Re: Regionalization? You May Want to Consider Who is Standing With You

UPDATE:
Commenter “Brassband” points out that Article XII of the Rhode Island Constitution expressly makes education a state matter, and gives the state legislature broad authority to reglate it. This removes education from being one of the “local matters” under Article XIII and indeed, the school committee system we have here in RI is defined, not in a series of town and city charters, but instead at the state level in Title 16 of the Rhode Island General laws…

16-2-2 Except as specifically provided in this section, every city or town shall establish and maintain for at least one hundred eighty (180) days annually exclusive of holidays a sufficient number of schools in convenient places under the control and management of the school committee and under the supervision of the board of regents for elementary and secondary education…
So in theory, the state could create a single-statewide district by changing the statute above to read “the state shall establish and maintain…a sufficient number of schools in convenient places”, etc.
Which means, of course, that it’s doubly important to find out what your legislator’s position is on local control versus a statewide district.


The issue of combining all of Rhode Island school systems into a single statewide district, highlighted by Monique in a previous post, is an example of why people need to be paying attention to the recent events in Central Falls, and thinking about how far they are willing to allow the different branches of state government to collude in ignoring the home-rule provisions of the Rhode Island Constitution, before they say “stop”.
On its face, the state Constitution is pretty clear: you cannot change the form of government in any city or town unless the people of that city or town agree via a referendum. That means that state shouldn’t be able to take governance of a school system away from local control by statute-alone unless residents agree. This, in turn, means that creating a single statewide school district should require either 1) a Constitutional amendment or 2) city-by-city, town-by-town approval in a set of referenda.
If that is the route that single-district advocates are planning, it is likely to be a long one.
However, in Central Falls this year and West Warwick before that in the 1990s, Rhode Island’s governing class, including Governor, legislature and courts, has basically ignored the state Constitution’s home-rule provisions. And if Central Falls becomes the standard by which future home-rule cases are judged, you could see legislation creating a single statewide RI school district upheld by the RI courts, based on an argument along the lines of 1) education affects the whole state, so it’s not just a local matter and 2) as long as school committees are still elected, even if they become just advisory boards, it’s not a change in the form of government, therefore
[, but Article XII of the Rhode Island Constitution means that] 3) it is entirely constitutional to place all schools under state control, based on an act of the legislature alone.
The question of how far state government should be able to go in ignoring the home-rule provisions of the RI Constitution would be a pretty good one to ask the next set of nominees to the RI Supreme Court — as well as to your legislative candidates in the upcoming election.

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Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“However, in Central Falls this year and West Warwick before that in the 1990s, Rhode Island’s governing class, including Governor, legislature and courts, has basically ignored the state Constitution’s home-rule provisions.”
I’m not going to dispute the truthfulness of that statement. However, if the state government needs to live by that, then the state should not be responsible for bailing the city out when they get in over their heads. There should be a point in time when the state can say “This is when we would have taken you over, but because you won’t let us, we are withholding all funding from your city. Good luck and let us know when you want our help.”

brassband
brassband
11 years ago

Andrew —
With regard to education, there’s a very strong constitutional argument that the General Assembly has the power to take the schools over notwithstanding home rule.
Art. XII of the Rhode Island Constitution specifically confers authority over education to the GA.

Section 1. Duty of general assembly to promote schools and libraries. — The diffusion of knowledge, as well as of virtue among the people, being essential to the preservation of their rights and liberties, it shall be the duty of the general assembly to promote public schools and public libraries, and to adopt all means which it may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education and public library services.

This specific delegation of authority over education would undoubtedly trump Art. XIII‘s general power of home rule over “local matters.”

brassband
brassband
11 years ago

Andrew —
. . . only twice a day, like the proverbial broken clock.
(“Why waste one of the two times on a blog comment?” you might reasonably inquire.)

Ken
Ken
11 years ago

Andrew you said; “So in theory, the state could create a single-statewide district by changing the statute above to read “the state shall establish and maintain…a sufficient number of schools in convenient places”, etc.”
“CHAPTER 16-3 Establishment of Regional School Districts” of the general laws of RI already addresses the creation of a possible single state-wide school district.
The RI GA has total control of the school systems in RI including educational standards and curriculum. It is not the unions, teachers, school committees, principals, RI Department of Education or State Board of Regents; but it is the RI GA as dictated by they laws they passed.

oldtimelefty
11 years ago

Andrew,
“You’re right” is three words.
OTL

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