Education Funding with Rep. Aaron Vega | Connecting Point | Oct. 29, 2019
Articles,  Blog

Education Funding with Rep. Aaron Vega | Connecting Point | Oct. 29, 2019


>>>STATE REPRESENTATIVE AARON
VEGA, OF HOLYOKE, SAYS THIS IS THE YEAR THAT STATE LEGISLATORS
WILL SETTLE A LONG-STANDING DEBATE IN PUBLIC EDUCATION, THE
SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA. LAWMAKERS COULDN’T AGREE ON HOW
TO GET THAT DONE LAST SESSION, BUT NOW HOUSE AND SENATE
LAWMAKERS WILL SOON HAMMER OUT DIFFERENCES IN THEIR PROPOSED
$1.5 BILLION SPENDING PLANS FOR K-12 EDUCATION. WE SPOKE ABOUT HOW VEGA’S WORK
WITH STATE SENATOR SONIA CHANG-DIAZ FROM BOSTON, AND
WORCESTER STATE REPRESENTATIVE MARY KEEFE HELPED GET THE
PROCESS TO THIS POINT.>>ACTUALLY, LAST SESSION, WHEN
THE EDUCATION BILL THAT UNFORTUNATELY DIDN’T MAKE IT TO
THE FINISH LINE, I WAS VERY INVOLVED IN TRYING TO GET
SPECIFICALLY THE LOW-INCOME RATIO TOGETHER. AND THE BILL THAT HAPPENED LAST
SESSION WAS GOING TO LEAVE IT UP TO DESE TO CREATE A SYSTEM AND
WHAT DISTRICTS WOULD GET WHAT AND I WASN’T COMFORTABLE WITH
THAT.>>DESE, THE DEPARTMENT OF EARLY
AND SECONDARY EDUCATION.>>RIGHT. SHE WAS LEADING THE FUNDING.>>THE GAP, BASICALLY.>>WELL, THE
GAP AND LOOKING AT, SO THE EDUCATION FORM WE KNOW
TODAY WAS CREATED IN 1993 AND NEVER REALLY UPDATED. AND THE THREE BIG ISSUES THAT
HAPPENED SINCE 1993, ARE OBVIOUSLY, THE COST OF HEALTH
CARE TO OUR DISTRICTS. IT IS KAILLER TO OUR BUDGETS. THE INCREASE OF SPECIAL
EDUCATION. ONE STUDENT CAN CAUSE A DISTRICT
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. GETTING THE EDUCATION THAT
INDIVIDUAL DESERVES, BUT TAKING MONEY FROM OTHER STUDENTS, SOB
VOUSLY. AND THE LOW INCOME. WE HAD POVERTY AND PROGRESSIVE
FORM WILL FROM CHAPTER 70 WAS TO ADDRESS THAT, BUT THE GAPS WERE
INCREASING. MASSACHUSETTS IS SAYING WE ARE
NUMBER ONE IN EDUCATION, WE WERE ALSO NUMBER ONE IN SOME OF THE
BIGGEST ACHIEVEMENT GAPS. BY THE TIME I GOT ELECTED
EDUCATION WAS ONE OF MY FOCUSES, OBVIOUSLY, COMING FROM HOLYOKE. I HAVE KNOWN SENATOR CHANG-DIAZ
AND BRINGING IN MARY KEEFE IN MADE SENSE BECAUSE THE ACT IS
ABOUT THE COMMONWEALTH. EVERY COMMUNITY NEEDING MORE AND
DESERVING MORE FOR EDUCATION FUNDING SO HOLYOKE, BOSTON,
WORCESTER CONNECTION MADE A STRAIGHT LINE ACROSS THE
COMMONWEALTH.>>SO MANY TIMES I HAVE SPOKEN
WITH YOU AND OTHER LAWMAKERS FROM WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS AND
SPECIFICALLY LOOKING AT THE FUNDING PIECE, THE FUNDING
FORMULA, SO MANY TIMES THE DISCUSSION IS IT
DISPROPORTIONATELY IMPACTS WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS AND THE
CENTRAL AND EASTERN PARTS OF THE STATE DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT. SO WHAT WAS THE DISCUSSION LIKE
WITH THE SENATOR AND THE REPRESENTATIVE?>>SURE. THE REASON WHY IT GETS
FRUSTRATING IS SO MUCH IS BASED ON POPULATION. THE REALITY IS BOSTON HAS THE
BIGGEST POPULATION, RIGHT. THE REALITY IS BOSTON IS GOING
TO HAVE THE MOST KIDS IN POVERTY. THEY HAVE SOME OF THE BIGGEST
TAX RETURNS, OF COURSE, FOR THEIR BUSINESSES. THE REALITY IS THAT PLACES LIKE
WORCESTER AND BROCKTON, FALL RIVER WERE FALLING BEHIND
EDUCATIONALLY, SPECIFICALLY AROUND THE ECONOMICALLY
