The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

FY20 BESE/DESE Budget Priorities

James A. Peyser, Secretary of Education
Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
November 29, 2018

On November 20, 2018, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) voted its budget priorities for consideration in the development of the FY20 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 1 recommendations.

The Board's discussions recognized the fiscal reality that all executive branch agencies face in working to produce a budget plan for the next fiscal year. As such, the Board focused its attention on a few key areas to close achievement gaps and further the advancement of all students in our public education system.

In FY19, 13.3 percent of the total annual state operating budget is allocated for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department). Almost all of that is local education aid that flows to cities, towns, and regional school districts. In fact, within the annual state fund allocation for the Department, 98.8 percent of our funding is either district entitlement or reimbursement or a grant program. As in the past, the Board recognizes the need to advocate for levels of local education aid needed to promote and sustain high quality public schools.

Education Aid Accounts

The Board recommends that the Department's education aid accounts be funded at the highest level possible based on available revenues for FY20. The major focus for increase should be the Chapter 70 — Education Aid, Special Education Circuit Breaker, and Charter School Reimbursement accounts.

The Board recommends that any additional funding made available in Chapter 70 after the state's contribution to foundation aid is met, be directed to districts with identified achievement gaps in student learning, to support reforms that have evidence of narrowing achievement gaps. The Board encourages the Department to pay particular attention to the financial challenges of the school districts under state receivership. The Board recommends the Commissioner work with the Secretary to review other Chapter 70 increase factors including formula equity reform, minimum aid, and recommendations from the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The formula should address ways to help Holyoke and other districts that are close to the net school spending requirements on an annual basis.

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

Targeted Assistance — Achievement Gap Mitigation Account

The Board thanks the Governor and Legislature for the $5 million supplemental budget added to the 7061-9408 Targeted Assistance account and requests another $5 million increase in FY20, in light of the Governor's original request of $10 million per year for 3 years. The account would be used to support best practices that promote student growth and achievement in districts that are lagging and where investment can be leveraged with local and third party resources to close achievement gaps.

The account would focus on targeted assistance to improve student learning, through initiatives that include:

Next-Generation Assessment

The Board recommends that the third school year of the Commonwealth's new assessment program be funded at a level to support the direction approved by the Board in November 2015, including the $1 million expansion for Curriculum and Instruction implementation and assessment for History and Social Studies. Funding would include the continued development of the English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science assessments in grades 3–8, as well as the development of the new grade 10 test to be first delivered to the class of 2021 in the spring of 2019.

The Board also recommends new grant funding in FY20 for academic support. The grants would be awarded to districts to support students in the classes of 2023 and beyond who have performed below the competency determination standard in the MCAS subjects required for graduation.

Civics Education

The Board appreciates the additional FY19 funding support by the Governor and Legislature for implementation of Civics Education and the new standards and recommends the continuation of funding into FY20.

Support for English Language Learners

The Board appreciates the support by the Governor and the Legislature in providing additional funding for the 7027-1004 English Language Acquisition account and recommends the continuation of funding into FY20. The additional funds are needed to implement RETELL training for vocational educational teachers and to implement the LOOK Act, which provides districts with flexibility to choose a language acquisition program that best fits the needs of their English learner population. The funding would also support services for middle and high school students deemed to be at risk of dropping out of school as a result of language barriers or challenges in English Language Acquisition.

Interagency Resource Coordination

The Board recommends that the Department work with the Secretary's Office and other Massachusetts 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 Health and 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 Executive Office of Health and Human Services agencies could provide critical social, emotional, and health supports to improve students' learning ability.

STEM Learning Initiative

The Board supports the Department in requesting $1.4 million of new funding that would support STEM ambassadors in school districts. The Department has been relying on Title I and other federal dollars to support the state's STEM initiatives. Because federal funding is subject to budget cuts, the Department needs a dedicated state funding stream to support STEM education.

Educator Licensure

The Board is in support of the Department's request to raise educator license fees for the first time since 1998. The additional revenue will be used to improve customer service in the Licensure Office, improve the ELAR system, and strengthen the Office of Professional Practice Investigations to conduct more timely investigations and protect students from educator malfeasance. If the fee increase is approved, the Board recommends that the Department's Retained Revenue account be increased to include the additional revenue.

The Board and the Department appreciate your ongoing support for our work to close proficiency gaps and strengthen K–12 education throughout the Commonwealth. I look forward to our continued collaboration in the development of House 1.