Transferring Public Responsibility to Public Charity

This is a positive development, for the short-term, but it should be considered a short-term fix before turning around, rather than a short-term transition toward something new in the future:

An $88,241 donation from the New England Laborers’/Cranston Public Schools Construction Career Academy, a public charter school, “will just about restore every program except freshman baseball, basketball and football,” said Schools Supt. Peter L. Nero, repeating what has become a familiar theme: to balance its budget, the district was forced to cut the same programs it had vigorously defended in court as part of an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking additional funding from the city.
The donation, which the charter school’s board of directors is expected to approve at its next meeting, would come from the school’s roughly $372,000 surplus, said School Committee Chairman Michael A.Traficante, who is also chairman of the charter school’s board of directors and works for the New England Laborers’ union as director of governmental affairs.
“We are buying some time for these nonprofit groups to start raising money,” Traficante said.

Generally, I’m for increasing the role of charity and private donations, but if this change in funding for Cranston public school sports becomes a trend, it will simply represent a transfer of the “extras” that once were considered intrinsic parts of public education to voluntary support while the unions’ cash cow maintains its mandatory tax-based flow of revenue. It would be different if residents could choose to give cash for sports, books, programs, and so on, while declining to donate to higher remuneration for the adults who staff the facilities. However, the route for achieving that balance will still be the circuitous one of elections and contract negotiations over years.
Moreover, the parents and students who utilize the sports services will continue to receive a relatively good deal in the cost of their activities. They’ll therefore be less inclined to join reformers who wish to change the political regime in order to redirect public funds away from lavish remuneration for adults.
Public education in Rhode Island is beginning to look like a bait-and-switch. Over some decades, we’ve been sold on funding public schools through tax dollars because they build community, ensure well-rounded young citizens, keep kids occupied and off the streets, and so on. Now that the bill has become outrageous, the activities that do those things and offer substantial opportunities to those who cannot afford private school will be foisted back onto communities to fund via other means.

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13 years ago

Well that charter school is not exactly a “charity,” it’s an “in district” charter school and is entirely funded by the state, the City of Cranston, and any other districts that send students to it . . . so these “surplus” funds are almost certainly state/city money that the school has not had to spend for its operation.
I’m not saying that the funds shouldn’t be returned to the Cranston district in order to save the sports programs, it’s just that I don’t think you should characterize them as “public charity.”

Justin Katz
13 years ago

I meant to emphasize that the charter school sees its donation as a transitional expense until “these nonprofit groups… start raising money.” My focus isn’t the “where we are,” but the “where we’re going.”

13 years ago

The only real long-term solution is to privatize the education industry and have public funding go to students rather than directly to providers. Then nobody can say the “surplus” belongs to government. Also, families with decision-making control over how and where their scholarships are spent, and freely competing schools wanting their business, will make the entire school system incomparably better than is today.
It’s called “empowerment” and not only does it work better than dependence, but it is the kindest and most compassionate, and most “for the children” focused way to solve the issue.

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