DISADVANTAGED. THE CONVERSATION WAS ABOUT HOW
DO WE HAVE THIS BE A WHOLE COMMONWEALTH BILL. UNFORTUNATELY, IN THE VERY
BEGINNING IT STARTED PITTING EVERYONE AGAINST BOSTON. AGAIN, IF YOU PUT MORE MONEY
INTO A FORMULA BASED ON CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENT,
POPULATION, BOSTON IS GOING TO DO WELL. THEY HAVE THE BIGGEST
POPULATION. WHEN YOU LOOK AT RAW DOLLARS IT
LOOKS LIKE THEY ARE GETTING SO MANY MORE DOLLARS, BUT WHEN YOU
LOOK HOW IT IS POURED OUT EQUITABLY, IT MAKES MORE SENSE. WE HAVE BEEN TRYING TO FIX THE
HEALTH INSURANCE, THE SPECIAL EDUCATION. BOSTON’S NUMBER BOTTOM LINE IS
GOING TO BE BIGGER THAN HOLYOKE’S OR SPRING FEEL’S,
RIGHT? NOW WE WANT TO MAKE SURE THE
STUDENTS ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED, SPRINGFIELD,
CHICK PEA, HOLYOKE WILL GET THEIR FAIR SHARE AND BOSTON
WILL, TOO, BUT THE PROGRESSIVE FORMULA BASED IN 2019 NOT 1993.>>AS YOU MENTIONED AND WE
TALKED ABOUT, THIS FAILED LAST TIME. WE GOT TO THE END, REALLY A LOT
OF BACK AND FORTH ABOUT IT AND TALKS DIED.>>YES.>>THIS TIME AROUND THE HOUSE
AND SENATE HAVE APPROVED $1.5 BILLION SPENDING PACKAGE OVER
SEVEN YEARS IN EDUCATION. WHAT IS DIFFERENT THIS TIME
AROUND?>>I THINK TWO THINGS ARE
DIFFERENT. ONE IS THAT I THINK FIRST OF ALL
THE LEGISLATURE DOESN’T LIKE TO GO TO BAT TWICE AND NOT HIT A
HOME RUN. WE DON’T WANT TO WALK AWAY FROM
THIS AGAIN. THE OTHER DIFFERENCE IS THE
NUMBERS ARE THE SAME. LAST YEAR THE SENATE HAD A
VERSION THAT BASICALLY MIRRORS WHAT WE HAVE TODAY. DIFFERENCES ON CHARTER SCHOOL
REIMBURSEMENT AND OTHER THINGS. AS FAR AS THE FORMULA, THE HOUSE
VERSION DIDN’T HAVE THAT. THE HOUSE VERSION WAS LET’S
LEAVE IT UP TO THE DEPARTMENT OF SECONDARY AND EARLY EDUCATION. TODAY THEY HAVE THE SAME
NUMBERS. THE CRUX OF THE BILL, THE MEAT
OF THE BILL IS THE SAME. THE PROJECTIONS, THE FUNDING,
THE PERCENTAGES ARE ALL THE SAME. THE DIFFERENCES RIGHT NOW ARE
IN, I BELIEVE, YOU KNOW, ONE HOUSE, ONE CHAMBER APPROVED A
RURAL COMMISSION TO LOOK AT RURAL SCHOOL ISSUES, RIGHT? THERE ARE SOME LITTLE
DIFFERENCES. THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE IS ONE
WORD, MAY OR SHALL. THAT IS THAT EVERY DISTRICT IS
GOING TO HAVE TO PRESENT A THREE-YEAR PLAN TO DESE ON WHAT
THEY PLAN TO DO WITH THIS MONEY, EXTENDING LEARNING TIME, EXPAND
PRE-K, EIGHT LISTINGS OF TOPICS BUT THEY CAN BE ANYTHING. IT IS GOOD TO HAVE. WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT THIS MONEY
IS GOING TO GO TOWARDS, RIGHT? THE MAY OR SHALL IS AROUND WHAT
THE COMMISSIONER, IS IT A SIGN OFF BY THE COMMISSIONER OR A
CHECK OFF BY THE COMMISSIONER, RIGHT? SO SHALL HE OR SHE APPROVE THOSE
PLANS OR MAY HE? THAT IS REALLY WHERE THE RUBBER
MEETS THE ROAD. I HAVE TO SAY, THOUGH, THAT I
REALLY HOPE WE DON’T LOSE SIGHT OF THE COMPROMISE AND THE
AMAZING WORK THAT THE CHAIRWOMAN DID AND THE CAUCUSES DID, WHERE
WE CAME TOGETHER AND FOCUSED AND DUG INTO THIS ISSUE AND LEARNED
ABOUT IT. I THINK YOU HAVE TO ALLOW THE
SECRETARY OF EDUCATION TO HAVE A SAY IN HOW THIS MONEY IS GOING
TO BE SPENT. THERE’S NO CLAWBACKS, THERE’S
NO, YOU KNOW, ABILITY TO TAKE MONEY BACK FROM A DISTRICT IF
THEY DON’T LIKE THEIR PLAN. IF THEY DON’T LIKE THE PLAN
