Commissioner reports to Education Committee on reorganization

The Committee is a bit behind in their agenda this afternoon.

At 3:00 the Commissioner will give her report.

I have a meeting at 4:00 and so may not be able to listen to the whole thing. So I'm leaving this post up so others who are listening can report.

3:10

Audio is now on. Session is resumed

3:13

Commissioner begins presentation to committee. Materials include Powerpoint, Narrative summary companion.

Review of history and purpose of law.

LD1...

3:14

Declining enrollment.

Intent of

Intent of legislation:

Equitable education opportunities. Fullan report. Assessments flat for almost 6 years. Fullan recommended. Need to tackle lack of coherence. Need rigorous academic programs. Uniformity in delivery of services.

Greater uniformity of tax rates in reponse to Tabor. Effective use of limited resources.

Preservation of school choice.

Intended for all school units originally (Gov. proposed 26 units.) Lots of good debate.

Brookings report: Range in costs of administrative costs.

Post-law process: letters of

Post-law process: letters of intent, form RPCs. Collaborative process with municipalities, schools and citizens. Composition of committees.

Alternative plans, exemptions

All had to show administrative savings in plan.

Districts with fewer than 2500, minimum numbers students. Criteria needed to meet, approved by Commissioner.

Misunderstandings about school closings.

Isolated rural schools

As few as 1000 students and other criteria.

Doughnut hole, requirements. Have had one.

High-performing schools. Three criteria. (Not recommended by Department.)

Requirements of plan. Could

Requirements of plan. Could not lay off teachers.

Components of Reorganization Plans: size & comp. of board, disposition of property, debt, etc.

RSUs, AOSs

RSUs
Local school advisory committees, core responsibilities.
Last session added alternative organization structure (AOS) arrived at through Inter-local Agreement.

Requirements of AOS. Core functions, coherence.

Enormous commitment of time

Enormous commitment of time from RPC members. Department provided support through facilitators. Financial support. $2500 to each SAU, twice.

Will support new districts

Will support new districts with regional educational planning. Expect all 24 districts to take advantage.

Also assistance with new data management.

Still working on RFP on transportation routing software. RFP was challenged, so have to do a second.

Amendments to law last session

Cost sharing agreements allowed. Minimum spec ed subsidy retained for min receivers. Concerns about school closings. Law was amended to require 2/3rd vote.

3:47

School choice provision retained.

(That's it for me; got to go...)

Continuation

Regional budget meeting; budget validation vote; Portland is good example.

New: 11 cost centers

Budget validation must be done for three years; after that, voters can vote to eliminate budget validation process.

Penalties for non-conforming school units: SAUs which do not meet the parameters.

Adjustments to funding formula: minimum receivers will get 50% of allocation; reduction in admin by 50% ($105 per student); local mill rate expectation goes up 2%. Team will identify cost of education for that unit; shift to "who has what responsibility for contributing to cost of education." Also lose elgibility for transition adjustments; less favorable for construction.

Part 1 Over/Questions

Questions:

Q. Budget validation applies to everyone?
Yes.

Q. After three years the community can vote not to keep budget validation?
Yes. Wanted transparency of budgeting. Experience would allow that decision. Could not reconsider for another three years after repeal.

Q. Consistent collective bargaining agreements? Would cost a lot of money? What does it mean?
AOS - careful not to use word "common". Ratified and approved at local level within AOS. Within RSU there is a more defined process by law.

Q. In small town where school needs to be closed, could RSU Board vote to give building to the town?
Somewhat complicated. Each plan had to spell out what would happen. SAD school would be different from municipal. Another scenario: local-only debt. RPCs had to grapple with these issues.

More Questions

Q. How much has it cost state to oversee/monitor this process?
Appropriation - $1.7 million. Additional - couldn't hear. Transportation software: $1.2 million. Student information system, too.

Summary of types of expenditures: blue sheet. Not included: DoE staff time. Does include facilitators, etc. $5,000 to each RPC to cover costs. Legal fees. New grants to help RSUs. Some analysis of facility analysis.

