March 16, 2012

ATTRIBUTION CORRECTION: Mid-Year School Closure or Bust the Budget: Choosing Between RI Laws

Monique Chartier

[The post below has been revised with the addition of the link to the article, quoted extensively in the post, by the Valley Breeze's Sandy Phaneuf, who appears to have broke the story about the Woonsocket School Comm contemplating the closure of schools two plus months early. I had omitted the link when the post originally went up four days ago. This was an inexcusable breach of blogging protocol that I'd like to blame on being a tad overworked or on recent solar flares or on non-existent technical issues. But, in fact, it was a stupid, brainless omission on my part for which I apologize. Please e-mail me right away about any recurrences of such brainlessness.

Meanwhile, be sure to check out Sandy's recent article in the Valley Breeze, wherein the head of the Woonsocket Teachers Guild advises that a two year, ten million dollar deficit built in part on off-the-book hires by the prior superintendent "is a revenue problem, not a cost problem".]

Correct me if I'm wrong here, Woonsocket friends. It appears that the school committee is proposing to close all schools early, thereby not providing Woonsocket students with the requisite 180 days of education.

Although Rhode Island General Law requires a district to provide students with 180 days of education, Roberts points out that there is also a law which requires education departments to stay within their annual budget. With more than $4 million in payables, many of which are more than 90 days old, including utilities and services for the district's special needs students, Roberts said the committee is looking at all available options.

What might head off this drastic step?

"We as a School Committee have been putting a lot of ideas out there for the state to help us, but the situation is dire," [committee member Christopher] Roberts said. "we really need parents and voters to get behind the legislation that would help us by calling their representatives," he added, in reference to Senate bills, S-2406 and S-2461, which he's estimated could save the district $4 million.

Failing passage of this legislation,

"We have to make tough decisions and to do it in a lump sum would allow us to go into 2013 without a deficit.

... the lump sum represented by shortening the school year by two plus months. Yikes.

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Those two are some pretty big bailout bills where the state will foot a good chunk of the cost in Woonsocket.

One lets the state determine how much to pay into the retirement system and the second makes the state pay for children in foster care instead of the town.

Another interesting thing about these two bills, in light of the seeming emergency situation that Woonsocket now finds itself in is that the two bills were introduced on Feb 15 and Feb 16 respectively and haven't received any kind of scheduling as of yet.

Posted by: Patrick at March 12, 2012 10:22 PM

Yeah Patrick, I don't think there's a ghost of a chance of seeing these "one town only" bills pass since every other town will be scrambling to get in the gravy train line.
The she-it is really starting to hit the fan this year.
I fear to see what tax "proposals" will be coming out under the guise of local aid immediately after the election.
How about a 9% sales tax?

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 13, 2012 2:30 PM
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