Monday, November 28, 2016

Chapter 70 Funding: Lynn's Local Public School Funding Contribution

A common misconception is that public school districts in Massachusetts are entirely funded by local property taxes. In fact, since the Education Reform Act of 1993, public education in the state is financed through a combination of local revenue and state aid (as well as federal funding to a much lesser degree). Each year, the Massachusetts state legislature determines the amount of funding necessary for each district to adequately educate its public school population. This spending level, called the "foundation budget," is calculated via a funding formula (Chapter 70) which takes a number of factors into consideration including the number special education and economically disadvantaged students as well as vocational education costs among other categories. Additionally, there are some assumptions built into the foundation budget rates such as assumed class sizes (in FY17, it was 22 for elementary, 25 for junior/middle and 17 for high school). The goal of the Chapter 70 funding formula is to ensure that every district has sufficient resources to meet its foundation spending budget through an "equitable combination of local property taxes and state aid." The foundation budget covers all of the students that a district is financially responsible for including out of district placements and charter school students.

For FY17, Lynn's foundation budget was determined to be $192,172,423 based on a student population 16,463; this amounts to a per pupil expenditure of $11,673. As previously mentioned, all of that funding, however, is not expected to come solely from municipal revenue (i.e. property taxes). The state provides Chapter 70 funding in order to make up the difference between a city or town's spending ability based on incomes and property values and the foundation budget [in other words: Foundation Budget - Local Spending Ability = Ch. 70 State Aid]. In Lynn's case, the local contribution for this fiscal year was calculated at $46,018,423 or 23.95% of the foundation budget; the remaining 76.05% was provided by Ch. 70 state aid. So while the amount amount that Lynn as a municipality has been required to contribute to public education has steadily increased since FY07:

The percentage of the total foundation budget figure determined by the state has remained consistently between 23 and 25%:

Again, the amount that cities or towns in Massachusetts are expected to contribute to public education varies depending on local property tax and other sources of municipal revenue. The town of Wellesley for example, has a student population listed as 5,095 in FY17 and contributed 83.27% of its foundation budget compared to Lynn's 23.95%. Lawrence, on the other hand, contributed 4.74% to its foundation in FY17. It should also be noted that the Ch. 70 funding formula does not prevent a district from spending more than its local contribution of foundation budget if additional local funds exist. In FY15, for example, Cambridge spent 2.25 its foundation budget total including amounts derived from state funding. While this does leave room for inequality between wealthier districts and poorer districts, the Chapter 70 funding formula is an attempt to create a more equitable public school funding system. As the formula was initially created in 1993 before the implementation of the MCAS test as well as the widespread use of technology in the classroom, there have been calls to revise the formula so that it accurately reflects the costs of educating students in the 21st century most notably through the Foundation Budget Review Commission's 2015 report. That and issues with the accounting of certain student populations means that while Massachusetts intends to have a fair funding system, there is still a considerable gap between some cities and towns that deems it necessary to update and revise the way that the state funds its public schools.
For more information on Chapter 70 funding

Monday, October 31, 2016

Lynn Public School District Still Underfunded by a Considerable Amount

Over the past two years, I have reported on net school spending requirements as they relate to the Lynn Public School District. This was particularly in light of reports from early 2014 that put Lynn at a staggering $15.7 million dollars under its NSS requirement for fiscal year (FY) 2014. Since that time, Lynn's actual school spending compared to the amount required by the state has been in flux due to additional monies being allocated toward public education as well as direct dealings with the state in order to resolve some of the shortfall related to retired teacher benefits being inadvertently counted toward NSS. Lynn;s shortfall for FY14 is now listed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as just over $9 million compared to the $15.7 million listed nearly three years ago; as of FY16, public education in Lynn is underfunded by $6.8 million. From 2009-10 to 2015-16, the Lynn Public School District's student population did increase by 12.9% after a period of steady decline from 2000-01 to 2008-09.

