Fung and Raimondo Are Battling Over Schools But Saying Little About Education Results

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


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Governor Gina Raimondo and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung

Rhode Island’s gubernatorial candidates are talking a lot about schools — debating policing of school campuses and the condition of classrooms, but little about educational achievement.

According to Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) data, education outcomes across the state continue to be inconsistent and in some districts are amongst the worst in the nation under Governor Gina Raimondo.

How bad are some outcomes in Rhode Island?

At Central Falls High School, a school run by the RI Department of Education, just 11.5 percent of the students are proficient at reading and 6.5 percent at math

In Newport, at Rogers High School the scores are nearly identical. Only 11.5 percent of the students are proficient at reading and 9.8 percent at math.

And, at Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, 9 percent are proficient in reading and only 4.1 proficient at math.

The statewide averages are better, but show that the vast majority of students have been unable to master basic skills.

According to RIDE data for the most recent year - 2017 - Rhode Island high school proficiencies were 33.6 percent for reading and 24.2 percent for math.

Since Raimondo took office reading proficiency has remained nearly the same — it was 32 percent for 2015, her first year in office and math scores did improve from 13.1 percent at the high school level.

Elementary school students saw the greatest improvement and middle schoolers saw only marginal improvement, but at the end of the pipeline — students being prepared for college and training schools under Raimondo — two-thirds of students are not proficient at reading and three-quarters are not proficient at math.

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Fung presenting in a school for Junior Achievement

Raimondo’s Campaign Defends Her Record

“Unlike Mayor Fung who has underfunded Cranston schools, Governor Raimondo has made record investments in Pre-K-12 education. She's tripled Pre-K, expanded all-day kindergarten to every community and brought computer science into every school,” said Mike Raia of the Raimondo campaign.

“Change takes time and commitment, and the Governor will continue to focus on improving outcomes through her second term,” Raia added.

But, Fung’s campaign strongly criticizes Raimondo’s education record.

“Raimondo has not pushed hard enough for results.  Her focus has been on starting new politically splashy programs she can fundraise off of but doesn't care if they actually work. The CCRI 'free tuition program' only has 13% of its students on course to graduate in 2 years,” said Andrew Augustus of the Fung campaign.

“The DOJ has been conducting investigations of the Providence Schools for failing English language learners, whose graduation rates are dropping. Her [Raimondo] lack of leadership in moving the needle for our children has been striking,” said Augustus. 

Cranston School Performance Under Fung

A look at the outcomes in Cranston shows that Cranston high school’s outcome are nearly identical to the state averages. For the most recent year, 34.2 percent of Cranston High School students are proficient in reading and 29.1 percent in math.

“In Cranston, Mayor Fung has made education a priority, and we've seen results, especially in the very ethnically diverse East Side.  Cranston High School East has seen a 20% increase in graduation rates during his time as Mayor,” said Augustus.

The Fung campaign also claims, “He's increased operational funding by over $7 million, increased capital funding by $5 million, and forgiven a $1 million in school debt to the City.  Almost 55% of the city's budget goes towards the school system.  This has allowed the schools to improve technology and innovative practices across their 23 schools.”

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Raimondo talking with students

Students Bill of Rights

Gary Sasse, who heads the Hassenfeld Institute says Rhode Island students need a constitutional amendment guaranteeing children right to a quality education.

“Public education has historically been the responsibility of state and local governments. Thus it would be entirely appropriate for Rhode Island’s political leadership to promulgate and enforce an Educational Bill of Rights. The salient features of an Educational Bill of Rights for students and their parents might encompass the following guarantees,” writes Sasse in a MINDSETTER™ opinion piece in GoLocalProv.

As proposed by Sasse, there are nine rights, including:

The right to safe, clean and environmental-friendly school facilities.

The right to emotionally supportive schools that do not tolerate harassment, discrimination or abuse.

The right to attend a school where funding is based on student need with the goal of providing access to adequate educational opportunities.

But neither Raimondo or Fung would commit to such an obligation.

“Mayor Fung agrees with many of the principles that Mr. Sasse laid out.  However, the definition of success cannot be how the schools look, or how the report cards present information. Definition must be measured by our kids developing confidence, becoming well-rounded learners, and developing skills they need to move into a successful career,” said Augustus of the Fung campaign.

The Raimondo campaign refused to comment on the Sasse proposal.

Independent candidate Joe Trillo did not respond to any of the questions regarding education.


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