Teacher Contract Settlement no reason to Worry about possible Cuts

Cuts

Some elected officials and former elected officials may cause people to worry about what programs may have to be cut because the present school committee and UTL reached a contract settlement.

I’d caution against over reaction, based on the fact that although the school dept. is looking at a $1.1 Million deficit approved by the last school committee including the 4 members no longer there, they still have around $300,000 in a the FY2015 Salary Surplus account that was set aside for salary increases along with approx. $3.5 million dollars in the School Committee suspense account. (which we learned last night will be used to cover the contract).

If initial radio / news reports are true of what the agreement is for (roughly 2% a year) this money should cover the 2 year period the raises represent.

Heading into next year , the initial budget from the Governor shows an estimated increase in Chapt. 70 State Aid of around $3,000,000 and that usually tends to increase or at least stay the same ones the legislature presents their budget.

In addition a Foundation Budget Review Committee made up of members of the House made some recommendations that could further increase the amount of state aid if enacted. A few of these would be of immediate help to Lowell

1. Adjust the employee health insurance rate captured in the “Employee Benefits/Fixed Charges” component of the formula to reflect the average 4 Group Insurance Commission (GIC) rate*; ( from the report – Actual spending on employee health insurance far exceeds the current foundation budget allotment for such costs, as noted in several recent studies. Statewide, district spending on “Employee Benefits & Fixed Charges” exceeds the foundation budget allotment by more than 140%.)

2. Increase the assumed in-district special education enrollment rate from 3.75% to 4.00% (for non-vocational students) and 4.75% to 5.00% (for vocational students)
 Current assumption (3.75%) = 15% of students receiving SPED services 25% of the time
 Proposed change (4.00%) = 16% of students receiving SPED services 25% of the time

Convert the ELL increase from a base rate to an increment on the base rate.

Apply the increment to vocational school ELL students as well.

Increase the increment for all grade levels, including high school, to the current effective middle school increment of $2,361. This would increase the range of ELL-only weightings and expand available funds for staff-intensive high school age interventions.

1. Increase the increment for districts with high concentrations of low income students. The Legislature will need to determine specific increments based on further review of data and debate, but based on its review of national literature, practices in other states, and model districts within our own state, the Commission offers the guidance that that weighting should fall within the range of 50%-100% and that multiple concurrent interventions are necessary to effectively close achievement gaps. The final decision should provide high poverty school districts with enough funding to pursue several turnaround strategies at once.

2. Ensure that any new definition of economically disadvantaged (necessitated by districts’ shift away from collection of free and reduced school lunch eligibility data) properly and accurately count all economically needful students.

So call and / or email our State Reps. and ask them to support the recommendations of Foundation Budget Review Committee.

Thomas.Golden@mahouse.gov – Rady.Mom@mahouse.gov – David.Nangle@mahouse.gov

Until we hear from the Superintendent or hear a current School Committee member expressing concerns that programs will be cut, let’s give the administration and new school committee the benefit of the doubt and see what transpires before we start saying he sky is falling or programs are getting cu.

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