Extra money for native well being boards? Massachusetts lawmakers are engaged on it. | Central Berkshires

Local health officials in Berkshire County and across the state, which are on the forefront of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, could be standing up for an infusion of state funds. That is, if the statehouse legislators on Beacon Hill agree on a final version of the measure, as part of the $ 3.82 billion spending package Adopted by the State Senate last week.

Why it matters

According to the budget change tabled by Senator Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, who represents Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties, local and regional health officials would receive $ 95 million in grants aimed at cost-saving community services from small towns aim.

That would be on top of the $ 118 million earmarked for public health, according to Senate President Karen Spilka’s office. With the help of the American Rescue Plan Act and federal surpluses, the Senate bill provides more than $ 1 billion in total health care spending.

What’s at stake

Whether local health officials will see the public health reforms included in Comerford’s amendment depends on negotiations under way this week between House and Senate leaders. It is one of the few differences between the bills tabled by either side of the legislature that need to be reconciled in order to vote on a final draft ARPA spending before the winter break.

“The goal is to get the bill on the governor’s desk by Thanksgiving,” said State Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, D-Lenox. “I’m very optimistic that things will be ironed out. I am a great champion of Tri-Town Health. “

The regional agency has served Lee, Lenox and Stockbridge since 1929.

The proposal, approved by the State Senate, adopts reforms based on a 2019 report by the Special Commission on Local and Regional Public Health. The report called on state and local officials to pay to modernize the local public health system, standardize and ensure health reporting that all local health authorities comply with existing regulations and laws.

The commission found that 78 percent of the 105 cities in Massachusetts with fewer than 5,000 residents don’t even have a single full-time public health worker. As boards of directors are funded by local wealth taxes, they also reflect existing regional economic gaps, with poorer communities generally spending less on public health.

“In Massachusetts, where you live determines how safe and healthy you are likely to be,” the commission report said.

What’s the local influence?

“While we are fortunate enough to work in communities that value our department and public health, others are not as fortunate,” said James Wilusz, general manager of Tri-Town Health, which works with seven other cities in recently formed Southern Berkshire Public Health works collaboratively. “There are serious injustices and a lack of adequate resources and personnel. We need real dollars to build and maintain an even broader public health system. “

According to Wilusz, “the pandemic has exposed significant weaknesses in our local public health systems and now is the time to act and build better regional, smaller and more efficient systems.”

“The pandemic has shown all of us the importance of monitoring the health of local people, developing, implementing and monitoring programs to prevent the spread of communicable diseases, and identifying and supporting our most vulnerable community members,” said Amy Hardt, senior public nurse for the collaboration.

The additional government funding could also benefit the Berkshire Public Health Alliance, which is overseen by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission.

As COVID-19 spread in Massachusetts, some cities lacked the staff and resources to efficiently contact and communicate with state and local officials on the Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiological Network.

Health inspectors juggled their local pandemic responses, rapidly evolving advice on public health and restrictions on Baker administration, changes in contact tracing, and their day-to-day work in monitoring other diseases in their communities.

The bottom line

Under the Senate bill, the state would annually channel funds to local health authorities and regional health districts based on population, social and economic data and the existing level of shared services. Local and regional health authorities that are slow to meet the standards set by reforms could experience lower funding.

The bill calls for grants to promote multi-city sharing agreements. The grants would complement, rather than replace, existing funding received by local and regional health authorities, and would be separate from the annual funding required by the bill.

The Senate plan requires public health professionals to develop statewide standards similar to national standards for inspection, epidemiology, communicable disease investigation and reporting, permits and other local public health responsibilities, along with standards for education, professional development and data reporting.

These experts include the local board of directors for health, health organizations, academic experts, and members of the state’s special commission on local and regional public health.

According to the Senate’s bill, health departments would have to submit a report to the country by December 1 each year to prove that they were in agreement with the new standards.

Information from the State House News Service, the Boston Business Journal, and the Boston Globe was included in this report.

