Worse than Flat Funding II: Mounting Evidence that Many Cities and Towns Are Facing an Unexpected Education Cut

A chart available on the Rhode Island Department of Education website gives a line-item breakdown of the state education aid allocated to each Rhode Island city and town. Here’s East Providence’s allocation as an example…













GENERAL AID$21,572,539
LITERACY SET-ASIDE$541,397
TECHNOLOGY$135,129
STUDENT EQUITY$2,767,561
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT$231,685
CHARTER SCHOOL INDIRECT AID$3,251
FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN$63,000
EARLY CHILDHOOD$235,022
LANGUAGE ASSISTANCE$406,668
TARGETED AID$0
VOCATIONAL EQUITY$176,000
GROUP HOME AID$630,000
TOTAL FY 2007 AID$26,762,254

The FY2007 number from the RI DOE report that matches East Providence’s FY2007 local aid amount in the legislature’s budget is not the “General Aid” figure from the list above, but the “Total FY2007 Aid” figure, which includes group home aid.

Every community that received group home aid in 2007 is having their state education aid reduced by exactly their FY07 group home allocation. So, unless all Rhode Island group homes are being shut down (or unless a separate appropriation exists elsewhere in the budget that provides for group-home-related education costs), the legislature’s budget contains true cuts in education funding that go deeper than just canceling the hoped-for increases.

A true cut explains how East Providence went from facing a $2.9 million deficit in the May 30 Projo to facing a $3.7 million deficit in today’s Projo, most of the difference being the $630,000 cut by the legislature from EP’s total education aid.

It looks as if the Mayor of Providence, whose budget has already been criticized for not funding “tens of millions” dollars worth of city-employee raises, must now find an additional $3.1 million dollars in lost state funding, just to reach flat-funding for his city employees in FY08.

Although the Warwick Beacon reported today that the Warwick school system is $1.1 million in the hole because city officials were counting on a 3% increase that will not be coming, the true deficit in Warwick is closer to $1.5 million, because of a $360,000 cut in Warwick’s education aid from last year (again, unless group home funding is being compensated for in some as-of-yet undiscovered area of the budget).

And so on, and so on, and so on…

I know that Rhode Island law says that the state must reimburse cities and towns for their group home costs…

16-64-1.1(a)(3) — Each city or town shall receive state education aid in an amount equal to the number of group home or other residential facility “beds” in that community multiplied by a per pupil rate, subject to appropriation, intended to reflect the average cost per pupil based on the blend of regular education and special education students in group homes as derived from figures supplied on June 30 of the reference year as defined in section 16-7-16(11).
Is it possible, however, that the legislature has reduced the “general aid” to each city or town containing a group home, thus reducing total funding to those communities, without reducing the on-paper funding connected to the group homes?

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SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

Yes, it’s possible. Again, you spotted this, Andrew.
Local aid to education is not flat, it’s reduced. What exactly are the General Assembly’s priorities?

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Step back. Take a breath. And come along with me.
Step 1. Cut funding to schools.
Step 2. Get sued by every district.
Step 3. Lose.
Step 4. Fund the school at a 3% increase.
Step 5. Blame the Governor for the cost of defending against the suits.
Step 6. Blame the Governor for the subsequent hit the economy gets when we slip further into the deficit abyss.
Step 7. Use the crappy economy as the main platform of the next three election cycles.
Step 8. Rinse. Repeat.

Greg
Greg
14 years ago

Know this, oh fellow Republicans. Democrats play long ball WAY better than we do.

brassband
brassband
14 years ago

Greg —
RE: Numbers 2 & 3.
Ever hear of City of Pawtucket v. Sundlun, 662 A.2d 40 (1995)? In that case the Supreme Court said that suits by municipalities against the state for funding aid are non-justiciable (a very important decision for those who believe in judicial restraint).

Justin Katz
14 years ago

One hopes the governor has the sagacity to veto such a budget on the grounds (at the very least) that it does not comply with legal obligations. The GA could override the veto, of course, and Democrat drum pounding of blame would still resonate to some extent, but perhaps the incongruities would wake a few more Rhode Islanders up to the scam that is their legislature.

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>Ever hear of City of Pawtucket v. Sundlun, 662 A.2d 40 (1995)? In that case the Supreme Court said that suits by municipalities against the state for funding aid are non-justiciable (a very important decision for those who believe in judicial restraint).
Unfortunately that case only dealt with state aid, not municipal funding.
So-called Caruolo suits are alive and well, and the General Assembly (at the behest of their teacher union masters) – via the statutory scheme and RIDOE regulations – have gamed the Caruolo process in favor of school committees (i.e., the unions).
For example, teacher union contracts, the expense of which dwarfs all other expenditures – and no matter how outrageous their terms – are exempt from amendment in the Caruolo process.
They can be won by a municipality, but it has to be determined to win. Typically you have Democrat Council members who are also in the pockets of the unions and so either fold under the political cover of the threat of a Caruolo suit, or put on an intentionally tepid defense.

brassband
brassband
14 years ago

Tom W —
I know about Caruolo suits, but they involve suits by a school committee against a town council/administration, not against the state.
The premise of Greg’s post was that the GA was hoping to “get sued” by the municipality, then lose, appropriate the funds under court order, and blame the Gov. My point was that if this is the GA’s strategy, it can’t work the way that Greg suggests.

John
John
14 years ago

On the Caruolo point, a rhetorical question. If a community goes to court for more money as the law says they may, can a court order spending beyond the 5.25% cap as defined in a different law?

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>I know about Caruolo suits, but they involve suits by a school committee against a town council/administration, not against the state.
That was my point; sorry if I wasn’t clear. Essentially the Sundlun case involved attempting to force the GA to adopt an “equitable” state aid formula.
Caruolo suits involve school committees suing their city / town for mo’ money. Two different animals.
>>If a community goes to court for more money as the law says they may, can a court order spending beyond the 5.25% cap as defined in a different law?
Under Paiva-Weed (the bill the NEA is running ads trying to repeal) a court in a Caruolo is required to “consider” the cap, but is not bound by it.
This is why we’ll likely see a bunch of Caruolo suits next year – the teachers unions and their school committee flunkies don’t want anything but open-ended funding sources.
The main question is whether or not this is part of a plan between the GA and NEA / AFT:
Right now, the GA if punting school funding back to the localities. If enough of them are then subjected to Caruolo suits, the unions get their money anyway AND the Democrats running the GA may figure that the numerous suits may give them political cover to declare that Paiva-Weed was a failure and to repeal it.

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

I heard that someone (a republican I am pretty sure) plans to introduce a floor amendment tomorrow restoriing the education cuts. Has anyone heard this, and does anyone know who this is?

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

I took a quick look around and didn’t find anything, Thomas. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
It would be very smart indeed if a Republican in the legislature did so. It is nothing less than shocking that the Democrats put themselves in a position to be labeled anti-education.

Thomas
Thomas
14 years ago

Thanks, SusanD. Maybe it was just a rumor. The Dems have a problem. If the GOP introduces a floor amendment and the Dems accept it, they look like followers. If they reject it, the GOP gains big, and some seats (particularly in Providence) might be in danger. If they’re smart, they’ll introduce the amendment themselves first.

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

Latest update. Budget debate starts in the House today at 2:00. The Republicans will be introducing several amendments, including one to restore the Governor’s 3% increase to local education aid.
How does any representative go home and say to his/her constituents, especially members of the NEA, “the Governor wanted to give you more local aid but I voted against it”?

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