June 20, 2006

How the Legislature's Education-Aid Plan Will Affect Your City or Town

Carroll Andrew Morse

According to today's Projo, The Rhode Island House has approved a flat 4.8% increase in education aid for all Rhode Island cities and towns. Because Rhode Island distributes state education aid very unevenly, this plan gives generous increases to some communities while basically ignoring others.

For example, in 2006 Barrington received $727 per-student in state education aid. At the other end of the scale, the Providence school system received $6,632 per student. Applying these base figures to the legislature's flat funding formula, the Providence school system will get an an additional $318 per student next year, while the Barrington school system will receive only an additional $35 per student.

Here is the complete list of aid increases, based on the 4.8% figure and last year’s aid totals, as well as the amount of education aid communities gained or lost relative to Governor Carcieri's original budget proposal…

Per-Pupil Increase in FY2007 Education Aid (Approved by House)Total Increase in FY2007 Education Aid (Approved by House)Change in FY2007 Education Aid (Relative to the Governor's Proposal)
Central Falls $531 $1,983,387 +$1,968,138
Providence $318 $8,882,407 +$4,991,967
Pawtucket $317 $3,061,659 +$1,971,915
Woonsocket $315 $2,181,873 +$1,700,547
Bristol/Warren $255 $938,638 +$469,450
West Warwick $244 $935,998 +$462,986
Burrillville $244 $631,241 +$241,179
East Providence $192 $1,225,477 +$471,546
Newport $191 $540,157 +$211,633
Glocester $186 $147,166 +$53,278
Chariho $176 $679,136 +$160,132
Foster $176 $64,862 +$37,645
North Providence $174 $605,976 +$138,848
Middletown $174 $480,676 +$70,989
Exeter/WGreenwich $157 $346,906 +$265,615
Coventry $157 $919,263 +$167,409
Foster/Glocester $155 $262,378 +$87,161
Johnston $152 $499,858 +$9,680
Cranston $145 $1,629,295 +$319,644
Warwick $144 $1,722,942 +$251,705
Tiverton $122 $271,636 +$34,507
North Kingstown $119 $548,854 -$25,329
South Kingstown $114 $477,543 -$90,167
Cumberland $114 $607,430 +$56,152
North Smithfield $110 $221,575 +$31,491
Smithfield $97 $263,194 -$55,602
Portsmouth $93 $286,197 -$326,063
Lincoln $93 $339,105 -$141,466
Scituate $86 $156,019 -$68,215
Westerly $84 $313,353 -$219,169
Narragansett $52 $86,873 -$195,126
LittleCompton $52 $16,888 -$28,161
Jamestown $45 $24,357 -$55,242
East Greenwich $36 $89,282 -$229,292
Barrington $35 $119,036 -$307,683
New Shoreham $32 $4,870 -$29,339

According to a Michael P. McKinney article also in today’s Projo, Barrington residents would like to know why the state government seems so hostile to assisting education in their town…

A dismayed Barrington Town Council approved a resolution last night expressing frustration with House lawmakers' "unprecedented last-minute" changes in school aid to more than a dozen communities and asking the legislature to provide those towns with an analysis that supported the decision to cut.

Schools Supt. Ralph A. Malafronte said that in a dozen years as superintendent, he had never seen a House committee drop the aid below the governor's level.

The answer to Barrington’s question is that, somewhere along the line, the Rhode Island legislature adopted the philosophy that the major function of state government was to redistribute resources from smaller cities and towns to the urban core. The justification of why towns are less entitled to state support of their municipal institutions is unclear.

Two last points. With so much money being distributed so inequitably through the state funding system, the fundamental question of the fairness of forcing people to contribute money to bureaucracies they have no control over cannot be reasonably ignored. Though all Rhode Island residents help pay 2/3 of the education costs in cities like Providence, Pawtucket, and Woonsocket, most of those Rhode Islanders have zero say, through a school committee or city council, in how those school systems are run. That’s taxation without representation. If education is to be funded on a statewide basis, students should be allowed access to any school in the state via a public school choice program.

Second, when you look over the numbers on how the capitol core gained education funding the expense of other Rhode Island communities, don't forget the recent vote on the no-bid casino deal. Maybe the members of the Providence and Pawtucket delegations who supported the no-bid deal did so because they figured that the extra revenue that would come from a competitive bidding process wasn't necessary for their communities -- they could just take what they want from Rhode Island’s smaller cities and towns instead!

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Gee, could this have anything to do with where the concentration of Democrat voters are?

Posted by: roadrunner at June 20, 2006 3:31 PM