College boards should communicate up when cash goes away

Ohio, like almost every other state, offers a full range of tax breaks and other economic development incentives to attract businesses to communities. Leaving the debate aside for a moment about whether such subsidies achieve their stated goals – including creating jobs or starting businesses where they otherwise wouldn’t – the question arises as to whether the group operating on most affected by the loss of revenue, should have full control over its subsidies, part or even veto harmful business. We think the answer is “yes”.

Public school districts in Buckeye State are funded through local property taxes and typically receive the largest portion of local property tax collection from public institutions. How do the inheritance tax breaks affect you? What role do they play in the approval process? We met with several state and local politicians from across Ohio to get answers to this question. Here are the lessons learned from these meetings:

Overall, tax breaks have a negative impact on Ohio’s school budgets, and cities often distribute them indiscriminately with no meaningful involvement of school districts in the negotiations. The exact effects are uneven. For example, poor urban districts tend to feel more burdensome than their wealthier peers due to higher tax breaks and chronic underfunding.

Currently, school districts have limited powers to block a small fraction of community reinvestment (CRA) and enterprise (EZ) applications; You have absolutely no way of stopping comparatively much more expensive Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. Worse still, school authorities often fail to exercise their limited powers or fail to secure the reimbursements to which they are entitled from the cities.

Imagine the outcry if a large pot of the police budget could be given away by a third party.

We also learned that some communities encountered resistance when they tried to intervene. Columbus and Cincinnati are good examples. In Columbus, protesters marched against a DC tax cut for the new Cover My Meds corporate campus against City Hall, which would have resulted in almost $ 55 million in lost revenue for the school district over the course of the reduction. The cut was approved anyway.

In another incident involving a different company, the agreement was rewritten to reduce the number of new jobs required when it was discovered that the recipient would not keep their promise to hire.

In Cincinnati, where three councilors were recently arrested on tax break allegations of corruption, there is a monumental inter-city partnership between the teachers’ union and other community organizations to stop the widespread tax breaks and predatory TIF districts. The Cincinnati Educational Justice Coalition held briefings, held public meetings, and organized protests. Despite its best efforts, the city still approved 15 new TIF districts and 30 consecutive year-long cuts for the new FC Cincinnati stadium in the Port Authority district.

In addition, to the dismay of the school, the city council extended a total ban on allowing the school council to participate in the giveaways for 10 years. Many of the schools in Cincinnati are in dire need of repair and modernization.

Worse still, existing TIFs go unchecked so no one has any idea whether they will be paying off.

In other words, the city council deliberately ignores the will of the public in the interests of the company.

Unlike Columbus and Cincinnati, a small, affluent suburb of Columbus made it work through a formula of intergovernmental collaboration, widespread public engagement, and community alliance. Even if the school district cannot formally approve or deny a CRA application, the city’s economic development officials and school principals at least meet to discuss and discuss deals. In addition, the school district and city council actively participate in public. The existence of a strong civic coalition made up of a parent-teacher association, school authority, city administration, chamber of commerce and university officials has also helped to minimize the damage caused by tax breaks.

Why can’t Columbus and Cincinnati achieve this small town’s success? Our respondents attribute the reason to nepotism and the large differences in prosperity (along the racial lines) in both cities. That makes it harder to unite against poorly designed reductions. Columbus and Cincinnati both have ingrained and incredibly powerful political machines that work closely with corporate interests. The Columbus School Board is a stepping stone to higher political office; You’ll be counting on developer donations across the board.

The formal authority given to Ohio’s school districts in relation to tax breaks can be greatly expanded. They should get a full vote, or the state should take its revenue off the negotiating table entirely (other states do). In the meantime, the school authorities have to win back their vote in the approval process and at least demand adequate compensation from the cities for the lost income so that teachers and students are not neglected.

Connor Rigney, originally from Cincinnati, is pursuing a Masters of Regional Planning from Cornell University and is a research intern with Good Jobs First, a national nonprofit resource center that promotes fair, transparent economic development. Christine Wen, of Falls Church, Virginia, is a project coordinator at Good Jobs First.

