Friday, January 29, 2016

Federal FY17 Budget

With his final State of the Union address presented earlier this month, President Obama's FY17 budget request to Congress is expected *around* the first Monday in February (though it could be issued anytime between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February).

Since it's the final budget request of his administration, the President's request is important in at least two ways:
  1. As a policy document, it signals what's most valued by the administration; and
  2. we can expect to see some clarity around implementing ESSA
The federal fiscal year is the 12-month period beginning October 1, ending September 30.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Highlights of the NASBE Board of Directors virtual meeting 1.1*

With Washington DC and the Mid-Atlantic bracing for an epic snowstorm, NASBE's first Board meeting of 2016 took place virtually, in lieu of the scheduled F2F meeting in Alexandria VA. This was my first meeting as newly elected Northeast Area Director (January 2016-December 2018). Taking the helm as NASBE's new President was Jim McNiece of Kansas City KS. Jim called the meeting to order at 11:00 AM. With a quorum present, Minutes and Agenda were quickly approved.

I. The Government Affairs Committee update was presented by Reg Leichty, Founding Partner at Foresight Law + Policy in Washington DC:
  • Relevant issues before Congress, including:
    • Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA);
    • Targeted changes to Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) - to align standards more closely with HEA;
  • Regulations for Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by the US Dept of Ed, which are due 12 months from now before a new administration takes office next January. NASBE is asking for clarity on process, guidance, and timeline.
  • Major breakthrough: This week, the new Child Nutrition Act passed with bi-partisan support by the US Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee .

II. Executive Director Kris Amundson updated: programs & member services, personnel, budget, membership, 2016 Legislative Conference, and publications & webinars. With respect to programs & member services:

  • With passage of ESSA, NASBE's 2016 work plan is very clearly to help state boards of education (SBEs) implement the law successfully.
  • Briefings are planned for SBEs in several states and districts.
  • To assist members with ESSA implementation, NASBE is planning at least one ESSA-themed webinar every month, covering both obstacles and opportunities for states under the new law, and as rulemaking becomes public, will dive deeper on the issues and specifics, as needed.
  • Staff has identified several key areas to drill into to present via Policy Update or webinar:
    • Designing an Accountability System
    • Assessment
    • Low Performing Schools
    • Teacher Evaluation

In this way, SBEs can plan for how they might wish to address topics most efficiently, according to their agenda/meeting schedules. NASBE will focus its guidance to address items that are needed: fairly quickly, during the 16-17 school year ("soft launch"), and in the 17-18 school year (full implementation).

With respect to the 2016 Legislative Conference (LegCon):

  • April 3-5 in Washington DC.
  • Because today's meeting had to be reconsidered as a virtual meeting, several items will be taken up during LegCon (more on that to come).
  • LegCon theme: "Now What - State Policy Under the Every Student Succeeds Act".

III. "Old Business": Jim and President-elect Jay Barth talked about realizing the goal of hosting at least two Regional Conference each year. Plans are already underway for a Southern Area Conference, perhaps as early as this spring in Jay's hometown of Little Rock AR. Further off on the horizon may be a Northeast Area Conference. (Stay tuned).

IV. "New Business": the Board voted to approve a resolution to honor Roseann Bentley. Roseann served on the Springfield (MO) School Board (1974-1983), Missouri State Board of Education (1983-1992), and as President of NASBE (1988-89). She was the first woman elected to the Missouri State Senate (1994-2002). Roseann is being honored in her hometown of Springfield by having a building named for her. This resolution expresses the Board's congratulations.

The meeting adjourned at 12:30 PM.

* This blog post (and future blog posts about NASBE Board meetings) is not an official NASBE record, but is intended as a relevant document to which members and the public may refer. ~ mas

Special BESE Meeting in Southbridge

special meeting of the Board will be in Southbridge this Monday, January 25 (4:30-7:30 PM). It's the opportunity for BESE to hear from members of the public on the question of whether to designate Southbridge Public Schools as a chronically underperforming ("Level 5") district - - as per the Board's Regulations on School and District Accountability and Assistance, 603 CMR 2.06(1)(f):
School district and municipal officials, including the school committee, as well as the local teachers' union or association president or designee, a representative of the local parent organization, and members of the public, shall have an opportunity to be heard by the Board before final action by the Board to place the district in Level 5.
It's expected that no votes will be taken at the special meeting.

I look forward to reading written comments (email or hard copy - contacts for both are provided on this page, at right). To date, no hard copy letters on the issue have been received, and emails are a scant 6, with only one in opposition to receivership.

I had a conversation with a member of the community who wanted to understand the receivership process, and I had one phone call with an employee of the district.

When I attended the Department's presentation of District Review Report before the Southbridge School Committee last month, one member of the public spoke to the issue in the Public Comment period; I was surprised that fewer than 30 people attended the meeting.

Note that since the Board is devoting three hours on Monday evening to public comments on Southbridge Public Schools, public comment will be limited on Tuesday to the non-Southbridge items on the agenda.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


Looking back to last March and April

Above and below: Emails, letters, and testimony about the Holyoke receivership from students, parents, teachers, administrators, residents, and community partners.

Of the letters and emails received, only one (unsigned) expressed support for receivership. Of the testimony heard, only a very few were in support of state receivership for Holyoke Public Schools.
Prior to taking the vote last April, the Board held a Public Hearing at the War Memorial in Holyoke (standing room only);
of 63 speakers just a handful expressed support for receivership.
One of the lighter moments when Board Chair Paul Sagan addressed the standing room audience through an activist-supplied bullhorn (while glitches with the on-site PA system were being worked on).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Public Hearing on the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment

Proud to be one of the ten original signers of this initiative petition

The Joint Committee on Revenue meets at 10:30 AM today for a public hearing on the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment (H3933) - room B-1 at the State House. I'll be providing one minute of testimony as part of an education panel. Here are my thoughts:

Honorable Co-Chairs and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for the opportunity to testify in support of the Fair Share Constitutional Amendment. I’m Mary Ann Stewart, from Lexington, parent representative on the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE), speaking for myself, not for the Board.

I’ve been deeply involved in education from a number of local, statewide, and national perspectives. Students need a well-rounded education that’s based on a rich and varied curriculum that includes music, art, and athletics - but, many of these programs were eliminated or severely eroded in many communities during the recession years.

To provide a sound future for our children and our Commonwealth, we must ensure that all children get a great education, including those who face the greatest challenges. We need to invest more in foundation funding for school districts, early childhood education, extended day & wrap-around services, and post-secondary education.

Improving the quality of the education our children receive requires up-front investments for long term pay-offs to individual students, society, and to the workforce. Determining how to raise revenue for these long term investments is a critical challenge. We can make those investments by asking our highest income residents, who, as you know, currently pay less of their income in state and local taxes than the rest of us, to pay a little more on their income over $1 million.

Thank you for your consideration.