Looking Before We Leap
Unexplored concepts have been all the rage when it comes to Rhode Island’s education system (and the money that supports it) of late. Consolidation! Funding formula! State-level contract! South Kingstown Superintendent Robert Hicks offers an important directive:
In the short term, we should subject any proposals to these questions: How do we know we’ll get the results proposed? What are the obvious and not so obvious impacts? Is this the best we can do?
In the longer term, we should expand the discussion of a school funding formula to include how spending is controlled. This would make it easier to move into a new system. For example, Vermont’s funding plan has penalties for exceeding the state’s average per-pupil expenditure, a version of baseball’s luxury tax. This forces efficiency on districts in a way that encourages and rewards innovation, exactly what we need.
Consolidation may lose more than it gains. A funding formula could be disastrous if it includes too many exponents. Frankly, I distrust our state’s leadership so thoroughly — on good evidence — that I believe they should prove themselves in some manner before we embark on any consolidating changes. (Actually, I think most of them should be switched out prior to structural changes, but we work within the parameters that we’re given.) In the meantime, we ought to be pushing decisions closer to the citizenry that must suffer for them.