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.
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.
But, ultimately, regionalization is not necessary for implementing a student-focused funding scheme, which can be better achieved through public choice and/or vouchers.