Though this is a considerable amount, because Lynn is within the 5% "underfunding threshold" allowed by the state, the city is currently not facing financial or other penalties for not fully meeting its NSS requirement. Not including any carryovers from previous fiscal years, Lynn's net school spending requirement for FY17 is $197,467,144 which could potentially put its total requirement well over $200 million when one factors in the amount under from FY16. 

All data taken from:

Monday, August 8, 2016

Lynn Sees Lowest Voter Turnout in City Elections

Understandably, there has much discussion lately in the news and on social media regarding the upcoming presidential election. This is not surprising given both the stakes in this year's election but also given the candidates, Democratic nominee Secretary Hillary Clinton and Republic nominee Donald Trump. Further, presidential elections in general seem to garner more interest that municipal or state elections. In Lynn, this is certainly the case. Below is voter turnout in the city over the last eight years.

2008 and 2012 were both presidential election years and saw Lynn's highest voter participation rates. The lowest turnout were in municipal election years with no mayoral race (2011 and 2015. In last year's municipal election, voter turnout was highest in Ward One at 32.7% and lowest in Ward Six at 14.4%. Surrounding cities/towns saw similar patterns with Chelsea seeing a 60.19% voter turnout rate in 2012 and then 15.63% and 20.54% in the 2013 and 2015 municipal elections respectively. Last year's municipal election in Revere saw a 40.73% voter turnout compared to 88.43% in the last gubernatorial race. From this it seems that overall voters are much more attuned to or willing to vote in state and national elections compared to their very local city elections.


Monday, July 25, 2016

New Metric Fails to Capture Large Number of Lynn's Low Income Student Population

Starting in 2011-12, the US Department of Agriculture piloted a program called the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) which allowed districts or schools with at least 40% of students qualifying to offer free lunch and breakfast to all students without collecting eligibility paperwork. The benefits of CEP were reported as reducing the burden of reporting on families as well as on schools for collecting and accounting for lunch fees. Additionally, it would reportedly reduce the stigma of participating in school lunch programs because all students would be eligible. In Massachusetts, because many districts' low income population were based on participation in free and reduced lunch, however, there was a need to redefine low income in a way that was accurate and consistent between districts/schools that did and did not participate in CEP.  The state recently instituted a new 'economically disadvantaged' metric which categorized students as ED based on the following criteria:
  • Students whose families participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Students whose families receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC)
  • Students in Foster Care
  • Students with MassHealth
The previous low income measure was based on eligibility for free or reduced price lunch, receiving Transitional Aid to Families benefits, or being eligible for food stamps (SNAP). The change is metric from low income to economically disadvantaged has resulted in a considerable drop in the number of students categorized as 'poor.' Compared to school year 2013-14, Lynn saw a 42.4% drop in lower income students when the new metric was used in 2014-15; Revere's low income population was halved using the new metric. 

2012-13 LI
2013-14 LI
2014-15 ED
2015-16 ED

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center has noted some keys reasons that fewer students are being identified as low income. Most notably, not all low income families enroll in public assistance programs. This is particularly true of undocumented families or parents but many other low income families as well who may simply refuse apply for assistance. More significantly, the state is not matching all of the students with the relevant public programs listed as criteria for being ED. For example, MassHealth Limited, which covers 16,000 children, was not a part of the initial matching process in the fall of  2015. Further, there are other unresolved technical problems in matching assistance programs with school enrollment data such that students enrolled in the relevant programs are not being matched and therefore left out of the 'economically disadvantaged' count.

School districts, particularly those with significant low income populations, are in disagreement with the change. In February, the Lynn School Committee passed a resolution against the accounting  change stating that the "under-counting of low-income students is harmful and unfair to districts like Lynn that are committed to serving all students and have come to rely on the extra funding for low income students provided through Chapter 70." Three quarters of Lynn's foundation budget is derived from state Chapter 70 funding. The Revere Public Schools' Superintendent Dr. Dianne Kelly is of a similar sentiment writing "this change is devastating the budgets of small and mid-sized urban districts... The fact is the state has chosen to not count thousands of poor kids when determining school funding." Chelsea's Superintendent, Mary Borque, went one step further saying "The integrity of the Chapter 70 now compromised." 

