Chafee’s Budget: Education
Thursday, January 16, 2014
The budget fully funds the fourth year of school aid formula and categorical programs with $38 million more; freezes tuition for the second year in a row at public colleges and universities, including an investment by the Governor of $10 million to ensure there are no increases; and recommends capital investments -- by way of a $125 bond referendum -- in URI's engineering program to attract and retain talent.
In FY14, total school aid amounted to $778 million; with the proposed increase in the Governor's budget, the aid amount would be over $816 for FY15.
"Education has always been the great equalizer," said Governor Chafee during his budget address, citing President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society" speech when he quoted, "Poverty must not be a bar to learning, and learning must offer an escape from poverty."
"Each year I've made public education a priority, and that continues tonight," said Chafee. The proposed FY2015 budget would mean $8,966 per student for the core instructional amount and $3,586 for "student success factor" to provide additional funding to support student needs beyond the core services with the ultimate goal of closing student achievement gaps.
In the FY15 budget, education represents 27.6% of state spending. Only Health and Human Services is higher at over 40%
Tim Duffy with the RI Association of School Committees said that the Governor's commitment to education "remains consistent" as Chafee continues to fund the education formula with the additional $38 million for local school districts.
Duffy gave the budget proposal a "B+", and said the Governor's legacy was that he "held the line against teacher binding arbitration and stayed faithful to funding the [education funding] formula."
Frank Flynn with the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals similarly was pleased with the Governor' $38 million to fund the K-12 funding formula which Flynn said is "critical to many of our districts."
However, Flynn added, "One area which of disappointment was that there wasn't an increase in funding for the developmentally disabled community. Last year's budget restored ten million of the twenty four million which was cut in the previous year's budget and I was hopeful additional money would be restored to support programs for this most vulnerable population."
Related Slideshow: RI Experts on the Biggest Issues Facing Public Education
On Friday November 22, the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, the Latino Policy Institute of Roger Williams University, the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, the Providence Student Union, and RI-CAN: Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now will host Rhode Island leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors for a symposium on "the civil rights issue of the 21st century, adequacy and equity and the State of Education in Rhode Island."
Weighing in on the the "three biggest factors" facing education in the state today are symposium participatnts Gary Sasse, Founding Director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Leadership; Christine Lopes Metcalfe, Executive Director of RI-CAN; Anna Cano-Morales, Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, Central Falls Public Schools and Director, Latino Policy Institute at Roger Williams University; Tim Duffy, Executive Director, RI Association of School Committees; and Deborah Cylke, Superintendent of Pawtucket Public Schools.
"Provide a state constitutional guarantee that all children will have access to an education that will prepare them to meet high performance standards and be successful adults.
Bridge the gap between the educational achievement of majority and minority students. This will require the implementation of a comprehensive agenda for quality education in Rhode Island’s inner cities."
"Set high expectations and raise our standards across the state for anyone that contributes to the success of our students. From adopting the Common Core to discussing rigorous teacher evaluations, conversations around creating a culture of high expectations have to be at the center of the work."
"School facilities - with an aging infrastructure, underutilized buildings and the need to provide fair funding for school facilities for all public school students regardless of the public school they attend, this needs to be a top issue tackled by the RI General Assembly in 2014."
"Providing adequate funding is critical -- and there are going to be pressures on the state budget, which mean stresses to meet the education funding formula. With the predictions of the state's projected loss of revenue with the casinos in MA, education funding could be on the cutting board, and we need to ensure that it's not. Do we need to look at strengthening the language of the constitution to guarantee funding?"
"Issue one is quality. Your quality of education should not be dependent on your zip code. And the reality is, certain cities are distressed, or whose property values are not as high, I know each town has a different capacity to fund education. There's an absolute, clear relationship between the quality of public schools, and economic development of states. There's irrefutable evidence that quality public schools can make states more competitive."
"Issue two is equality. In West Warwick and Providence, the per pupil spending is around $16K. In Pawtucket it's $12.9. What's wrong with that picture? If I'm in charge of overseeing that my students are college ready, they need to be adequate funding. A difference of $3000 per pupil? We're talking in the tens of millions of dollars -- more like $25 million in this case. An exemplary school district is Montgomery County, MD -- they have roughly the same number of students, around 145,000 -- there's one funding figure per pupil. There's equitable funding for all kids."
"Issue three is Infrastructure. A critical issue is whether the state is going to lift its moratorium in 2014 for renovations for older schools, ore new construction. If that moratorium is not lifted, and those funds are not available, it is critical to us here in Pawtucket. The average of my schools is 66 years, I've got 3 that celebrate 100 years this year. These old schools have good bones, but they need to be maintained. These are assets -- and this is all interrelated with the funding formula."
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