PRESENTED THE PURPOSE IS TO WORK WITH THAT DISTRICT AND HASH IT
OUT. WE WANT TO HAVE EVIDENCE-BASED
DATA-INFORMED DECISIONS MADE BY DISTRICTS AND HAVE DESE APPROVE
THOSE DISTRICTS. DO WE WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE AND
HOW THINGS HAPPEN, AT MOMENT, WE CAN’T LET THIS GO BY, $1.5
BILLION INVESTMENT IS KEY.>>I WANT TO ASK YOU A QUESTION
THAT MIGHT SOUND LIKE AN ADMINISTRATIVE QUESTION. THE SENATE FILED ITS OWN BILL. THIS TIME HOUSE AND SENATE FILED
LEGISLATION. IS THAT SIGNIFICANT IN ANY WAY?>>IT IS SIGNIFICANT. IT IS SIGNIFICANT AND CREATED A
LOT OF INTERESTING TENSIONS AND ISSUES INTERNALLY IN THE
BUILDING.>>IT IS NOT THE WAY IT IS
USUALLY DONE.>>IT IS NOT ALWAYS THE WAY IT
IS USUALLY DONE. CORRECT. EVEN SO, BECAUSE WE DID THAT AND
PUSHED THE CONVERSATION AND PEOPLE, YOU KNOW, SO MANY OF MY
COLLEAGUES DUG INTO THIS ISSUE AND UNDERSTOOD IT, IT GAVE US
THE OPPORTUNITY AS HOUSE MEMBERS TO TALK ABOUT THE HOUSE BILL
INSTEAD OF SUPPORTING A SENATE BILL. THE SENATORS AN OPPORTUNITY TO
TALK ABOUT A SENATE BILL AND NOT SUPPORT A HOUSE BILL. THERE IS TENSION BETWEEN THE TWO
CHAMBERS. WHEN HOUSE MEMBERS SUPPORT A
SENATE BILL IT IS A GRAY AREA. IF A HOUSE MEMBER CAN SAY I
SUPPORT THE HOUSE VERSION, EVEN IT IS IDENTICAL, IT IS COVER.>>SOMEONE AT HOME THINKS WE
ELECT YOU TO GO TO BEACON HILL AND GET THE PEOPLE’S WORK DONE
AND THIS SEEMS LIKE CHILDISH INFIGHTS.>>NO ONE WANTS TO SEE THE
SAUSAGE GET MADE. IT IS THE BEHIND THE SCENES
WORK. THE REALITY IS WE PUT FORTH TWO
BILLS THAT WERE IDENTICAL, THE PROMISE ABOUT GOT 102 SPONSORS
OUT OF 200 PEOPLE. THE GOVERNOR PUT FORTH A BILL
AND ANOTHER HOUSE BILL THAT WAS THE GOVERNOR’S BILL IN SOME
WAYS. THIS IS JUST THE PROCESS, RIGHT? I MEAN, WHEN YOU PULL THE
CURTAIN BACK, PEOPLE WANT TO SEE. WE KNOW PEOPLE ARE IN AN UPROAR
ABOUT A BILL TALKING ABOUT A CERTAIN WORD THEY WANT TO BAN. THAT IS FILED BY A REQUEST. SOME CONSTITUENTS SAY CAN YOU
FILE THIS BILL. I SAY, OKAY, IT IS MY DUTY,
PEOPLE WANT TO BE PART OF THE PROCESS, JUST BECAUSE THE BILL
GETTED FILED IT IS NOT LAW. EVERY BILL GETS FILED HAS A
HEARING.>>THAT IS HOW WE HAVE A STATE
COOKIE.>>EXACTLY.>>WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS FOR
THIS?>>SURE. RIGHT NOW SINCE THERE ARE SOME
DIFFERENCES THERE IS A CONFERENCE COMMITTEE, THREE
SENATORS AND THREE REPRESENTATIVES WILL COME
TOGETHER TO HASH OUT THOSE DIFFERENCES LIKE ANY BILL. WE ARE HOPEFUL SINCE THEY ARE SO
CLOSE I THINK WE’LL GET THIS DONE I HOPE BEFORE THANKSGIVING. GET IT TO THE GOVERNOR. HE COULD OBVIOUSLY TRY TO VETO
IT. IT WAS UNANIMOUS IN THE HOUSE
AND SENATE SO ANYTHING HE TRIES TO VETO WE WILL OVERRIDE BECAUSE
WE WANT IT BAKED INTO THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET FOR THE NEXT
FISCAL YEAR.>>LAST QUESTION BRIEFLY, ARE
YOU MORE OPTIMISTIC THIS TIME AROUND THAN LAST YEAR?>>100% MORE OPTIMISTIC. 10 TIMES THE BILL. MUCH MORE SUPPORT ACROSS THE
BOARD. WHAT THE CHAIRWOMAN AND
LEADERSHIP DID WITH THE STUDENT OPPORTUNITY ACT IS SOMETHING
EVERY DISTRICT BENEFITS FROM AND I DON’T THINK THERE IS ANY WAY
THE GOVERNOR CAN GO AGAINST IT.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *