creation relationships between students and guidance counselors
Rodrigues urges members to vote no
while the goal of this amendment is supported, would create an unfunded mandate in the meantime
roll call on the amendment
amendment fails

I don't know what is up with 56
amendment 57 from O'Connor requires full day K grant
26% to 96% "and then we stopped the program"
and he has the stats

amendment 57 fails
amendment 59
amendment 60 fails
amendment 61: O'Connnor withdrawing
would have deducted the non-reimbursed amount from the charter school tuition
"this is a vehicle" to fix this specific problem
the districts that we need the most are the ones being most hurt by the lack of resources
has hopes of working group

amendment 63: Senator Moore
"I'm not sure if I support free college; but to do that, we need to study it"
roll call
we have a recess before the roll call
on hold
64 on hold

amendment 65 fails
amendment 66 fails
amendment 67, 68, 69 hold

have been through the amendments once, planning on reconvening "five-ish" in hopes that some amendments will have been withdrawn

1, 3, 6 are still on hold
amendment 14: Sen. Paul Feeney
"ultimately it is our teachers, our union teachers, who bring things to fruition"
"to elevate the voices of our children through our educators"
amendment fails

amendment 17: Jehlen on improvement plans
reports on progress towards targets in school and district report cards
"the missing piece on accountability has been local accountability"
amendment strengthens local accountability
requires school committee approval plans
requires plans to reduce gaps; to consider recommendations from school council
"it would, I hope, be more transparent than the state reports are"
"unless you're on a school council and ask that question, you won't know what your targets are and what's been done"
maintains the ability of the state to step in when there have been chronic failures
Rausch: amendment has been added to this one (that was 26)
parent engagement: systemic barriers make it more difficult for parents to get involved
"holistic" evaluation of parent engagement
statewide educational community to share parental engagement that works on the ground
"if we want to create equity...then we have to break down the barriers precluding that equity"
Lewis: has been a lot of discussion about this area of the bill since it was released
"we've been able to really strengthen this part of the bill"
"make sure that voices of parents are front and center"
make it clear that the Commissioner and the Department has NO authority to withhold any money from districts
roll call vote: that sounds like passing to me

Tarr withdraws two I missed that
Tarr on task force: withdraws his request for a roll call
he is withdrawing his amendment 20
redraft on amendment 21 to have MSBA look at lead abatement, asbestos removal
amendment passes
amendment 22 fails
amendment 23 requests representation from the minority party fails
amendment 24 on reporting efficiency drects consolidation of reporting fails
amendment 25 extending timeline to ten years if needed fails

Comerford on considering Prop 2 1/2 in consideration of municipal wealth (amendment 27)
many bumping up against the ceiling
"make it impossible to meet the demands of school funding"
of the top 20 tax paying towns, 7 are in her district
Lesser "this really urgent need we have to examine Proposition 2 1/2"
list of towns with highest property tax rates: highlighted ones come from Worcester west
nearly all are west of Worcester
property values are either flat or going down, in some cases precipitiously
"once the levy limit is reached, towns have no ability to fund local needs anymore"
"we need a plan to deal with it"
"what the conversations around Ch. 70 have shown is how increasingly dependant our towns are on" state revenue
need for municipal finance reform
roll call

amendment 6: is being redrafted

amendment 31: innovation pathways Senator Moore
enhances data collection for student preparedness for life after high school
"work to expand opportunities for students"
amendment 32 on towns of 6000 residents passes (after redraft)
amendment 33 on circuit breaker fails
amendment 34 from deMacedo expands Commissioner's powers
"spending a great deal of money"
Sen Chandler: "represents gross overreach by our state government"
"these districts have vastly different needs and priorities"
"we should not paint these districts with a broad brush"
"many of these represent districts like mine"
districts like mine need "a helping hand up, not a slap in the face"
"districts like mine are not chronically underperforming; they are chronically underfunded"

amendment 35 installs a foundation budget review commission without an act of the Legislature
amendment 36 adequacy study: Tarr
whether or not we are making progress that we need
amendment 37: from Gobi
would remove "subject to appropriation" from the regional transportation reimbursement
"talking about the same schools with declining just gets piled on year after year"
next budget cycle am going to ask to make this a priority going
"a shortfall of $16.4M this year" for regional schools
Comerford relates work done in Amherst and Pelham that failed due to concerns over lack of full reimbursement
Chandler "would like to see the issue raised...taken up"
Brady: have to keep our promise to regional schools; "I hope we continue to work on this"
Tarr: "echo the comments that have already been made"
"many attempts in this bill to" set things right
circuit breaker, charter school tuition reimbursement
"those are laudable things"
"even while we do these new things, the page is still left blank"

amendment 43 from deMacedo which would reimburse only Plymouth
would rank 15th among regional school district
he's now running through smaller regional districts and how much money they get (and probably not making himself very popular)
"I hope that we can adjust this inequity"
amendment fails

amendment 47 from Finegold would boost the MSBA cap to $800M
MSBA estimates that they'll need to replace 36 schools a year
one of the schools he went to is in the same shape it was 40 years ago
Lewis: we believe this is fiscally responsible
adopted a redrafted version of 21 about studying other uses of renovations
reimbursement rate is far below actual costs we are seeing now
"for many of our communities, this is a major, major challenge for the costs"
the step we are taking hopefully allows all of our districts to get into the program and get a reimbursement rate that makes the projects financially feasible
roll call
sounding like this one is going to pass

Keenan on data advisory commission; amendment 52
7000 students in Ch.766 schools don't have a representative on the Commission
"this is a great bill for just about all the students in the Commonwealth; I just wish we could go one step further"
"This would simply give them a seat at the data table."

amendment 63: Moore after discussion, "I agree to withdraw this" after hearing from Ways and Means that we'll be getting numbers on what debt free college would look like

amendment 67 fails
amendment 69 Tarr on LIFT fund
"so that we have at least SOME identifiable sources of revenue"

and a recess

Senate President Spilka has taken the chair
Tarr on amendment 1 redrafted, which now is asking for DESE to look at a number of inadequately funded items
thus adding to the list of things that DESE has to do as a result of this bill
and it sounds like this one is going to pass, too

amendment 3: Tarr on minimum aid to $35
withdraws the amendment
amendment 6: Tarr on minimum aid to $100
there are districts that would still see only minimum per pupil increases over the life of the bill
Tarr estimates that phasing this in would cost less than $8M
"a group of schools that may be facing a significant increase in their required local contribution"
but it, of course, in most cases do not require an ACTUAL increase
minimum aid 182
hold harmless 75
Chang-Diaz urges a vote no
"this bill should be--and I would argue IS--about changing the status quo"
that means doing things differently than in the past
"there has been a flood of intentionality, and that is what this bill does; it spends each dollar in a needs-based way"
have been urged to vote no by chambers of commerce
"we have a lot of need"
"it is regressive, and it is non-needs-based. It is popular, no doubt, but it is regressive, and it is non-needs-based"
there is hold harmless in the underlying law; this bill locks in $30/pupil IN PERPETUITY
"there are lots of provisions in the underlying law and in this bill that get into the mechanics and strike a balance" among needs
"minimum aid is about political popularity"
$50/pupil was in the initial bill but only for the first year
"and sometimes we do things to get the deal done"
"I urge my colleagues to stay the course on the intentional design" in this bill
back to Tarr who appears to be arguing that if minimum aid is not progressive they should take it out
Tarr argues that concentrations of poverty was a "philosophical judgment" which is not the case; there is data supporting the measurements of concentrations of poverty
Moore: if we do this, we can all win
roll call: rejected

motion to suspend the rules to meet after 8 pm!

O'Connor amendment 59 would require annual reporting on implementation (note that his amendment has bipartisan cosponsorship)

redraft on amendment 62 now reads:
provided, however, that in fiscal year 2023 and any year thereafter, in certifying the consolidated net surplus, the comptroller shall determine if the appropriation for line item 7061-9010 meets the full obligation; and provided further, that if the obligation is not met, the comptroller shall transfer an amount from available funds necessary to fulfill that obligation.”.
which passes

amendment 65 on the rural schools commission
Senator Hinds up: even with hold harmless provisions, his districts are facing additional challenges
had hoped it could be entered into the foundation budget, 'but it is too soon'
make sure Rural schools commission is robust, conducting serious work
Senator DiZiglio amendment allows Commission to reach their own conclusions
and this one will pass, as well

amendment 54: Chang-Diaz
“provide increases relative to full incorporation in a consistent manner, including equitable increases to the foundation and increment amounts over the prior year.”.
to ensure the parts of implementation are moving at apace with one another
Lewis: to ensure changes continue apace
intention is to move forward consistently, equitably, and all four areas that we are changing the foundation budget
and passes

We are told there is one amendment remaining
amendment 69 on financial literacy passes
bill is order to a third reading
ROLL CALL 39-0 passes

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