Raimondo’s $1 Billion School Rehab Initiative Will Only Address One-Third of Need

Friday, January 19, 2018


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Raimondo's plan will only address a portion of the need

On Tuesday night, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo announced that she was proposing a $1 billion initiative to fix Rhode Island’s broken schools.

“Tonight I'm calling on all of us to take action. Let's make a once-in-a-generation investment in our schools. Together with our cities and towns, let's commit to investing $1 billion over the next five years to fix our public schools,” said Raimondo in her state of the state speech.

On Thursday, Raimondo’s budget gave more details. Of the $1 billion, $400 million is already being budgeted by the state over the next five years — $80 million a year.

In addition, the "billion" includes the $70 million budgeted each year -- for the next five years -- by cities and towns, for $350 million.

So of the big billion dollar proposal? $750 million is not "new" spending. And, a billion doesn't go as far as you think.

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Classical High School's replacement cost is in excess of $76 million

The new Barrington Middle School was funded to $68.4 million. The funding need just for the City of Providence schools exceeds $500 million and Classical high school a top performing academic center resides in an ancient structure and the replacement cost is estimated to be in excess of $76 million. 

What is New

The new money is Raimondo’s proposed $250 million referendum question which she submitted to the legislature for consideration this session. If approved by the General Assembly, voters will be asked to approve the state to borrow through general obligation bonds.

The reality is that the new spending -- the $250 million in bond funds -- will not go as far as one would expect and will only be the beginning of an effort that will take decades and need new sources to revenue.

“Our school buildings get a failing grade, and that's not acceptable. And like anything, the longer we wait, the more expensive it gets. Rhode Island hasn't made a meaningful, statewide investment in our school buildings in over 25 years,” said Raimondo.

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Roger Williams Middle School in South Providence

Report Puts Price Tag at $3 Billion

“The estimated combined five-year need for all public schools across the state of Rhode Island is $3 billion," stated the comprehensive report,  “STATE OF RHODE ISLAND SCHOOLHOUSES” released in September.

Thus, the Raimondo plan will only address one-third of the ever-growing need.

Maybe most horrifying state of the report is that the average Rhode Island public school is over 50 years-old.

“Facility condition assessments revealed $2.2 billion of facility deficiency costs, including educational space assessment and condition-related deficiencies. The majority of the educational space needs are related to the learning environment and school adequacies. More than 43 percent of facility deficiency costs are related to interior and technology systems. Considering Rhode Island public schools' average campus age is 56 years, many of the building systems in the state are nearing or have exceeded the end of their useful lives,” said the report.

Raimondo said Tuesday, “One of the first things I did as Governor was to end the previous administrations' freeze on school construction and add funding for high priority projects. Because of that decision, we've been able to fix a handful of our worst schools, including Potter Burns Elementary School in Pawtucket. It was a 100-year-old building, and you knew it the minute you walked in the door. Today, because we came together and made an investment, it's bright, it's clean, it's got a new library, and it's been totally rebuilt and wired for 21st-century learning so that kids are ready for 21st-century jobs."


Related Slideshow: 2018 State of the State Address


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