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CCRI Faculty: Potential for “Hostile Takeover” in Performance Based Funding

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

 

CCRI Knight Campus, Warwick.

CCRI faculty are questioning the oversight capabilities of the new Commissioner of Higher Education in the state, following legislation introduced in the General Assembly to establish a performance-based funding component to state aid for Rhode Island’s institutions of higher learning.  

Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and Representative Joseph McNamara have introduced bills (S-0603 and H-5077) to make all new state higher education funding contingent upon achievement of certain goals, such as improved on-time graduation rates, and increasing completion of programs in high-demand fields.

"An underlying concern is that there is a fundamental difference of perspective between faculty who see our mission as serving the people of Rhode Island in general and the students who seek us out for an education in particular, and those who see our mission as serving the State of Rhode Island and its government," said CCRI Faculty Association President Shawn Parker.  "Truthfully it is both and has always involved a careful balance."

Parker, who released a video message to all faculty about the legislation last week, said that it was the Senate version in particular that caused him concern.  

See the video HERE

"My biggest concern with the Senate bill is far more worrying. It puts unprecedented power in the hands of one unelected official without checks and balances," said Parker. 

Needs Assessment

In a release sent by the General Assembly press office on March 6, Senate President Paiva Weed explained her support for the measure. 

“Among first time students taking classes at CCRI, only one in 30 will complete an associate’s degree program within two years, and only one in ten will earn a degree in three years,” said Paiva Weed  “Our community college needs to be the central driver of workforce development in Rhode Island. Otherwise, the only options left to students will be more expensive private schools and out-of-state institutions. This legislation will help fuel efforts to reinvent CCRI as a workforce development engine.”

Legislation has been introduced to tie state funding for CCRI to performance based measures.

The legislation directs the Commissioner of Postsecondary Education to implement performance-based funding for Rhode Island’s higher education institutions beginning in Fiscal Year 2018. After that, any new state funding allocations greater than the base amount allocated in Fiscal Year 2016 would be tied to success achieving certain goals, which include the number of and growth in degrees earned within an expected time frame, for full-time students, or the reaching of incremental milestones towards degree completion, for part-time students.

"The proposal would give the Commissioner of Post-Secondary Education a role that was in no way included in the legislation that established that office last year," said Parker, citing the following portion of the legislation.
 
16-105-2. Public postsecondary performance-based funding. -- The commissioner of postsecondary education is hereby directed to implement a performance-based funding formula that meets the requirements of this chapter, in consultation with the council on postsecondary education.
 
"If a school meets the metrics targets set by the commissioner, the commissioner will revise them to further advance the goals," said Parker. "So it is a moving target and the commissioner has the power to move it. Should one of the schools not meet its metrics target:
 
16-105-5. Performance not achieved. -- If an institution has failed to meet any of the performance metrics set forth in this chapter or as defined by the commissioner of postsecondary education, the associated funds shall be distributed to the institution for corrective action and oversight by the office of the postsecondary commissioner.

"This appears to take a portion of a school’s budget and put it under the control of the commissioner for undefined “corrective action and oversight.” I am not aware that any other individual in Rhode Island has had such a power to control a portion of a state college’s budget without the approval of the Board of Education or Council for Post-Secondary Education or within a shared governance structure at the state institutions. And that is my principal concern with the Senate bill," said Parker.  "We were told that if we did not meet these moving targets, the state could essentially engage in a 'hostile takeover' of CCRI."

CCRI Faculty Addressing Situation

CCRI Faculty Association President Shawn Parker

"I attended the November 19 Council for Post-Secondary Education meeting and spoke to the Council specifically about the exclusion of faculty and students as stakeholders and contributors to the commissioner’s plan and ongoing process," said Parker. "The commissioner and the CPSE verbally committed to including the faculty and said that he had always assumed the faculty are key stakeholders and would be part of the process. Those assurances were not noted in the minutes or incorporated into the strategic plan, but are recorded in the video of the session. I’m not aware that faculty have been involved in any process with the commissioner’s efforts."

Parker offered his suggestions as to how both CCRI faculty and the state could move forward together.  

"I would welcome and encourage a needs assessment from the perspective of students and faculty. Faculty often advocate on behalf of students since we work so closely with them, and we would have much to contribute to a study, but a good study of the students and their needs and how well the college is responding would probably give us a clear picture of how we are doing," said Parker.  "But if the idea is serving the State vs. serving the people, I don’t have much hope that the right studies will be done nor the right changes be put into place. Complete College America had done a masterful job of packaging slick one-size-fits-all game-changing solutions that have indeed changed the game across the country."

 

 

Related Slideshow: Who Could Be RI’s Next Education Commissioner?

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Clay Pell

The not-so-dark horse who might be in consideration for Gist's spot (or the Board of Education's Eva Mancuso's) could be Raimondo's primary opponent Clay Pell, who comes from the education policy world at the federal level -- he was Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Education.

Given the millions Pell poured into his own campaign -- as well as how politics might have played out to give Gina the edge over opponent Allan Fung -- Pell might be well-positioned to maintain his profile in Rhode Island as he more than likely might be taking a look towards another run for higher offfice soon.
 

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Susan Lusi

Current Providence Schools Superintendent Susan Lusi has a resume that includes having been Superintendent in Portsmouth, Chief of Staff for the Providence Public Schools  -- and as Assistant Commissioner at the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  

Lusi has served as a consultant to RIDE, as well as groups such as the LAB at Brown, Education Resource Strategies, The Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Learning First Alliance.  Lusi has a Ph.D. and Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University, as well as a MAT in social studies and an AB in economics from Brown University.  Lusi could well be considered for the call up to the state's top education post.
 

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Tom Brady

Lusi's predecessor in the Providence Public Schoools Brady the helm in 2011 after serving for three years, and has worked in education consulting and served as Director of the Department of Defense Educational Activity, over seeing all Defense Department K-12 schools, both stateside and overseas -- 191 schools in 14 districts, serving more than 82,000 students.  A return to RI to fill Gist's shoes would be step up the education ladder in the state should Brady be in consideration -- and have the interest returning to RI.  

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Angela Romans

Providence Mayor Taveras' former education advisor, who has been at Brown's Annenberg Institute, while in the city helped secure over $5 million in education grant funding from local, regional and national public and private sources for the city and served as a tri-chair of the Mayor’s Children and Youth Cabinet (CYC).

Prior to working in city government, Romans served as New England Network manager at Diploma Plus, Inc., a Boston-based, national organization that in partnership with school districts and communities, designs schools and programs to improve the academic results of predominately urban, African-American and/or Hispanic youth.
 

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Dave Abbott

As the Deputy Commissioner at RIDE, Abbott has had to fill the shoes of Gist at meetings and events many times -- and could probably quite easily make the move up given his working knowledge of the office.

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Jennifer Wood

Lt. Governor Roberts' Chief of Staff has an extensive background -- and interest -- in education, serving as Chief of Staff and legal counsel for RIDE for 9 years, and general counsel for NEARI before that.  Roberts was an instrumental supporter of Raimondo's during the campaign.  
 

 
 

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