Connor RigneyChristine Wen

Brookings Register | Tears, politics and cash: Faculty boards turn out to be battle zones

RAPID CITY (AP) – Local school authorities across the country are increasingly becoming cauldrons of anger and political division, simmering disputes over issues such as COVID-19 mask rules, the treatment of transgender students, and the teaching of the history of racism and slavery in America.

Meetings that were once neat, even boring, have become ugly. School board elections, once unchallenged, have drawn a list of candidates who have been stimulated by one issue or another.

A school committee meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia in June that looked at transgender students and teaching “critical racial theory” became so unruly that one person was arrested for misconduct and another charged with trespassing.

In Rapid City, South Dakota and Kalispell, Montana, non-partisan school board races turned into political warfare when Conservative candidates, angry at school mask requirements, tried to take control.

In Pennsylvania, a Republican donor plans to invest $ 500,000 in school board races.

“We are in a culture war,” said Jeff Holbrook, director of the Rapid City GOP in Pennington County.

In the South Carolina’s school system in Lexington-Richland, a new majority of board members angry at pandemic restrictions forced headmistress Christina Melton, who had urged maintaining mask compulsory through the end of the academic year. Just a few weeks earlier, she had been named State Inspector of the Year.

Melton burst into tears at a meeting in June when she offered to resign. A board member also resigned that day, complaining that behind closed doors the corporation had decided to oust Melton from office and avoid a public vote. The board reprimanded the resigned member in its next meeting.

“Now we are known as the district with the crazy school board,” says Tifani Moore, mother of three and husband who teaches in the district.

Moore is running for the vacant board seat and pledges to bridge the political divide that she believes has crippled the board.

“It’s so thick, even the kids can feel it,” she said.

School boards are typically made up of former educators and parents whose job, at least until recently, was mainly to iron out budgets, discuss the lunch menu, or hire superintendents.

But online meetings during the pandemic made it easier for parents to get into the mood. And the crisis gave new weight to the decisions of the school board. Parents feared their children would fall behind because of distance learning or argued about the seriousness of the health risks.

“I kept seeing frustrated parents, thousands of parents calling their board meetings, writing letters, and getting no response,” said Clarice Schillinger, a Pennsylvania parent who started a group called Keeping Kids in School.

She recruited nearly 100 parents to run for school councils across Pennsylvania in November. While the group banded together to push for schools to be fully opened, its candidates have also tried to ban the teaching of critical racial theory, which, among other things, states that racism is anchored in American laws and institutions

Schillinger said the group was 70-30 split between Republicans and Democrats. But its priorities are unmistakably conservative. She said she was trying to counter the influence of teachers’ unions on school authorities: “It’s really less government – that’s what matters.”

Paul Martino, a venture capitalist who donates to Republican candidates and has pledged half a million dollars to the movement and the creation of a statewide political action committee, said the new PAC will support candidates who are committed to keeping schools open no matter what , “Even if” there will be the dreaded increase in COVID in autumn. “

Conservative lists of candidates from other parts of the country are also targeting school authorities.

In Rapid City, four newly elected school board members will hold a majority vote on the seven-member body that oversees the education of around 14,000 students. In an area where Trump flags are still flying, the four candidates for the normally impartial board of directors in the June elections have secured support from the local GOP.

In previous elections, the seats on the board of directors were often filled in unchallenged elections. But this year the campaigns turned into political battles with personal attacks.

Critical racial theory is not part of the Rapid City school curriculum. But that didn’t stop the candidates from making it a central theme of the campaign.

“I believe with all my heart that this is how they will bring socialism and Marxism into our schools,” said newly elected member Deb Baker at a campaign rally.

Curt Pochardt, who was deposed as school council president in the election, said he feared the new partisan dynamic will affect the education of students.

“It doesn’t help children when there is tension in a school board,” he said.

Education experts warn that school authorities are wasting time addressing issues such as hiring teachers, ensuring internet access for students at home, or improving opportunities for youth with disabilities.

