Ending the Caruolo Act
This being Rhode Island, one expects it to be a long shot, but it’s worth noting that Patricia Morgan (R, Coventry, Warwick, West Warwick) has filed legislation to repeal the Caruolo Act:
The Caruolo Act allows school committees to file suit against their taxpayers when they overspend their budgets. Rep. Morgan’s legislation would eliminate this costly and lengthy method of resolving funding disputes.
“Quite simply, the Caruolo Act has been a costly and detrimental policy,” said Representative Morgan. “What this law has done is increase the cities’ and towns’ costs of education, reduce their councils’ ability to control spending, and drive up property taxes. It has done nothing to promote accountability for the efficient and effective education of our children. I believe that continuing this failed policy is foolish and the time has come to repeal it.”
Her preemptive reply to those who might criticize her lack of alternative is that school committees should learn to live within their budgets. I’m not sure that goes far enough. As former Majority Leader George Caruolo has argued that the law that his displaced put judicial authority on these matters in the hands of the Department of Education, which is likely where school districts would argue it should return upon repeal of Caruolo.
The current and perennial makeup of the General Assembly (not to mention the governor) likely puts Caruolo beyond reach, but raising the subject of its repeal is a start to a start of some fiscal sanity for municipalities. Another route, or perhaps a next step, would be to put the taxing and spending authority in the same hands — whether with school committees or town councils — thus allowing more direct control by local taxpayers of school budgets.