Leading Education News — From Block Island

Gloria S. Redlich of the Block Island Times has her ear to the ground on a number of education trends that will be reaching all Rhode Island communities very soon.
1. Apparently, Rhode Island school committees are already hearing that flat funding of education aid, or perhaps even an aid cut, is being planned for next year…

Because the state is experiencing a $450 million shortfall, [Block Island School Committee member Sean McGarry] said, “They will be going to flat funding, which means we’ll get the same or less than last year.” In contract negotiations with teachers, the percentage of co-pay for health insurance will be a bargaining issue, with school committees determining which provider each district chooses.
2. Unfortunately, Committeeman McGarry doesn’t seem to understand the basics of education finance in Rhode Island. He thinks a “funding formula” is intended work to Block Island’s benefit…
Pointing out that Rhode Island is one of only two states that do not have a funding formula to work from, McGarry said there is a proposal on the table to set a minimum for each district. With more tax money coming in from urban communities, where there is usually a larger industrial base than from rural areas, he thinks the proposal would benefit the island.
If Rhode Island’s education problems were really rooted in tax-generating urban districts being drained of their resources by surrounding smaller districts, then the solution would be to reduce redistribution between communities and let the urban districts keep more of their tax money. But that’s not what’s happening. What is happening is that residents of Rhode Island’s less-urban districts (including Block Island) are already paying for a large chunk of urban district education expenses via statewide taxes in addition to paying their own expenses; meanwhile, the urban districts are demanding “more” from the surrounding communities and think that a “funding formula” is the best way to get it.
If there is a funding formula proposal that “would benefit the island”, it is because Block Island already receives so little state aid (less than $1,000 per-pupil compared with the nearly $7,000 per-pupil paid to the big districts), formula advocates feel it is necessary to raise Block Island’s aid share via a minimum aid provision, to mask an obvious example of how the state aid structure is of no benefit at all to many Rhode Island communities. Of course, if Block Island and the other RI communities who right now receive barely anything from the state get to hold on to some extra money in the interests of preventing the formula from appearing too lopsided, it will mean that the communities in the middle of the pack will end up paying for the entire increase in subsidies to the urban districts that the funding formula is designed to implement.
3. I’m not sure if this involves a misprint or something misheard, but this sentence from Ms. Redlich’s story may contain a wealth of insight into the state’s future plans…
In an attempt to consolidate services and reduce expenditures, the state is also looking to reduce the numbers of school districts from 36 to six, thus reducing the number of superintendents.
Generally, when consolidation has been discussed in Rhode Island, the number of regional districts discussed has been five, one per county. Where the number six comes from, I am not sure.
And “reducing the number of superintendents” means that strong consolidation, i.e. full regionalization, rather than a plan that involves combining certain administrative services like purchasing, is under consideration. The main purpose of strong regionalization is to let politicians choose which tax bases outside of their constituencies they’d like to exploit, rather than to let parents choose schools which are best for their kids.

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Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

>>Generally, when consolidation has been discussed in Rhode Island, the number of regional districts discussed has been five, one per county. Where the number six comes from, I am not sure.
The Providence delegation to the GA will probably ensure that Providence remains as a stand alone – untouched – there’s a lot of patronage to preserve, after all. As with school aid, they want all of the pain to be borne by the suburbs.

Monique
Editor
13 years ago

“With more tax money coming in from urban communities, where there is usually a larger industrial base than from rural areas”
Huh??

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