Is an End to the Education Funding Formula Distraction Near?
An unlikely coalition attempting to develop a statewide school-financing formula has broken apart just as the state grapples with a $600-million budget gap over two years, leaving the future of the ambitious plan in jeopardy.I suspect the political-slash-fiscal reality that the proposed “funding formula” was going to require significant tax increases across the state while only benefiting a few communities finally sank into the minds of many of the politicians who would have to vote on it. “I’m voting to raise your taxes but give you nothing in return — it’s all going to the urban core because their problems matter and yours don’t” is not exactly a winning formula in the suburban ring and the exurbs. And the politicians outside of the urban core probably didn’t feel good about the positions they were hearing from urban reps like Edith Ajello…
A hearing to discuss the formula was scheduled for 1 p.m. today at the State House. The House Finance Committee was to hear from a consultant hired last year to help lawmakers develop the formula.
Members of the Joint Committee to Establish a Permanent Education Foundation Aid Formula said they hoped the meeting would resurrect the discussion. But it is unclear if there is enough political support to approve the formula this year.
Last June, the joint committee, chaired by Rep. Edith H. Ajello, D-Providence, and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo, D-Cranston, ended the session without passing a formula.So if a formula were to be passed, without new money being allocated, what would happen? Would everything get pro-rated to the amount of revenue that actually exists, requiring cuts in aid to some communities, so others could get their formula mandated percentages?
“I am hoping to push forward the concept of a formula even if there isn’t any money,” Ajello said in a recent interview.
Finally, the Projo article quotes Valerie Forti of the Education Partnership on alternative proposals…
“We didn’t want to give local districts more money without getting outcomes,” said Forti, whose group pulled out of the coalition last year. “The formula should require more from districts. It might require a certain kind of professional development for teachers, or give principals more control over teacher placement, or require a longer school day and year.”…to which I’ll add one more: open districting, with money allocated to schools based on parents and students choosing to attend them. In a small, densely populated place like Rhode Island, a plan similar to the “San Francisco plan” described here could be very effective.