Obama Admin Tells RI: Charter Schools or Else
It should be no surprise that the Obama Adminstration, which is on the record as favoring Charter Schools and other education reform, would raise its eyebrows when a state cuts such funding. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has made it pretty clear that the President won’t look favorably upon those who turn their backs on educational innovation:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in Washington on Monday that Rhode Island may be putting itself at “at a huge competitive disadvantage” for securing federal stimulus dollars.
The General Assembly’s proposed 2010 budget eliminates $1.5 million that Governor Carcieri wanted to spend to open two new charters — a middle school in Central Falls and the state’s first “mayoral academy” in Cumberland.
“Places like Rhode Island that are thinking about underfunding charters are obviously going to put themselves at a huge competitive disadvantage going forward. So we don’t think that’s a smart thing for them to do and we’re going to make that very, very clear,” Duncan told an audience of more than 3,000 people when he was asked about Rhode Island during a question period at the National Charter Schools Conference.
“Where states are considering underfunding charters, as appears to be the case in Rhode Island, they’re placing themselves at a strategic disadvantage for Race to the Top money. They’re going to hurt their chances,” he added moments later, according to U.S. Education Department officials.
From a fiscal point of view, it seems like that $1.5 million would be money well spent.
The Race to the Top fund is a $5-billion discretionary pot of cash within the White House’s economic stimulus package that Duncan will distribute later this year to a handful of states with a proven track record of innovation.
For Rhode Island, that grant money — if secured — could come on top of more than $200 million that the federal government has already earmarked within the stimulus for education.
Rhode Island Board of Regents member Angus Davis, speaking on behalf of the state Education Department, said the secretary’s remarks should send a clear message to state lawmakers that they would be wise to restore the $1.5 million in new money for charters if they don’t want to jeopardize millions in additional funding.
“Secretary Duncan’s comments are entirely consistent with the comments he and the Obama administration have made about artificial limits about charter school limits,” Davis said.
I’m not sure if Rhode Island has a “proven track record of innovation”, but killing any innovation certainly won’t help! Where to get the money? How much additional savings could we get for moving the retirement age from 62 (or 55!) to, say, 65? It seems like a compassionate and forward-thinking way to go: postponing the payouts to adults for the sake of the children.