Balancing a Budget; Balance Lucky Parent Syndrome?

Yesterday’s RISC-Y Business NewsLetter contained a Woonsocket Call article (not available on line) describing the onerous cuts to the school budget identified by the school committee.

Mayor Leo T. Fontaine has sued the school department on a bid to balance its budget and on Monday school officials may meet his challenge with a stunning round of cuts not seen since the city budget battles of the early 1990s.
Villa Novan sports at all levels will be up for elimination School Committee Chairman Marc A. Dubois said Friday, and also all regular student transportation services.
A committee attempt to erase the remaining $2.8 million in red ink in the 2010-2011budget could also include the elimination of all teacher assistants at the elementary level and a cut of approximately $500,000 in capital expenditures on which the city is entitled to receive 80 percent reimbursement from the state.

I e-mailed an observer of Woonsocket politics yesterday to express exasperation that cuts had been identified only at the point of a lawsuit and to inquire whether he was aware of potential cuts that didn’t make the list. The gentleman, not a bleeding heart on any front, replied below with little sympathy for my premise.
Let’s establish the facts on the ground before taking up his questions.
– Woonsocket has an inadequate tax base. Not “inadequate” like Providence, which has a tax base but is legally barred from levying 45% of it. In Woonsocket, it simply doesn’t exist in a sufficient mass, no matter how many tax laws are changed.
– Teacher pay in Woonsocket is in the bottom quarter statewide and they pay a 20% health co-share.
– We don’t (myself included) all have $100,000+/year jobs. So there are “poorer” households and poorer communities.
Now to his questions.

Before I begin this debate, I need to know if you believe that suburban students are entitled by their good fortune (lucky parent syndrome) to have more opportunities offered to them? If so, why? If not, then how should the obvious socio-economic differences among the various cities and towns be balanced to assure equal opportunities?

Does the rest of the state not have an obligation to balance, if not equalize, opportunity, defined here as a good education, for children in less affluent communities?

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David P
David P
13 years ago

How much of Woonsocket’s socio-economic malaise is due to its propensity to elect crooks and thugs like Susan Menard and to what extent should the rest of the state be obligated to subsidize irresponsible voting?

13 years ago

That is the great & ultimate question regarding public education and thereof.
I am one who does not believe the current way of funding education (via local property taxes) is fair or even the best way. But I acknowledge there are no easy answers to this. Privatizing education is an option but one I believe would ultimately hurt both the private school systems. The “superiority” of the private school is not because they have more money or superior teachers – is because the students have better opportunities “out of the classroom”. Once private schools have the same student demographics as the public schools, I am confident their ‘outcomes’ wouldn’t be that different than their public school counterparts.
To the question – does the state not have an obligation to equalize educational opportunities regardless of community affluence? Under current state law, they do not. Whether they SHOULD is a question I believe needs to be addressed by some larger branch of government – despite being the political hot (scorching) potato that it is. I do believe that the unions are part of the problem. The truth is that most other important issues, how to fund education has no easy solution and any potential solution deprives someone of something. I’d hate to be a school board member – strikes me as no-win situation.

13 years ago

If you’re going to have a public educational system then, in my opinion, the standard deviation of educational opportunity amongst different communities should be minimal. Obviously, it isn’t. But I believe this his a lot to do with the lack of accountability. Think about Lean on Me, Crazy Joe just instituted accountability amongst the students and teachers. We do that, I think it solves much of the problem.
And I’m still waiting to hear a convincing argument from any teacher’s union type that suggests introducing accountability is a bad thing for schools.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
13 years ago

The state should not equalize educational opportunities (read, funding), because it removes incentive from local districts to respond to parent and community needs and desires. It also eliminates parents’ ability to exert some control over their children’s education, short of forking over the entirely additional money for private school, by choosing communities on the basis of their school systems. Which comes around again to my first point, because attracting upwardly mobile, involved families should create incentive for towns to ensure good, responsive school systems.
Send it to the state (or the feds), and the what remains of the feedback loop falls apart and pushes policy debates even farther away from parents who want to be involved but who do not want to become state-level activists.
Of course, just giving parents funds that they could devote to any schools — public or private — that they think best suit their families needs, would resolve all of these issues and more.

13 years ago

“Does the rest of the state not have an obligation to balance, if not equalize, opportunity, defined here as a good education, for children in less affluent communities?”
As long as towns want their autonomy over their school system, the rest of the state should not have a financial obligation to them.

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