Merger of Education Boards May be Placed on Hold
Friday, September 07, 2012
Lawmakers are being asked to consider postponing a plan that would merge the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Governors for Higher Education into an 11-member Board of Education, GoLocalProv has learned.
The General Assembly included the controversial proposal in last year’s budget as part of an effort to streamline the work of the two boards. The original plan called for the state to appoint a chancellor of education to whom the commissioners of higher education and elementary and secondary education would have reported, but that part of the proposal was scrapped.
“As with any transition, there are myriad details to be worked through in the coming months and perhaps some when the Assembly returns in January,” Fox said. “I am confident that the Chafee Administration is identifying and addressing those concerns as it works to implement this merger and ensure the necessary continuity of public education administration.”
The legislation was passed despite significant opposition from commissioner of higher education Ray Di Pasquale and teachers unions. A similar proposal, which was also opposed by the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), was held for further study in 2011.
While the pressure to postpone the merger is believed to be coming from higher education side, National Education Association government relations director Patrick Crowley said his organization believes the legislation should be re-examined.
"NEARI has heard from a number of stakeholders in both K-12 education and Higher Education that it may be in the best interest of the state to re-examine the legislative decision to combine the Board of Regents and Board of Governors,” Crowley said. “We need to make sure the state is in the best possible position to make whatever changes may be necessary in its education governance structure. Given all of the criticism and circumstances it may be time to pause and give everyone a chance to participate fully in the process."
Still, House finance chairman Helio Melo, who led the effort to merge the two boards, said he expects the plan to move forward.
“The General Assembly intent is clear and I expect that the Administration will move this process forward in a timely manner,” Melo said.
Michael Trainor, a spokesman for the Office of Higher Education, said his office was “not aware of any such speculation.”
Governor’s Chafee’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
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