“Every time we don’t talk about these issues and we talk about something else that divides and maybe doesn’t happen at all – or at least not to the extent that it’s portrayed – a missed opportunity is focused on what we really need said Chip Slaven, chief advocacy officer for the National School Boards Association.

In Kalispell, a defeated school authority candidate who campaigned against mask mandates made it clear that he is not finished yet.

“I am the barbed thorn of the jumping cholla cactus,” Sean Pandina told the board in May. “I am the cholla in your flesh that you cannot remove. I feel good about losing the election because I’m tied up and not leaving. “

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Associate press reporters Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina and Iris Samuels in Helena, Montana contributed. Samuels is a corps member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a not-for-profit national utility that places journalists on local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

Extra money looked for native well being boards | Native Information

BOSTON – Local health officials were at the forefront of the state’s longstanding battle against COVID-19 – testing residents, enforcing virus restrictions, and setting up vaccination clinics.

Medical experts say the often underfunded and understaffed health authorities need more resources to ensure they are ready for the next pandemic.

Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at Harvard University’s TH Chan School for Public Health and former state public health officer, said the pandemic was a wake-up call to empower local health authorities who have a vital role in controlling the virus and protecting it Publicity.

“These local departments were overwhelmed and underinvested for too long,” he said. “That is one of the reasons we have seen such devastation.”

Dr. Carole Allen, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, agrees that more funds are needed to strengthen local health officials.

Allen, a former chair of the Arlington Board of Health, said stronger local health officials will improve the state and federal response to future COVID-19 outbreaks, as well as other viral infections, natural disasters, and disasters.

“Local health authorities understand the needs of their own community, and this is especially true of minorities and underserved communities,” she said.

Allen said better communication and collaboration was also needed between local officials and federal and state agencies that have not always been on the same page during the pandemic.

Massachusetts health authorities had extensive powers before the pandemic. These have been expanded as part of the health emergency to include the power to close businesses, close roads and restrict access to public property.

Many health authorities were already understaffed and quickly overwhelmed by the myriad of health restrictions posed by COVID-19 for businesses and individuals.

Some health officials have been forced into the roles of police officers as they attempted to balance civil liberties with the need to protect their communities from outbreaks.

Governor Charlie Baker has recognized the importance of health officials in fighting the pandemic and has diverted additional funds to support their scarce operations.

In April, his government created a $ 7.7 million grant program for local health authorities to improve cross-border coordination.

Secretary of State for Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said the funding will help expand collaboration between independently operating health agencies.

“Strong local health authorities across the state will better prepare us for major future health care threats or pandemics,” she said in a statement.

Koh, who served as deputy health secretary during the Obama administration, said the federal and state governments need to make more concerted efforts to support local health systems.

“We urgently need to revitalize the public health system so we don’t go through this again,” he said.

Christian M. Wade runs the Massachusetts Statehouse for the North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Send him an email at cwade@cnhi.com.

Senate invoice seeks to permit Virginia faculty boards to make use of state cash for broadband growth | Information

(The Center Square) – Legislation that would allow school authorities to raise funds to fund broadband Internet rollouts in non-serviced areas got past a second Senate committee in Virginia.

Senate Act 1225, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko, D-Herndon, advanced 12-0 through the Education and Health Committee Thursday, with unanimous support from both parties. It previously passed the Committee on Trade and Labor 15-0.

There would be no tax impact on the Commonwealth as the bill does not allocate additional funding to school authorities, but rather gives them additional flexibility with the government funds already received.

With some school districts in the state using distance learning only and other counties using a mix of distance learning and face-to-face learning, the bill would allow school authorities to allocate these funds to expanding broadband for educational purposes only. It empowers the Boards to work with private broadband service providers to promote, implement and subsidize this broadband expansion in their area of ​​responsibility.

To qualify for broadband expansion, students in the home would need to qualify for a nutrition program or other school board-approved program to determine which students are at risk.

The committee also passed laws requiring the Virginia Department of Education and the Board of Education to develop new policies and procedures to improve special education in the Commonwealth.