Saturday, January 23, 2021

And so to FY22

 And so, on to FY22. 

Governor Baker's address to the annual Mass Municipal Association yesterday gave the traditional handtip of what's coming on the state budget. He said his budget that will be filed Wednesday (called "House 1" as it's the first budget of the new Legislative session; next year is "House 2"; and no one ever explains these things) will "fully fund" the first year of the Student Opportunity Act.

Hm. Okay. I have some questions, which I went through in a gif Twitter thread yesterday: 

If you don't want to run through the 90210 gifs, I'll note in brief:

  • Baker says he's funding the "first year" of SOA. This is not, however, the first year of SOA; this is the second year of SOA. It didn't get funded last year. The reset of the clock without comment repeats the error of the implementation of the original school funding reform, when some aspects did not kick in the first year. 
    School funding builds on itself. A year missed is never recovered.

  • What are the numbers being used? If what this is based on is the October enrollment as counted, that is missing kids that were held out this year; there are thousands of preschool and kindergarten students that are, should this be in any kind of check by fall, going to be back in classrooms, joining those who would normally be turning up this year. Districts are going to get slammed with enrollment, with funding that's based on those students not existing. That's a problem. We should be holding enrollment harmless this year.

  • Unless the Governor has been enlightened, I would assume he's going to claim he's "fully funding" the SOA if the low income count does the one year middle ground proposed last year--that is, the higher of the direct certification count OR the FY16 % of low income students--plus a bit more in funding. That isn't equitable implementation as required by the language of the law itself. There being more poor kids across the state is no excuse for each of those children being funded at a lower increase. 

  • And speaking of low income, do we have any real idea of how many kids are low income now, given the pandemic and unemployment? If we're basing that on October's numbers, are we sure we've got all the kids that should be counted?

Let me note that we're starting our budget just after the annual publication via the Shanker Institute of school funding fairness from  Bruce D. Baker (Rutgers University); Matthew Di Carlo (Albert Shanker Institute); Lauren Schneider (Albert Shanker Institute); Mark Weber (Rutgers University). You can download the full report here, or access the database here. There are also one page state profiles, and the one for Massachusetts is here

I think it's crucial to note one thing from this, as we're often told about how much Massachusetts does for its schools. When it comes to state fiscal effort, Massachusetts, spending 2.91% of its Gross State Product on education, ranks 41 out of 49 in the nation: 

Budgets are an expression of values. Is this ours?

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