The new low income metric does indeed have major implications for districts' Chapter 70 funding allocations. To mitigate the effect of fewer classified low income students, however, the foundation budgets in fiscal year 2017 were adjusted in that the rates applied  to a district's ED population were based on the concentration of low income students. The base increment for ED students was $3,775 (Decile 1) with increases up to $4,135 (Decile 10) for districts with the highest concentration of ED students.  Lynn is in Economically Disadvantaged Decile 10 and received an additional $4,135 per ED student. Despite the increased aid for ED students compared to the FY16 rate of $3,142,  Lynn's overall foundation budget per pupil actually decreased in FY17 compared to FY16 even though the student population increased by 427. In fact, Lynn's foundation budget per pupil is just $11 more than it was in FY14 when the school population had 1,538 fewer students. It should also be noted that the English Language Learner, Vocational, Special Education In-District and Special Education Out of District student population and their subsequent increments all increased from FY16 to FY17.

The change in Lynn's foundation budget is largely due to the fact that Lynn is receiving increased low income student aid for a smaller population. In FY17, Lynn will see an increment of $37.5 million for its ED population of 9,078 (55.2%) of the student population. This is compared to low income student aid of $41.7 million in FY16. Using the low income numbers from FY16, Lynn would have seen nearly an additional $16 million if the FY17 rate of $4,135 per pupil was applied. This and the fact that the gap between the FY16 and FY17 foundation budgets is only $222,566 indicates that there is an issue in capturing all of districts' needy students and subsequently providing the aid that is necessary to adequately educate them. Consideration of the specific recommendations made in regard to low income students in the Foundation Budget Review Commission report should be made particularly as they relate to providing any and all relevant programming and supports for this population of students. It is evident that the new economically disadvantaged metric is missing a substantial proportion of Lynn's student population and as a result the district is missing out on much needed aid.

Data Taken from: 

Monday, June 27, 2016

9th Essex State Rep Q&A: Jennifer Migliore

In this year's 9th Essex District State Representative race, there are three candidates running to represent an area that includes Precincts 1 and 2 of Ward 1 Lynn, Precincts 1, 2 and 4-9 in Saugus and Precincts 1, 2, 3, and 7 in Wakefield: incumbent Donald Wong (R) and two challengers Saritin Rizzuto (D) and Jennifer Migliore (D).  Saugus native Jennifer Migliore is a 2014 graduate of Wellesley Colllege whose previous experience includes working as an intern for US Senator Elizabeth Warren and more recently for US Congressman Seth Moulton. Migliore has been endorsed by several organizations including the Mass Alliance, North Shore Labor Council and the Massachusetts Teachers Association. Here, she shares her positions on issues related to public K-12 education in Massachusetts. 

As 9th Essex District State Representative, you would be representing an area that includes parts of Lynn and Wakefield as well as the town of Saugus. What is your understanding of the issues facing public education in each of these places? Do you foresee any challenges in representing a district with very different student populations and in turn very different needs?

I am running for State Representative on a platform of opportunity. Without the excellent educational opportunities I had, I would not be the person I am today. I am fighting for ALL students in the 9th Essex District to have access to the highest standards of education the state can offer.

While knocking on doors, I am constantly hearing that folks want stronger schools. Families are worried that their kids are lacking many of the opportunities that higher-achieving districts enjoy. While Wakefield, Saugus, and Lynn are three entirely different communities, the lack of funding for education is a challenge amongst all three. Our schools need more funding; which is why I am such a strong proponent of the Fairshare Amendment, which would increase funding for our schools.  I would like to see funding increases for STEM lab programs, extracurricular activities, and early childhood education.

Much of the discussion around public education at the state level has been regarding the expansion of charter schools. First, what is your position on charters and the push to raise the charter cap? Second, do you think too much focus is being placed on this particular aspect of public K-12 education?

