Funding Formula Follies in South County
Liz Abbott of the Westerly Sun has a summary of a local-forum debate between the three candidates for District 36 State Representative: incumbent Donna Walsh, Republican Dave Cote, and independent Matt McHugh. Here are their answers on the topic of education…
QUESTION: In these challenging economic times, should the Paiva-Weed Act, which was adopted to provide some relief to taxpayers from the cost of funding the schools, be amended to provide more school aid?But all a “funding formula” does is shift money from one community to another; it does not and can not by itself create revenue. For a “funding formula” to be part of a coherent policy proposal, an explanation of the source of the funds to be shifted must also be provided.
COTE: Citing Rhode Island’s poor educational performance compared to Massachusetts, and the fact that Massachusetts has provided greater property tax relief than Rhode Island, Cote said, “Money does not make for better education.” If elected, he would work to “reorganize” public education by reshaping curriculum to include more math and science. He would also seek to eliminate “bumping’’ and other union-sanctioned practices that do not always benefit students.
MCHUGH: McHugh said he still endorses the idea behind the Paiva-Weed legislation, and it should be left alone for the time being. He would handle the need for more state aid by finding savings in the existing system, exploring ideas such as regionalization, and by calling for a moratorium on state educational mandates that cost local school districts a lot of money.
WALSH: She supports the idea of providing relief for taxpayers and would not seek to amend the Paiva-Weed legislation at this point in time. “I think it has merit,” she said. But the General Assembly needs to follow through on what it has already said it would do, namely, review the state educational mandates and keep working to find a new formula to fund public education.
I wonder if Representative Walsh is aware of how much money the most recent version of the “funding formula” would have shifted away from the four communities of District 36…
- State education aid to Chariho District (which includes Charlestown) would have been cut to $2 million, resulting in a loss to the school system of over $12 million.
- State education aid to New Shoreham (Block Island) would have been cut to $0, resulting in a loss to the school system of over $100,000.
- State education aid to South Kingstown would have been cut to $0, resulting in a loss to the school system of over $10 million.
- State education aid to Westerly would have been cut to $0, resulting in a loss to the school system of over $6 million.
Voters in District 36 — and in every House and Senate District in Rhode Island — need to ask any candidate attempting to sell a “funding formula” as the solution to the state’s education problems about where they are expecting the money they’d like to see transferred between communities to come from.