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!