Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Recap of the Legislative Forum - March 2, 2021

Quick Recap:
  • Senate President Karen Spilka, Senator Becca Rausch, and State Representative Jeffrey Roy participated in this 4th annual Forum
  • Student Opportunity Act funding, SPED reimbursements, social emotional learning and mental health issues were all topics of the session
  • Oh and yes, getting teachers a priority for vaccine was a key topic especially given the news out of Washington and the buzz among the various legislators around the state, not just those present
  • As for how much hope there is in the budget and state funding time will tell. Word from the Federal side is good especially with the new administration. Should have more insight over the next several weeks. House and Senate working on timeline to have a normal budget schedule. State is starting in a hole created by use of one time funds from last year. Gov Baker's budget uses more one time funds in his budget, how the House and Senate will work with that remains to be seen

Photos captured during the meeting and shared via Twitter can be found in one album 
As with most meetings in this pandemic period, I took my notes via Twitter during the meeting reporting in real-time via the virtual session.
The Twitter hashtag can be found online  #schcom0302

  • School Committee legislative forum on tap next at 6:30 PM agenda and connection info contained in doc #schcom0302 @jeffroy @KarenSpilka @BeccaRauschMA scheduled to participate in this session with Franklin, MA School Committee to help inform the community and answer questions on reopening, vaccine, state funding, and such topics. #schcom0302
  • Ready to go but is seems they are running late #schcom0302
  • #schcom0302 Spencer to provide overview of session, statement by Supt Ahern followed by questions of the legislative delegates, and then Q&A for public; 60+ present at start of meeting.
  • #schcom0302 Superintendent remarks include request to consider 2019 enrollment as the 2020 numbers reflects 'lost' students but it's expected they'll return. @KarenSpilka @BeccaRauschMA and @jeffroy introduced
  • #schcom0302 starting with Gov Baker's budget, @KarenSpilka acknowledges this forum is a 'rite of spring' albeit it would be better in person, at least we're together.
  • #schcom0302 use of $3.5B in one time funds last year will be a challenge to make up, $1.6B also from rainy day fund proposed for use this year. 3 mins per speaker interrupts but the other provide their 3 mins each to allow @KarenSpilka to finish. She hopes she won't need it
  • #schcom0302 there was wisdom in waiting to do the budget last year, it avoided deep cuts. Federal picture looks better, will continue to find out info as the weeks progress. So hopeful for what's coming. Stay tuned will build on the Gov budget.
  • #schcom0302 she did finish with 40 seconds or so to spare. What about student opportunity act? We are a year behind starting this. @jeffroy takes the lead on this. House to do budget for April, and be closer to traditional time line. Will see how to add to SOA funding
  • #schcom0302 Jeff - kudos to you for the hard work to do the best under really challenging period. @BeccaRauschMA adds to what was said by Jeff. SOA is key, what are other priorities?
  • Discussion on timing, turns out it is 3 mins for an answer to a single question, not per person. Ok. #schcom0302 SPED costs went from 22% to 26% from 2008 to 2019, a goodly increase. Reimbursement doesn't make a dent in service costs, hence imbalance.
  • #schcom0302 SOA did change the enrollment rate for refunding (increases it) but may still not fully cover SPED costs. ?on indigenous peoples day (Columbus Day) @BeccaRauschMA an advocate for this provides an update, it was refiled this year, gathering co-sponship now
  • #schcom0302 @BeccaRauschMA  did file bill to do away with holiday on Columbus and replace with election day. ? Ways to support mental health issues, @KarenSpilka has forum coming up, check webpage for details.
  • #schcom0302 did also get an earmark for mental health support for her district of which Franklin is part. Also talks of the OSA from 4Q
  • #schcom0302 SOA are working to increase funding for mental health issues, esp during COVID and likely post pandemic. President Biden just advocated for teacher vaccinations, @KarenSpilka also made statement today for priority of teachers. Franklin has capability to deliver
  • #schcom0302 vaccine program for teachers should be done before students return in person. Can be done locally. BTW up to 70+ for session.
  • #schcom0302 the message should be clear, both Senate and House want teachers prioritized. @KarenSpilka came to the Senate to change education funding, they are making progress. When I think about the pandemic and the toll on families, we need to get things done, safely
  • #schcom0302 pushing for clear Communications and better registration process for vaccines. How are things changing, what should the new normal be like? @KarenSpilka
  • #schcom0302 @BeccaRauschMA  touts equality approach to public health. What's next? Community immunity act, to set up for the future so we don't find ourselves here again
  • #schcom0302 @jeffroy  touting work of legislation to work remotely for the first time in 400 year history of the great and general court. Another hearing next week, pay attention, that's how we work. Link to legislation filed this session
  • Q on health insurance as it affects budget and rising yearly, how can folks survive with 7,8,9 % increases.
  • @BeccaRauschMA  the question does deserve a solution, @KarenSpilka have done some cost containment over years - clarification on SPED costs mentioned earlier
  • ? On substance abuse and what's being done at legislation? Recognition of it, funding provided to the community groups that are working with the schools to address these needs. #schcom0302 $50K specifically for an anti-vaping program and it was used  @BeccaRauschMA
  • @jeffroy adds that he was glad that the delegation did support the $50K esp in a time when we we're not supposed to be doing earmarks. #schcom0302 That's all for tonight, catch you next time!


screen capture of the Zoom session
screen capture of the Zoom session

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