Be Wary of the Regionalizers III

Over at RI Future, State Representative David Segal (D-Providence) endorses Stephen Alves-style school regionalization, which goes beyond consolidating administration, and could involve sending students from schools in currently high-performing districts to schools in lower performing ones…

Pick up a few more tens-of-millions by consolidating the schools, with the added benefit of increasing equity and socioeconomic diversity, and it’ll be a new day for Rhode Island — we’ll be showing surpluses, as far into the future as we can see.
The view on regionalization described by Senator Alves and Representative Segal, as well as the general tenor of Rhode Island politics, should serve warning that some Rhode Island legislators are actively pursuing novel ways of allowing big cities to tap the property tax revenues from surrounding cities and towns, in this case by placing school funding for smaller communities under the control of urban-dominated regional authorities. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
The problem with Representative Segal’s call for “equity” is that Rhode Island’s state education aid formula is highly inequitable in a way that already benefits the urban core. Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket all get over $6,000 per-pupil in state aid. Many of the smaller cities receive aid in the range of $2,000 – $4,000 per student, while towns like Barrington and East Greenwich receive less than $1,000 per student. You do have to admire the chutzpah of a State Rep from Providence who claims that this system can be made more equitable by giving an even bigger proportion of money to Providence!
There are several ways that strong regionalization might be used to manipulate the distribution of school funding further in favor of the cities, all in the name of equity…
  • A regional school authority could reduce funding to the non-urban schools under its jurisdiction and direct the money from the cuts to urban ones.
  • A regional school authority could force tax increases on the non-urban communities under its jurisdiction and spend the bulk of the additional revenues on urban schools.
Under either scheme, “equity” is code for transferring an increased share of tax revenue to the control of the urban education bureaucracies that are already doing the least with the most state aid. If these kinds of plans are not what Representative Segal is suggesting, then how else can he hope to achieve “equity”?
Actually, there is one other option…
  • A regional school authority could also make provisions for students — and money — from failing urban schools to go to the better schools within its district, effectively defunding the failing schools.
However, this would be a non-standard use of the term “equity” in the debate about school funding. Talk of “equity” is generally reserved for discussions of how to guarantee all geographic-monopoly education bureaucracies the same basic level of funding, regardless of the quality of education they provide.
But, ultimately, regionalization is not necessary for implementing a student-focused funding scheme, which can be better achieved through public choice and/or vouchers.

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David Davis
David Davis
14 years ago

Lower the cost of Government as long as it is not in my back yard, is that how it works Carroll.
We need reform state wide on every level from the Scholl system all the way to the Govs. office.

Matt Jerzyk
14 years ago

Andrew – I think your argument is disingenuous because a school district that is economically disadvantaged AND has 73 languages being spoken at home (parents need to be involved say family values advocates) needs much more per pupil expenditures. Obviously, a school district like Barrington doesn’t have the same ESL and Special Ed. needs. By the way, regionalization makes sense in so many ways and in so many areas in RI government – not just education.

Matt Jerzyk
14 years ago

andrew,
most immigrant students in the providence school system – from my experience – are documented (legal) immigrants. however, i admit that assimiliation of immigrants imposes a cost on our society – in fact, a cost that is too low (we should be spending MORE on youth and adult ESL programs!).
HOWEVER…
i join with alan greenspan in standing by the assertion that undocumented people in the USA pay more in taxes than they receive in services (thus, while there is a cost, it is still small in comparison to the money that undocumented workers pay in state and federal taxes, not to mention keeping our SS system flush). it’s simple math that I know your side ignores because it takes away your ability to scapegoat immigrants for your ‘high taxes.’

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>i join with alan greenspan in standing by the assertion that undocumented people in the USA pay more in taxes than they receive in services (thus, while there is a cost, it is still small in comparison to the money that undocumented workers pay in state and federal taxes, not to mention keeping our SS system flush). it’s simple math that I know your side ignores because it takes away your ability to scapegoat immigrants for your ‘high taxes.’
That assertion is ridiculous on its face.
Even when illegals work above the table, a janitor (or whatever) doesn’t even GROSS what they (and their progeny) consume in taxpayer-financed services: RIteCare / emergency room care, education for their anchor babies, etc.
We’re not stupid Matt. Illegals, e.g., in New Bedford, come nowhere near paying the taxes necessary to even “break even” what they cost the taxpayers.
Illegal aliens are a MASSIVE drain on our economy.

Kiersten
14 years ago

So Tom, why did Alan Greenspan say that he believes more immigrants will improve our economy?
http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/immigration/2007/03/alan_greenspan_.html

T. Shevlin
14 years ago

Reading down in Kiersten’s cited Bloomberg article it jumps out at you bringing us full circle:
>>Greenspan did say that an inadequate education system in the U.S. had exacerbated income inequality.
“By the time they get to high school, they are at the bottom of the international heap,” he said. “Our education system takes a big hit” as responsible for the income gap, he said.<< So long as our schools rank behind other industrialized nations, the income gap is going to continue to widen and low income earners will continue to be taken advantage of. Hopefully everyone can agree that education is power and it is our best weapon against inequality and exploitation.

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