Legislature Manages to Get Governor Carcieri and NEA On Same Side
Carcieri spokesman Jeff Neal said….“There is no doubt…that Governor Carcieri has grave concerns about the House Democrats’ short-sighted plan to balance the budget by raising taxes, using one-time revenue sources and shortchanging local schools.”
Teachers’ unions have also come out swinging against the Assembly’s spending plan, which eliminates a 3-percent across-the-board increase in state education aid. Legislative leaders have called on the unions to shoulder some of the burden by renegotiating existing contracts.
The National Education Association reacted with a $10,000 radio advertising campaign urging the Assembly to rescind Senate bill 3050, passed last year, which lowered the maximum annual increase to a community’s tax levy to 5.25 percent this year and will reduce it one-quarter percent per year until 2013. Senate Majority Leader M. Teresa Paiva Weed, prime sponsor of the tax-cap bill, said through a spokesman that there are no plans to repeal the act.
I doubt the Governor thinks repealing Senate bill 3050 is a good idea, either. Meanwhile, Education Commish Peter McWalters invokes the “perfect storm”:
“It’s the perfect storm we have all talked about,” said Peter McWalters, Rhode Island’s commissioner of education. “Districts are really struggling right now, because they can’t go back to their tax base and ask for more money. The legislature did warn them again and again (not to count on a 3-percent increase), but that doesn’t change their dilemma.”
Some of the rising school costs are tied to teacher contracts, but some stem from factors beyond district control, McWalters said, such as high-cost special education and out-of-district transportation.
“This perfect storm is a conscious decision on the part of the legislature saying to communities you have to go reopen your [teacher] contracts,” he said. “But realistically, can you do that all at once with 36 separate districts?”
But perhaps the solution will come from the courts (surprise!)
State law requires communities to provide “an adequate education,” according to Department of Education spokesman Elliot Krieger, and allows school committees to file complaints in the Superior Court when they believe they have been shortchanged. School advocates such as Tim Duffy, head of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, said he expects the lack of state aid to prompt several court challenges this year.