June 11, 2010

A Formula, but It's Just Numbers

Justin Katz

It looks like the General Assembly actually did get around to passing a state aid formula for Rhode Island's schools. As we've been pointing out all along, folks at the local level have seemed to assume that a "fair funding formula" would be one that gives them, specifically, more money, and this legislation does acknowledge some districts as "over funded," therefore reducing their aid.

From a taxpayer perspective, though, this is a critical component:

Besides correcting inequities in state aid distribution, the legislation would help local communities by providing predictability for school district and local budget planners. Without a predictable formula, school districts and municipalities have been forced to guess at the amount they will receive when they are preparing their budgets each spring. Their budgets must be created in time for the start of the fiscal year on July 1, but the amount of state aid they can expect to receive is in flux until the General Assembly passes the state budget, which usually happens in late June.

In Tiverton, for example, the School Committee predicted a low aid number and frightened parents into believing that schools were going to be closed and every program cut. As it turns out, our 8% tax increase could have been almost to the state cap of 4.5% without a change in the practical outcome. Now, ostensibly, school districts will have to find other ways of creating doomsday scenarios to shake down property owners for money to keep up with the promises of inadvisable contracts. In particular, it will be more difficult for districts to compensate for losses in "restricted" — about which they tend to be less vocal — without acknowledging that they are doing so.

There is a reason for concern, though. The current system hasn't been unpredictable because the General Assembly has heard pleas from individual districts and shifted money around on a whim. It's been unpredictable because the state is in perpetual deficit and long-term economic decline, leaving the state government ever in need of places to cut. Although the existence of a big scary formula might make legislators a little more timid about reducing aid to cities and towns, it will hardly prevent them from doing so, whether on a permanent or this-year-only basis.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I thought Tiverton was going to lose about $150,000 a year each year for 10 years. Did that change much from the original estimates?

Posted by: doughboys at June 11, 2010 7:45 AM

I thought Tiverton was going to lose about $150,000 a year each year for 10 years. Did that change much from the original estimates?

Posted by: doughboys at June 11, 2010 7:46 AM

Tiverton will be losing that money, but the School Dept.'s estimates of expected state aid, for this coming year, were so low that even the loss would have represented an improvement. The point is that, now, at least there's ostensibly a definitive amount of loss, so the district can't fabricate predicted losses in the millions on which basis to raid the taxpayers' bank accounts.

(But I haven't recalculated the aid; the GA's press release says it went with the formula developed by RIDE and Brown.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 11, 2010 8:17 AM

And so....the failed idea arises again that a problem can be solved by tossing money at it. Monetary Chamberlainism

When a kid's IEP requires expensive secondary assistance, what are the typical results from that assistance? A kid who is still uneducated but whose academic failure is papered over with rambling prolix reports of subjective improvement not confirmed by objective standards or evidence. In short, a sad human failure turned into a costly sad human failure by the wasteful misuse of taxpayer money.

Now we will try this approach for entire school systems. Great.

The reason why inner city schools are failing is NOT due to a lack of adequate funding. It has to do with: (a) high poverty; (b) broken homes; (c) rampant drug and alcohol abuse in the community; (d) a culture of dependency, failure, gangs and anti-intellectualism; (e) a lack of economic opportunity coupled with a lack of work ethic.

Posted by: Soon to be Judge "Joey" Montalbano at June 11, 2010 8:27 AM

The "Funding Formula" of 2010 is (big shock) a complete fraud. $30 million in extra state funding was included to sweeten the pot so the GA members can say "my community isn't getting cut".
The problem, of course, is that with half billion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see the $30 million is a promise literally picked out of the sky.
It is, like all progressive policies, a chimera.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at June 11, 2010 9:39 AM

Justin, you have no idea what you are talking about. The Tiverton aid number (that was about $1M less that the bogus and grossly inflated TCC sponsored budget committee number) differs by a few thousand dollars from the final number. BTW, how would you respond to a group that "frightened seniors into believing that a 22% tax increase was going to happen?"...that's what I thought. You hypocrites have absolutely no credibility.

Posted by: Get Real TCC at June 11, 2010 6:31 PM

The financial town meeting assumed $4,641,742 in state and federal aid. The budget that passed the house allocates $5,326,062 in state and federal aid.

The school department adjusted its prediction down 5% from what the governor had proposed, and the General Assembly added to that. (Deb Pallasch accidentally reduced the prediction by another $100,000.)

That means the General Assembly has allocated $684,319 more than the FTM predicted when it accepted its massive tax increase.

The total "shortfall" that the school committee claimed would have necessitated gutting the entire system was $1.2 million.

Posted by: Justin Katz at June 11, 2010 10:34 PM

Apples and oranges, Justin. No matter how many times they try to tell you, you just don't get it. Add the restricted aid (historically about $700K)to the Pallasch number and then compare it to the state number. Pretty close, no? Than compare that to the bogus and grossly inflated TCC sponsored budget committee number of general aid of $5.3M and add the restricted aid and then tell us who was trying to mislead the public!

Once again, you hypocrites have absolutely no credibility.

Posted by: Get Real TCC at June 12, 2010 12:47 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.