February 28, 2006

Steve Laffey Wants a Voluntary Pilot School Choice Program for Rhode Island

Carroll Andrew Morse

At a press conference this afternoon, Cranston Mayor Steve Laffey, flanked by Cranston School Superintendent Richard Scherza, and State Representatives Joseph Almeida (D-Providence) and James Davey (R-Cranston) announced a plan to initiate a “Voluntary Pilot School Choice Program” that would allow Providence residents to legally attend Cranston schools. The criteria for the program are as follows…

  • Children must come from failing districts in Providence.
  • Accepting school districts can reject students due to a lack of capacity or prior disciplinary problems.
  • Accepting school systems will be compensated in full and upfront for the cost of education in accordance with three cost categories: regular student, English as a second language, and special education.
  • Accepting school districts will not be penalized under the No Child Left Behind Act for a reduction in scores for at least two years.
For this year, the Mayor has proposed a "grace period" allowing Providence residents currently attending Cranston schools an opportunity to rectify the situation without penalty…
  • The grace period would last up to March 10, 2006. Those who come forward won’t be criminally charged. They will be returned to the Providence school system, and Providence will be billed.
  • High School seniors, whose parents come forward within the timeframe, can finish the year. Providence will be sent the bill for these students as well.
  • All current criminal charges will be dropped.
  • If parents don’t come forward by March 10th, they will face criminal charges for filing false documents and a civil action for restitution for the cost of education.
  • If Providence refuses to pay, Cranston will introduce an amendment to the budget to increase Cranston school aid at the expense of Providence school aid.

Mayor Laffey's presentation is available here.