I am not against choice: I chose to go to a private high school.  However, I do not support funding charter schools with public taxpayer dollars to educate a select few. When describing the most effective method for educating our students, I live by the mantra “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Increasing funding for ALL of our public schools will lift all of our educational standards.

I am strongly opposed to lifting the charter school cap. Instead, we must focus on improving public schools. For example,  Saugus Public Schools are currently rated Level 3-- the lowest level assessment for Massachusetts public schools-- and are facing a $500,000 deficit, largely due to the diversion of public school funding to charter schools. Saugus Public Schools are losing a much-needed $1.7 million to charter school reimbursements, and as a result, the education of the children of Saugus is suffering.

That being said, I don’t think there is too much focus being concentrated on this issue-- I’m glad there’s a heightened and spirited debate about charter schools. The main point of contention isn’t about expanding charter schools, but how do we fund education so that ALL students receive a quality education? We need to be more creative and innovative about educational investments.

Aside from charter schools, another major issue in Massachusetts public education is funding. What are your thoughts on the most pressing needs in terms of updating or revising the way that schools are currently funded in the state?

Currently, Chapter 70 is funding public schools in Massachusetts. I view the Chapter 70 formula as detrimental to public education because it is an outdated formula that adversely affects communities such as Saugus and Wakefield. We need a new formula that funds BOTH our gateway cities like Lynn, but also funds our middle of the road communities like Saugus, which is unable to supplement major educational investments through property taxes.

Also, In the 9th Essex District there are major problems associated with how we fund the Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School. I am a major proponent of vocational schools. My father is a vocational high school teacher. Nevertheless, the current formula to fund the voke disproportionately affects Saugus.  Saugus, a level three school district, shouldn’t have to spend millions to subsidize other communities that enroll students at Northeast Metro.

Should 'college and career ready' be the standard or goal of K-12 education?

While it is essential that students be ‘college and career ready’ upon completing their K-12 education, it is also important that our children’s social and emotional needs are met as well.  Education must go beyond academics. Our children must learn to think critically and solve problems and be able to adapt readily to new situations and information.

What does the term "quality education" mean to you? What do you believe needs to be done in order to provide that to all students both in the 9th Essex District and statewide?

The term “quality education” is one that is not easily defined. However, the core of any solid education is the perception of value. For all students to obtain a true “quality education”, it is essential that schools foster a sense of worth and importance amongst their students and teachers. This sense of value is not something that can be derived by administering frequent tests or defining students based off scores from these exams-- a practice I am strongly opposed to. Value is created by making sure that students and teachers understand their innate worth.  

We must invest in modernizing school infrastructure, because it serves as a physical reminder that these students are valued, while simultaneously promoting meaningful relationships between students and teachers. One of the most profound classes I have taken was an education policy course at Wellesley. This class highlighted the importance of treating students as human beings, rather than statistics. I will always remember the lessons I have learned in that class, and I will fight to provide that sense of value to all the students in both the 9th Essex District and statewide.

For more information:

The State Primary this year will be held on Thursday, September 8, 2016; the general election is on November 8, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

Lynn Public Schools See Student Population Increase During 2015-16 School Year

The Lynn Public School department recently posted the proposed fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget on its website. Included in the 103-page document were March 1, 2016 enrollment figures. While the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reports district and school level enrollment figures, that data is only valid as of October 1st in any given school year. The data included the proposed budget compared to the information posted by the DESE gives us a sense of how enrollment fluctuated during the current school year.

Oct. 1, 2015
March 1, 2016
Early Childhood Ctr
Lynn Woods
Sewell Anderson


Lynn Classical
Lynn English
Lynn Tech

Fecteau-Leary Junior/Senior High School saw the biggest enrollment change between 10/1/15 and 3/1/16 with a 11.8% increase in the student population during that time period; the Early Childhood Center and Tracy Elementary also saw considerable increases (7.9% and 4.3% respectively). Overall the Lynn Public School District saw a 0.76% enrollment increase just when you compare these two enrollment dates, the equivalent of an additional 115 students.

Data Taken From: