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Legislature Approves Education Funding Formula

Friday, June 11, 2010

 

The Rhode Island House and Senate last night approved a new system for funding public schools that bases state aid on how much it costs to educate individual students and how much of that cost a community can bear.

The House and Senate also voted for the expansion of gaming at Twin River Casino in Lincoln and Newport Grand. Combined the two facilities currently generate about $300 million in revenue for the state.

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Under the new education funding system, some communities, especially those that are urban and poorer, will receive more money, while others that are wealthier and have seen a decline in enrollment are due for cuts.

“Today we took the politics out of school funding and put the kids first,” said Senate Education Chairwoman Hanna M. Gallo, D-Dist. 27, Cranston, the sponsor of the Senate bill. “This formula will ensure that each school district gets the funding it needs to support the students it has.”

It is the first time Rhode Island has had a funding formula in 15 years—making it the last state in the country adopt one. The new formula will take effect in 2012, but the changes in funding to school districts will be phased in over five to ten years.

The formula is based on a standard per-pupil cost of $8,295 for students in regular education. But the cost of educating students in the free and reduced lunch program is higher, at $11,600.

“This is what we’ve been trying to accomplish for years: a formula that reflects the real situation of each student and each district, and where the money follows that student wherever he or she may go in the state,” said House Finance Chairman Steven Costantino, the sponsor of the House bill. “This is a system that will put the kids first, and will put our education dollars to the most effective, fair use.”

The amount the state contributes to the cost of educating students in a district will vary depending on a community’s ability to pay for it—based on the median household income and property values.

Lawmakers said that having an official formula would make education funding predictable from year to year, so school districts would not have to guess how much money that would be getting from the state.

The formula now heads to the desk of Gov. Don Carcieri, to be signed into law.

 

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