30 Mar Chafee Tours School to Tout Call for School Funds (RI)March 30, 2011
By: DAVID KLEPPERSource: Bloomberg Businessweek
PROVIDENCE, R.I.–Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Wednesday toured a Providence charter school serving mostly lower-income students to promote his call for increased school funding.
Chafee also visited a school in Westerly before holding a news conference at the University of Rhode Island. The tour was done to highlight Chafee’s proposal to spend more on public schools and higher education despite the state’s mounting budget deficit.
Chafee, an independent, delivered his budget proposal to the General Assembly on Tuesday. It would spend an additional $13.2 million on schools and fund the first year of a new school finance formula. It also would increase higher education funding by $10 million.
The lynchpin of the proposal is a lower but broadened sales tax to generate more than $165 million in new revenue. That money, along with state spending cuts, would eliminate Rhode Island’s projected $331 million budget deficit.
Protecting funding for schools should be a priority even in tough budget times, Chafee said.
"Good schools are our future," he said. "This is just a first step in a long-term commitment to fund our schools."
The new formula aims to make school funding more consistent and equitable by funding schools based on enrollment. Schools with more students from lower-income fami lies get more funding.
Chafee’s first stop Wednesday was at the Paul Cuffee public charter school, where he and state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist met with administrators and students.
More than 75 percent of Cuffee’s 560 students come from lower-income families, according to Michael Obel-Omia, head of Paul Cuffee. Yet the school outscored the state average on recent state tests. As a charter school, Cuffee offers smaller class sizes and longer school days compared to traditional public schools. Last week, the school held a lottery to select next year’s new students. Cuffee received 973 applications for 39 available slots.
"We don’t want those other students going back to a substandard school," Chafee said. "It’s unacceptable."