Preliminary School-Financing Plan

Here are the highlights of the preliminary Statewide School-Financing plan as proposed by a special advisory group:

[T]he 14-member group, which included state Commissioner of Education Peter McWalters, Timothy C. Duffy, president of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, Marcia Reback, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, and Will Van Horne of the business-backed Education Partnership, made the following recommendations:
•The financing formula should be “weighted” to allocate additional money for the neediest students. The cost of educating a special-education student, therefore, would be twice the base amount, or a figure close to $20,000 a year. The cost for low-income students would be 1.75 the base amount if they receive free lunch, or around $17,500, and 1.25, or $12,500, if they receive reduced lunch. The cost to educate students at career and technical schools would also be budgeted at 1.25 the foundation cost, and the cost to educate English-language learners would be 1.2 times the base amount.
“We don’t yet know exactly what the weights should be because those more sophisticated systems to determine weights don’t exist yet,” McWalters said. “But don’t abandon the idea of weights, because it is fundamental to the idea of fairness.”
•The formula should ensure a base amount per student to every district, regardless of how wealthy it is, and should not take away state money a district is currently receiving.
•The formula should be evaluated for periodic “mid-course corrections” and should be phased in over several years, as the state gradually takes over more education costs.

There is also another panel that is looking into how to pay for all of this. However, apparently they’ve been waiting to get a better idea of what the formula would be and the costs associated before figuring out how to pay for it. That’s when it gets interesting!

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17 years ago

The dead giveaway in this plan is the utter absence of any mention of the fact that RI has far and away the highest percentage of students classified as “special education”, much less any recognition of the need to stop this fiscally wasteful and educationally questionable practice. Just keep throwing more taxpayer money at the problem, and everything will be fine…I’ve given up getting angry at this; or even frustrated. Today, I feel nothing more than a morbid curiosity as to the final shape of the train wreck taking place in front of our eyes.
What is Murphy, Montalbano, Fox, Walsh, Brewster, Burke-Bryant and company’s end game? Cut education aid to the towns and see if the will raise sufficient outcry to force elimination of the property tax cap passed last year? Or just let cities and towns cut program after program as more and more money goes to pay for teachers’ retirement and health care benefits?
Raise taxes through the roof, and damn the consequences? (aka, run the mother of all real world experiments into the consequences of Marti Rosenberg economics?)
It seems pretty clear they’re going to protect social welfare spending (aka the Alves defense strategy) and avoid any cuts to spending on public sector employee pensions and health care benefits (can’t wait for those GASB underfunding numbers, can you boys and girls?).
Real question is how outrage produced by Democrats’ budget bill, Carcieri’s response, and Dollar Bill developments will all come together. Time will tell. But it’s guaranteed to be very ugly.

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