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