The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

FY19 DESE Budget Priorities

James A. Peyser, Secretary of Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
December 6, 2017

On November 28, 2017, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education ("Board") voted its budget priorities for consideration in the development of the FY19 state budget. This memo conveys the Board's priorities and we ask for your support in advancing these resource priorities as we jointly work to develop the Governor's House 2 recommendations.

Understanding the current constrained state fiscal environment, the Board has targeted a small number of key priority areas of funding need. In FY18, 13.3% of the total annual state operating budget is allocated for elementary and secondary education. Almost all of that is local education aid that flows to cities, towns, and regional school districts. Within the annual state fund allocation for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), 98.8% of our funding is either Chapter 70 aid, reimbursement of local expenses, or a grant program. As in the past, the Board recognizes the need to advocate for levels of education aid needed to promote and sustain high quality public schools.

The Board has identified the following priority areas for the FY19 state budget. Additional funding for these priority areas identified by the Board is designed to provide DESE with modest growth to continue our leadership in supporting district efforts to provide an excellent educational program for all students in the Commonwealth, prepare all students for success after high school, and close proficiency gaps. We are prepared to discuss specific funding increases with you and your staff and with the Executive Office for Administration and Finance as Governor Baker prepares his House 2 budget proposal.

Education Aid

The Board recommends the Department's education aid accounts be funded at the highest level possible based on available revenues for FY19. The major focus for increase should be the Chapter 70 Education Aid and Special Education Circuit Breaker accounts. The Board recommends that the Commissioner work with the Secretary to review policy options for any Chapter 70 increase, including equity reform, minimum aid, and recommendations from the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

The Board also recommends that funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker account be as close to the maximum 75% reimbursement level as state revenue permits. This increase would acknowledge the increasing pressure of high-cost special education services funded in our districts.

In addition, the Board is concerned about the impact on local education budgets due to the influx of students from the U.S Territories resulting from this season's hurricanes. The Board supports additional state funding to address this issue in districts where there are large concentrations of new students.

Civics Education

The Board recommends that DESE increase its content expertise in history and the social sciences to support the implementation of the new curriculum framework currently nearing completion. In particular, DESE needs the capacity to support the development of the proposed new eighth grade civics course.

Early Literacy/ELL

The Board supports increased resources to assist schools in helping all students become proficient readers by grade 3. Current DESE literacy grants are focused on improvements in early grade literacy. The Board supports expansion of this grant program in FY19.

The Board additionally requests increased resources for DESE for the implementation of new requirements associated with the Language Opportunity for Our Kids ("LOOK") Act, chapter 138 of the acts of 2017.

Interagency Resource Coordination

The Board recommends that DESE work with the Executive Office of Education and with other executive branch agencies, through interagency agreements and intergovernmental service fund transfers, to address students' non-academic educational needs. The increased coordination of the Education secretariat with the Health & Human Services and Housing secretariats could identify additional resources that could be coordinated to assist students and families with services designed to improve a student's ability to be successful in the classroom on a daily basis. For example, resources within the Health & Human Services secretariat could provide critical social, emotional, and health supports to improve students' learning ability.

School Breakfast

The Board supports DESE's continued efforts to increase school breakfast participation. DESE continues to advance participation through multiple delivery options. The Board endorses DESE's ongoing efforts to support the nutritional needs of students during the school day.

Gifted & Talented Students

The Board recommends that the Commonwealth undertake a study of the needs of gifted and talented students. The study can be created via an outside section in the state budget, with a corresponding line item appropriation.

Educator Licensure

The Board supports DESE's efforts to increase the current fee structure for an educator license. Fees have not been raised since 1998. Increased demands for licensure services, educator misconduct investigations, and educator preparation oversight call for revisiting the current fee structure.