LWVRI Position on Funding Public Education in Rhode Island
The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island believes that any method of financing public education should provide equality of opportunity for education through a system of taxation that is sufficient, equitable, flexible and coordinated among the different levels of government.
The LWVRI believes further that the best way to fund education in Rhode Island is to divide the cost between the state and the cities and towns. The state's total share of the funding of core instructional costs should be at least 50%. In determining the share that will be distributed to each city and town, the state should use a transparent formula that provides equitable funding for Rhode Island's school children and that takes into account community wealth and student poverty level.
CURRENT FUNDING STATUS
A Report about the RI Senate Commission, "Special Legislative Task Force to Study the RI Education Funding Formula"
This past fall, a RI Senate Commission conducted a study of the current RI education funding formula. Most states have these formulas which provide state funds to support the current expenses of local public school systems. These formulas are promoted as equalizers of the local tax resources of local systems. Equity is often undermined however by the fact that the cities and towns which already have adequate property and income wealth still want state funds. This commission studied the current formula by holding five hearings during which the formula was explained by Dr. Kenneth Wong, Education Department Chair, Brown University, who developed the formula; Mr. Stephen Coleman, Chief, Division of Municipal Finance; and staff from the RI Department of Education. Other groups and citizens also were encouraged to present their views. The Task Force has presented a report of their findings and recommendations. The commission documents, meeting videos and report can be downloaded from this link: http://www.rilin.state.ri.us/commissions/eff/Pages/hmaterials.aspx
The latest information about the RI Education Funding Formula is its calculation for FY 2021 by the RI Department of Education; see this link: https://www.ride.ri.gov/FundingFinance/FundingSources/StateEducationAid.aspx#32231125-funding-formula-supporting-calculations-and-documents
Then click on "FY 2021 Formula Calculations (4/16/2020)".
If you have any questions, contact Joanne DeVoe at joanned [at] qis.net.
Funding for School Building Repair
Back in 2014, the Providence League became alarmed at the condition of Providence's public schools and declared it an Issue of Interest. As a result the RI League supported the 2018 State School Bond issue. The bond issue passed. The Providence League continues to monitor the issue.
At its 2009 Convention, the LWVRI decided the following : "The League of Women Voters of Rhode Island shall study the financing of elementary and secondary(k-12) education in Rhode Island to determine if it provides equality of opportunity for education through a system of taxation that is sufficient, equitable, flexible and coordinated among the different levels of government."
The LWVUS Principles (Pg. 6) state that "every person should have access to free public education that provides equal opportunity for all". Further, LWVUS Principles state that "efficient and economical government requires...adequate financing, and coordination among the different agencies and levels of government" and that "government should maintain an equitable and flexible system of taxation." The LWVRI study seeks to find ways to achieve these goals within the RI Constitution, which states in Article XII, Section I: It shall be the duty of the general assembly to promote public schools and public libraries, and to adopt all means which it may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education and public library services.
The 2018-2020 LWVUS Program (Pgs. 72-73) included the phrase "equal access to quality education," reflecting League recognition that "equality" and "quality" are inseparable.