Schools and Money
By way of a general observation, it occurred to me earlier this week that the extra opportunities and services for which so many Rhode Island parents pay the private school premium were offered as part of my New Jersey public school education back in the ’80s. In terms of current, local events, I don’t think it matters much whether the difference was one of location or of era. There’s something structural here in Rhode Island and now in the late ’00s that is depriving families of their educational due.
That’s why I’m holding out hope that State Representative John Loughlin (R., Little Compton, Tiverton, Portsmouth) would make the right decisions as a legislator despite his letter in this week’s Sakonnet Times:
But even as our teachers do their work extremely well, we are challenged as a town to meet the increasing costs of our educational system. Our school committee is working to remain within the state imposed cap on expenditures while struggling to implement a host of unfunded programs demanded by the General Assembly.
Clearly, our state is not doing enough to fund education at the local level. We still have no state funding formula and last year additional funds proposed for local schools was removed by the General Assembly leadership.
Even in this difficult budget year, we could find more funding for our schools. For example, the General Assembly itself has 300 full-time employees and costs every resident of this state $31 dollars per person for a total of $31 million. Why does a part-time General Assembly need this extravagant budget? In part to pay for a self-serving television series on capitol TV which is off limits to opposing viewpoints, and to pay for a 2008 top-of-the-line SUV for House and Senate leadership. This is wrong and needs to stop. How can the House and Senate leadership impose spending caps for municipalities while at the same time expanding their staff and increasing their own budget? …
These are just a few examples of wasteful spending at the state level that results in reduced funding for cities and towns.
It is time for the state to step up to the plate and fund education properly. We need to stop pitting teachers against parents and our school committees against the unions because in the end it is our children who suffer. I am committed to continuing my work in the House to make sure our state lives up to its financial responsibility and starts funding schools properly.
As a reasonably close citizen observer of teacher contract negotiations in Tiverton, I have little doubt that the bulk of additional funds provided by the state would have gone to placate the work-to-ruling union. Not to expanded extracurricular and elective opportunities. Not to music, not to gifted-talented. The union is fighting for blood from a stone; it is willing to see
33 a potentially significant number of its members lose their jobs so that the 54% who are at step 10 (as I recall) can receive significant raises during tight budgetary times. What chance, then, that they would share additional gravy?
Moreover, ending all of the state-level practices that Loughlin cites would be nowhere near sufficient to make up for the General Assembly’s current (and growing) structural deficit, so its reclamation must benefit that effort first. Shuffling around our public dollars, or digging for more, is not the answer; changing the way we do things is.