14 May Lawmakers Consider School Funding Formula (RI)

May 14, 2010

By: Bill Rappleye
Source: Turn to 10

Rhode Island lawmakers on Thursday began consideration of three competing bills that would create a state education funding formula.

The House Finance Committee heard hours of testimony on the bills.

School administrators for years have called for a funding formula, saying the current system doesn’t give them a reliable way to budget.

But if the system changes, regional and suburban schools districts stand to lose state aid, while urban districts, like Cranston, would get more money.

“For now, under the old formula, we’re not getting the accurate dollars that we should be to me et the student population needs that have been going on and changing for the past several years” Mayor Allan Fung, R-Cranston, said. “It’s been on the backs of the local taxpayers to fund a lot of the student needs. It’s about fairness.“

But a fair funding system has been an elusive goal on Smith Hill.

“If you do not have a funding formula, then you are appropriating scarce state dollars every year fresh. Every year, you’re deciding how you’re going to allocate them. School districts have no predictability. They don’t know what money they’re going to get,“ said Karina Wood, a parent. “They can’t plan.“

Lawmakers said the final measure will likely be a compromise of the three competing bills.

Rhode Island spends $14,226 per student per year, the fifth highest amount in the country.

The state contribution is 40.3 percent—40th in the nation—while money raised from local property taxes is 51.6 percent, which is 12th in nation.

Rhode Island is the only state without a school funding formula.

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