Q. (Finch) Specific case: 2 towns jointly own school building. One town voted to join AOS; other did not. School building in non-conforming town.
Towns must decide how to share costs; would encourage inter-local agreement to define the resolution process.

Q. (McFadden) Specific case: Can non-conforming town now vote "Yes"?
Absolutely. Can file new plan to join AOS.

Q. 4,000 man-hours in meetings; towns/SAUs complied with state law; DoE approved; most towns voted down in referendum. Having caused all that work and voters having made decision, would Commissioner agree with proposal to revoke penalties? How about exceptions if necessary for financial reasons?
Commissioner has not supported repeal of penalties. Tension between carrot stick and other. To repeal penalties after others complied and towns who voted down KNEW they were doing so would not be good. Unfair.

Should continue to work with all those communities, though.

Exceptions: isolation. Could not hear answer.

Educational opportunity: In most cases, educational opportunity did not drive the plans. KIDS did. That's why the next step with new RSUs to evaluate ed policy issues is happening.

Even More Questions

Q. New projections in student numbers?
State Planning Office - 2012 appears to be low point. 175,000. Some difference - 5,000-7,000 students. Still in downward turn. Leveling off at around 195,000.

Q. Flat student assessment scores?
On MEAs, not NAEP. On NAEP, compare our growth with that of other states. Minimal, not as good as Massachusetts.

Q. Composition of AOS.
Lost the answer.

Q. Lost question.
Document reference - "Status of RSU/AOS Implementation". Plan spelled out. Board elections: some have been held, some are scheduled. Once held: State Board must certify election; hire interim superintendent (clerk). Then hire superintendent; start budget; policy compilation; analysis of educational programs; new structure - merging business, special education; transportation, etc.

Commissioner: Next steps for some SAUs which voted "yes", but do not have partners or enough students. Still reaching out to those who voted "no".

Q. High-performing schools; what is process for monitoring?
There is no process for un-designating those. Would need data by building; not done that way before. Recommendations to follow once have 3 years of data.

Got to leave.

Rural Areas?

I started to leave and then heard Pat Sutherland ask about rural areas where there are smaller communities who are having very difficult time finding partners.

Commissioner: one of the goals for the DoE figure out how to use what resources exist to facilitate different conversations about this. Regional collaboratives, for example.

Asks Committee to look at summary chart. Going from 290 to over 200. Some of those voting "no" do not operate a school.

Commissioner refers to a document. Change commitment from state to contribute; Vermont has law which says something about not contributing to small schools (not sure I got that?) Also refers to maps which are apparently around the room. DOT provided those.

OK; really leaving now.

Thanks, Nancy!

Look forward to reports from the regular reporters.

rest of report...

[...From JSproule. Thanks!]

From my notes:

Additional information on the question of cost of implementation to state:
• Additional $3 million appropriated after initial $1.7 million, but some of the $1.7 was used to balance budget
• Student data software $1 million

Picking up from Nancy:

Q. (Finch) Must units be contiguous?
No.
Q. What is the last date units have to meet to avoid the penalty for 2009-2010?
The law states Jan. 30, 2009. Commissioner can’t change it.
Q. But legislature could. Would that be a competing measure?
Need a lawyer to answer that.

Q. (Nelson) At 200 units. Will you continue to try to reduce that?
Can keep working. The law targets 80, but also states that Commissioner can not disapprove a plan if it results in more than 80.
Q. Are the penalties forever?
Yes, as long as a unit is nonconforming.
Q. Will there be any incentives?
Hopes there will be. Now for the first time there are units with more than 1 high school; should provide new opportunities for education. (I heard a partial phrase “struggle with reductions”). Will adjust labor markets for new units.

(Weston) referred to earlier comment about Sinclair Act and notes that it was not a mandate.
The reorganized units plus the noncompliant ones total less than half of the school population. Over half did not have to consolidate in order to comply with the law.

Q. (Richardson) About competing labor markets?
We (includes Silvernail), will do analysis and come up with new numbers.

Q. (McFadden) Should be 1.0 statewide. Will there be more than 31?
Don’t know until do analysis and numbers. Then it is up to you to decide.

Chairman Sutherland brought session to a close and remainder will be rescheduled.