— Lincoln —

March 7, 2010

Peculiar News from Lincoln

Justin Katz

What's this?

[Lincoln] Town Administrator T. Joseph Almond is recommending a $70.1-million budget for the next fiscal year that would reduce the tax levy and scale back the School Committee's budget request.

The bottom line for the municipal and school budgets would increase by $123,015 in the fiscal year that starts July 1, but Almond said it would decrease the amount raised through local taxes by $531,616. Finance Director John F. Ward said that’s about a 1-percent levy decrease, but that the budget could still be affected by proposed state aid cuts.

And this?

Frank Champi, a partner at Providence-based Lefkowitz, Garfinkel, Champi & DeRienzo, P.C., the firm that did the audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009, said the town's operating budget had a $538,828 surplus, and the school budget, a $919,258 surplus. He said the audit put the town among the least financially stressed communities in Rhode Island.

Has Lincoln been doing something right, or has it simply been over-taxing its residents and businesses? I see that it's tax rate is relatively high, and without corresponding to an obviously low median house price, so it looks like an even larger cut would be just. (And that's before taking into account Lincoln's unique circumstance of having gambling revenue from Twin River.

February 12, 2010

Good for Students Versus Good for the Public Education Industry

Justin Katz

Tom Ward writes on the success of Democracy Prep Blackstone Valley charter school in Cumberland, noting:

"My concern, as the [Lincoln] superintendent (Georgia Fortunato), is that if they move into Fairlawn, Democracy Prep, people are going to think they are part of the Lincoln School Department and I think we are going to lose a lot more children," said Fortunato. "It could be very devastating for the school district."

Devastating - as in "We lose $8,000 per child" - for the school district. And perhaps the best single thing that will ever happen to the children. How did we get to this place, where what's best for the school district and what's best for the child are two very different things?

Mike, at Assigned Reading, follows up:

Fortunato's complaint that Democracy Prep hurts Lincoln's bottom line will fall on deaf ears; parents won't consider the financial impact when they decide who can provide the best education for their children. It also doesn't help that, last week, Fortunato was arguing for $31,000 in next year's budget to paint and recarpet the administration building. Considering there are no children in this building, is this the best way to spend education funds in these tough economic times? Really.

For those of us with young children, the Rhode Island Way of doing public education is a matter of urgency. That's part of the reason that I found Dan Yorke's interview with Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, focusing on Central Falls, so encouraging. I did, however, have to remind myself that, even if Gist is so successful as to justify many times her salary, the forces that have brought Rhode Island to its current low will not go away. And as quickly as she may advance the state's education system, relatively small changes in the political winds could turn around the turnaround using the interventionist precedents that she's setting.

March 30, 2009

The Pressure to Give and Give

Justin Katz

There's something very Rhode Island about a financial town meeting that admits non-resident outside guests and then adds half a million dollars to the school budget:

The non-resident ban the Lincoln Town Council approved 4-1 last week stems in part from controversy over last May's rollicking Town Meeting that increased this year's school budget by $517,248. In the aftermath, the meeting moderator questioned whether non-residents had voted for the increase and intimidated voters from opposing it. But the Budget Board reluctantly certified the budget on legal advice.

Councilman Keith Macksoud, who said he brought the proposal to the council after talking with the Budget Board and moderator, said in an interview that some people indicated they felt intimidated to vote when teachers turned out at the meeting to support adding to the budget.

The ordinance says meeting attendees can vote by majority to allow the media, non-resident town officials/department heads, the town solicitor and "others" to attend.

I can see time's being an issue if every vote must be balloted, but it would seem feasible to have secret votes on substantive matters such as the school budget.

December 22, 2008

Of Two Minds on Abstinence

Justin Katz

An interesting juxtaposition of "role-model" attitude appears in Bob Kerr's column from yesterday. On one hand:

The kid eagerly raised his hand at the back of the room at the Lincoln Middle School. He had the answer.

"A condom," he said.

Right he was. A condom is the safe way. Abstinence is probably not going to work for most people, Scott Mitchel told the class.

"You can make a choice," he said.

On the other:

He started, as he always does, with "HIV101." He talks of the virus attacking the immune system, of T-cells and how their numbers are a barometer of health or sickness. He points out there are four bodily fluids — blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal fluid — that can transmit the disease. Tears, saliva and sweat cannot. And taking the risk of injecting drugs with a needle is just too stupid to consider.

There are vast differences, of course, between sex and syringe-based drugs, but the difference in this HIV-positive speaker's attitude is striking. "Most people" (Kerr's paraphrase) can't be abstinent — and monogamy is apparently hardly worth mentioning — but injecting drugs — whether with shared or clean needles — is beyond stupid.

I'd suggest that the first step toward making abstinence a feasible for middle schoolers is for adults to tell them that it's something that they can conceivably accomplish.