Massachusetts school superintendents are seeking relief from regulations and mandates, saying they are overwhelmed by the cost of state and federal rules and their impact on school district budgets.
Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said Wednesday his members are interested in an overall review of the fiscal impact, redundancy and possible streamlining of regulations.
In testimony submitted to the Joint Education Committee, Scott said Taunton Public Schools estimated state and federal rules and would require $6.7 million in expenses over the next few years. The school district's budget is about $78 million.
"Educators fill their day completing checklists, filing paperwork, recording reams of data, and complying with numerous regulations that have minimal benefit and are not improving schools or the student learning experience," Daniel Gutekanst, Needham Public Schools superintendent, wrote in his own testimony.
Scott, the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents executive director, testified in support of legislation that would set up an 11-member task force to review education-related mandates.
Barnstable Superintendent of Schools has strong feelings on the topic
Here on Cape Cod, Barnstable Superintendent of Schools Mary Czajkowski has strong feelings on the topic of regulatory relief. In a statement issued today, Dr. Czajkowski remarked:
“There is little doubt that in the past 3-6 years, mandates and regulations have changed the landscape of public education. A number of the mandates were based on the Race to the Top funding, which generated over $125 million to districts in the state of Massachusetts – but left districts responsible for the costs when the funding expired. As an example, the new Educator Evaluation system will cost thousands of dollars for data management, consulting and software licensing fees. This is just one component of Race to the Top. Another example would be the PARCC assessment system. Should that come to fruition, it will result in thousands of dollars in technology costs to move districts from traditionally paper-based assessments to computerized assessments. When the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education introduced a competitive technology grant to districts last winter, it was touted as being a cost-effective way for districts to purchase technology. However, due to Barnstable's particular median housing costs and other factors, 30% would have been state-funded while 70% would have to be district-funded. Yet another additional cost.”
The bill was filed by Rep. Alice Peisch, a Wellesley Democrat and co-chair of the Joint Education Committee.
"I note that we do provide billions of dollars in local aid to school districts, so it's not as though there's no state funding," she said. "But I think there may very well be, and I'm hopeful that this commission will answer the question, of whether we have some overlapping reporting requirements, primarily reporting requirements that we might be able to modify so that it would reduce the administrative burden on the schools."
Peisch said many mandates that draw complaints are federal ones.
"I'm hopeful that we'll identify some opportunities for streamlining. Maybe for example, a report the feds require, we determine is sufficient for our purposes instead of some duplications, that kind of thing," she added.
Dr. Czajkowski, who will become Lexington’s school superintendent in July, has her own suggestions on legislative remedies.
“I would encourage legislation whose aim is to reduce redundancy. One example would be the School Attending Children (SAC) data collection done on January 1st. The SAC closely resembles the data collections already done on October 1, March 1 and the end of the year with the exception of requesting data on residents not attending school within the district. The majority of that data can be gathered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from one of the already-existing data collections from public schools and by collecting more detailed data from private schools.
I would also encourage a review of federal and state regulations that can be streamlined allowing school districts to get back to their core mission: educating and developing students through teaching and learning. Further, I would suggest that any new initiative, mandate, regulation or law that is put into place at the state level be required to undergo a cost analysis to determine the total cost to the district (budget impact upon human resources, technology, professional development, personnel, etc.,) and the funding that will be added to the school budget to pay for it. This must be done in advance of any implementation.”
Dr. Czajkowski leads Cape Cod’s largest school district. She is past president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents.