September 15, 2014

Tanzi pleased that standardized testing will be studied

Legislator proposed bill to investigate amount of time, money spent on testing 

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi, who proposed legislation earlier this year aimed at finding out how much of students’ time and districts’ money is spent on standardized testing annually, said she is pleased that the Department of Education has announced it will study this issue this year.

“While I suspect students are spending quite a bit of time taking and preparing for the many tests they take, we don’t even have enough information to know just how much testing is happening in each school or grade. I’m really looking forward to the results of this review, and I’m heartened to know that the Department of Education is listening to parents, teachers and students and is taking this concern seriously,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

A recent letter sent to school superintendents from the Department of Education and the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association informed districts that concerns about “over-testing” prompted the study, and that the department would consider streamlining assessments and eliminating those that do not advance education. The study will include community meetings, focus groups and a working group of four districts – East Providence, Newport, North Kingstown and North Providence – whose leaders volunteered to analyze their assessment and help develop plans to trim testing if appropriate.

Representative Tanzi’s bill (2014-H 7835) would have required annual reporting by all public schools, school districts, mayoral academies, and charter schools on any federally, state or locally mandated or voluntary tests for students in each grade from kindergarten through 12. The report would have had to include information such as the grade level and number of students taking each test; whether each test is federally, state or locally mandated, or voluntary; an indication of whether each test is primarily a tool to measure student, teacher, school district or state performance; the costs per test; and the time spent in test preparation and taking the test.

“There have to be some assessments to ensure that schools are effective in teaching students, but it needs to be done in a manner that doesn’t imperil teachers’ ability to teach. Days and weeks spent on testing are days and weeks that aren’t spent teaching and learning, and if there are too many of them, kids aren’t getting all the education they deserve,” said Representative Tanzi.

The department’s announcement about the study comes after the General Assembly passed legislation halting the use of standardized tests as a graduation requirement this year until at least 2017. Representative Tanzi cosponsored an earlier version (2014-H 7256) of that legislation. The move enabled students who were otherwise eligible to graduate but who were unable to demonstrate adequate mastery or improvement on the controversial New England Common Assessment Program (NECAP) test to get their diplomas this year. Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, who had been a proponent of the use of the NECAP as a graduation requirement, later recommended delaying the use of any standardized test as a graduation requirement until 2020.

August 2, 2014

Tanzi ranks 2nd highest in state on Common Cause scorecard

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) scored the second-highest mark in the General Assembly on the 2014 Common Cause Legislative Scorecard, released this week.

Representative Tanzi, who is serving her second term in the House of Representatives, received a final score of 77 percent on the grassroots organization’s 11th biennial tally. The score is based on a two-year voting record of legislators on a number of government reform issues valued by Common Cause.

Common Cause tracked 25 House of Representatives votes during the 2013 and 2014 sessions on legislation concerning voting rights, campaign finance reform, elections, ethics, judicial selection, open government, legislative rules and separation of powers. Representative Tanzi was the sponsor of one of the bills the organization supported and included, a 2013 measure (2013-H 6066 B) signed into law to increase accountability and transparency in tax credit programs and state agency reports.

The final score for each legislator is arrived at through a formula that weighs the importance to Common Cause of each of the particular bills in question, the number of times he or she voted with and against Common Cause’s position on them, and the number of times the legislator did not vote at all on one of the bills.

Representative Tanzi received 100-percent marks in the categories of ethics and campaigns/elections.

“During my time as the vice chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, we put a great deal of effort into developing improvements to state ethics and transparency laws. I value trustworthy, open government. I’m proud that my tax expenditure accountability bill was among the bills Common Cause used as a measure on its scorecard, and I firmly stand alongside Common Cause on many issues. Increasing transparency and public access to information is important to me, because it leads to government that is fairer and more effective,” said Representative Tanzi.

June 30, 2014

Tanzi attends White House Summit on Working Families

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi flew to Washington last week at the request of the White House as a delegate to the first White House Summit on Working Families.

The daylong summit on June 23, attended by President Obama, brought together political, social and business activists to discuss policies that can help families and businesses succeed together.
“Today, an overwhelming majority of families have all parents working outside the home, but workplace policies haven’t changed to reflect that reality. These are issues that impact everyone at some point in their careers – caring for an aging parent, a sick partner or child, or just needing to be there when your child gets home from school or graduates. Employers should be encouraged to explore flexible workplace policies because empowered employees are productive and committed employees,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).

One of the main policy changes discussed at the event was the need for paid family leave. Rhode Island passed a law last year allowing employees to take up to four weeks’ paid family leave under Temporary Disability Insurance, and became only the third state in the nation with mandated paid leave for people who need to take time out of work to care for a family member.

Representative Tanzi noted that one speaker at the summit was a business owner who said that when he changed his business’s policies from a regimented system allowing limited sick and personal days to one allowing employees to take whatever time they needed to take care of themselves and their families, the total number of days off they took decreased. The policy gave his employees the flexibility they needed, while helping his business’s bottom line, he said.

“With greater flexibility – movable hours, paid family leave, maternity leave and sick time, affordable elder and child care – working people with families can succeed at work and at home, without sacrificing either,” said Representative Tanzi.

June 20, 2014

Bill licensing lactation consultants headed to governor

STATE HOUSE – With passage in the House today, the General Assembly has approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi and Sen. Gayle L. Goldin to establish a licensing process for lactation consultants, thereby facilitating insurance coverage of their service to assist nursing mothers and infants.

Lactation consultants are health care professionals who assist mothers and infants with clinical issues relating to breastfeeding. Insurers provide varying degrees of coverage for lactation consultation, although in many cases, women have covered access for only a brief time after giving birth. Many families must pay out-of-pocket for their services, particularly if their need for those services occurs after the first few weeks of their infants’ life.

The work of lactation consultant services can be covered under insurance provided through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but only when they are provided by licensed lactation consultants. Rhode Island currently has no process for licensing them, although there is a board certification that involves a national certification process with intensive training and clinical hours requirements.
Establishing a licensing process will help cover families who get their insurance through the ACA, and likely others who obtain their insurance through other means.

“Breastfeeding issues can occur anytime throughout the period that a baby is nursing, but many families have coverage to see a lactation consultant for only the first couple of weeks of their infant’s life,” said Senator Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence). “Now more mothers and infants will have the coverage to see a lactation consultant at the time they need one.”

Said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett), “To achieve success, time is of the essence, and new moms need as few barriers as possible. Access to licensed experts who offer support and expertise is just what families need feed their babies in a healthy and cost-effective way.”

This legislation (2014-S 25192014-H 7914) establishes a state licensing process and will require those representing themselves as licensed lactation consultants to adhere to it. The specific requirements of the licensing process would be established by the Department of Health based on national criteria established by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners or other national standards.

The legislation is supported by the Rhode Island Breastfeeding Coalition.

“All mothers, regardless of their individual circumstances, should have consistent access to quality lactation support services. This bill will greatly help to improve the health of mothers and babies in our state by increasing access to important early help with infant feeding. It provides protection for the public and reassurance to healthcare providers that a referral is being made to a competent, licensed professional whose main focus is to protect the mother and infant,” said Michael Fink of the Breastfeeding Coalition’s licensing committee. “This bill will help provide access to care, for women within every community, when they want it most- in the early days postpartum, or as needed through the entire breastfeeding life-cycle.”

May 27, 2014

Tanzi bill would close corporate tax loophole

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi is pushing for legislation to close a loophole that large, multi-state and international corporations exploit to avoid paying state taxes in Rhode Island.
Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) is sponsoring legislation (2014-H 7739) that would stop multi-state or multi-national corporations from dodging state taxes by hiding their Rhode Island profit in a shell corporation or other out-of-state entity that is not subject to Rhode Island taxes.

Representative Tanzi’s legislation would enact “combined reporting” in Rhode Island, which would require corporations that have businesses in other states or countries to combine all their subsidiaries as a single entity and then pay taxes to Rhode Island based on the percentage of net business profit or loss generated by its operations in this state.

The bill, which had a hearing before the House Finance Committee last week, would put an end to a trick that large corporations use to evade the taxes that homegrown businesses pay, eliminating an unfair advantage that hurts small business.

“The fundamental justification for combined reporting is a robust corporate tax that can’t be gamed by aggressive corporate tax planning and that creates a level playing field between big multi-state corporations and smaller, local corporations,” said Representative Tanzi.

A study by the Department of Revenue presented to the General Assembly in March showed that multi-state companies would have paid more in corporate taxes if combined reporting were in place.
“This study provides evidence that Rhode Island has been losing vital corporate income tax revenue because we have left the door open for companies to aggressively use tax avoidance strategies. Once again, I have introduced legislation that would mandate combined reporting in Rhode Island and help level the playing field between large, multi-state corporations and smaller, local companies,” said Representative Tanzi.

Combined reporting is required in the District of Columbia and 23 states, including Massachusetts, New York, Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. A majority of states that collect corporation business taxes now require combined reporting to appropriately capture taxes owed in state.
Representative Tanzi said that the adoption of combined reporting is not an effort to raise taxes on big businesses because the corporate tax is supposed to apply to all businesses. Instead, it’s closing a loophole, and leveling the playing field for businesses of all sizes.

“At a time when we are trying to shed our reputation as a difficult state for businesses, we ought to stop big businesses from unfairly exploiting the system to evade the taxes that our local businesses are paying. Combined reporting is fair to all businesses and it would help the state collect the money it’s owed,” said Representative Tanzi.

 The legislation was introduced Feb. 27, and is cosponsored by Rep. Larry Valencia (D-Dist. 39, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter), Rep. Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Rep. Frank Ferri (D-Dist. 22, Warwick) and Rep. Jeremiah T. O’Grady (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket).

May 21, 2014

Legislators to take part in American Lung Association "Advocacy Day" at State House

STATE HOUSE – Members of the General Assembly are scheduled to take part in the American Lung Association “Annual Advocacy Day” at the State House Thursday, May 22.
The event will be held from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Governor’s State Room and will include presentations and briefings on the American Lung Association’s 2014 policy priorities to promote healthy air and healthy lungs.
Among the legislators scheduled to speak at the event are Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Dist. 18, Cranston), who chairs the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, and Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, Narragansett, South Kingstown).
Featured speakers are Mary B. Yebba, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration northeast region, and Tom Moriarty, executive vice president, chief health strategy officer and general counsel with CVS Caremark. (The speaking program will be held from 3:15 to 3:45 p.m.)
The program is being held to allow individuals from the American Lung Association local affiliate office to meet and speak with elected officials. It will include briefings on efforts to raise the Rhode Island cigarette tax to provide funding for tobacco control; prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors; tobacco-free pharmacies; phasing out wood stoves without EPA certification, and promoting the use of green cleaning products in Rhode Island schools.

May 19, 2014

Tanzi bill creates fund to offset fisheries loss from renewable energy projects

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa Tanzi has introduced legislation to give Rhode Island’s fishing industry a voice in the development of renewable energy facilities located in the waters where Rhode Island’s fishing fleet has had a constitutionally protected right to fish for centuries.

The legislation (2014-H 7992) would subject the lease of the submerged lands upon which each project is built to an annual fee to establish a fisheries administrative fund. That fund would be used to create a nonprofit organization to advocate on behalf of the commercial and recreational fishing sectors in fisheries management and in the development of renewable energy projects located in Rhode Island waters.

Representative Tanzi, whose district includes the Port of Galilee, home to much of Rhode Island’s commercial fishing fleet, said she introduced the legislation because, as a result of the Deepwater Wind proposal for an off-shore wind farm, the fishing industry stands to lose access to some areas of the water that it has always used, and because the public trust doctrine and the Rhode Island Constitution both establish the public’s right to use and fish in the water off Rhode Island’s shore.

“The ocean is part of our identity in Rhode Island, and accordingly, the state has always been fiercely protective of the right of its citizens to access those waters for recreation and commercial purposes, going right back to the colonial charter in 1663. If we’re going to cede any part of the water to a private interest, our citizens – particularly the fishing industry that has long relied on water access – deserves a voice and some protection,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett). “This will free up members of the fishing industry from having to attend the scores of regulatory hearings that affect them every year, meaning they can spend more time earning a living on the water and rest assured their interests are well-represented.”

The legislation would require the Coastal Resources Management Council to impose the fee on all renewable energy projects leasing submerged marine lands and costing $5 million or more, in an annual amount no higher than .075 percent of the project’s total cost. The council is then to designate a nonprofit entity that would be responsible for representing commercial and recreational fishing in the discussion of other such renewable energy proposals and in fisheries management. The fund will be used to support that organization’s administrative and study costs relating to the matter, and any excess funding may be used for mitigation of any long-term impacts of such projects.

Representative Tanzi said advocates for renewable energy and the fishing industry are both supportive of the legislation. Representative Tanzi said the collaboration of ocean stakeholders in Rhode Island, which was established during the state’s development of the Ocean Special Management Area Plan, is remarkable and unprecedented worldwide.

“It’s already very difficult to make a living fishing here, with catch limits, a tremendous regulatory burden, high overhead costs and other challenges. While creating clean energy locally has its advantages, there has to be some acknowledgement and mitigation of any loss of use that projects located in the water can have on our state’s fishing industry,” said Representative Tanzi.
 The bill had a hearing before the House Finance Committee May 7th.

April 28, 2014

Tanzi brings grant to South Kingstown CARES

In photo:  (Left to right) Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett) presents a $2,500 grant to Cynthia Piez-Pacheco, board secretary of South Kingstown CARES and a retired South Kingstown teacher, and Hannah Hodgson, the executive director of South Kingstown CARES.  

STATE HOUSE – Rep. Teresa A. Tanzi recently delivered a $2,500 grant to South Kingstown CARES to help support its mentoring efforts for middle school students.
South Kingstown CARES (Connecting All Resources for Educational Support) is a nonprofit organization that helps fill the needs of South Kingstown students and coordinates school volunteers.

“I am thrilled to be able to assist South Kingstown CARES, because they make so many great opportunities possible for the children in South Kingstown schools. Not only do they do a terrific job encouraging people in the community to use their time and talents to help students, but they also provide the priceless services of coordinating hundreds of volunteers and organizing the programs that help connect kids to what they need. We are extremely lucky to have such an active and well-run volunteer organization supporting our students,” said Representative Tanzi (D-Dist. 34, South Kingstown, Narragansett).
Last year CARES placed more than 350 volunteers in South Kingstown public schools helping with classroom projects, homework clubs focusing on math and literacy, mentoring individual students, providing academic support for core subjects at the high school and a providing a career and college center. CARES volunteers gave over 15,000 collective hours to local schools in the last school year. For more information visit

March 20, 2014

Supt. Lusi tells lawmakers that too much testing hurting preparation for Common Core

Linda Borg, Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — School Supt. Susan Lusi told lawmakers that her students and staff are spending too much time on testing at the expense of preparing students for the Common Core state standards.
Lusi and Providence School Board President Keith Oliveira were invited by Rep. Teresa Tanzi to speak Wednesday before a dozen members of the General Assembly. Tanzi said the forum was designed as a follow-up to a recent hearing before the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee.
Tanzi, D-South Kingstown, said she didn’t invite anyone from the state Department of Education to Wednesday’s roundtable. She said, however, that she had invited state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist to speak at two earlier public forums, but that she had declined.
Elliot Krieger, a spokesman for the education commissioner, said the Department of Education plans to schedule a forum on the Common Core education standards at Rhode Island College. The Common Core is a uniform set of English and math standards adopted by 45 states, including Rhode Island and the District of Colombia.
Lusi said Rhode Island is not making the same commitment to education reform that has made Massachusetts a national leader.
“In Providence, what we’re doing is distracting us from that agenda,” she said. “We’re not focused on the Common Core. We’re just doing test after test.”
Gist says that testing high school students is one way of demonstrating that they are prepared for college or the workplace. Too many students, she says, have graduated only to find themselves taking remedial courses in college.
Students who fail the NECAP are eligible to take one of 10 alternate tests. Waivers are available on a case-by-case basis for students who have demonstrated subject mastery.
Oliveira worries that those seniors who don’t pass the NECAP, which they can retake, will become discouraged and drop out.
Several legislators expressed concern Wednesday that the NECAP was putting too much stress on high school juniors and seniors and their teachers.
“I taught for 37 years and I retired from teaching because all we did was test,” said Rep. Donna Walsh, D-Charlestown. “I saw kids that were test-weary. We are testing at the expense of curriculum.”
But Rep. Joy Hearn, D-Barrington, cautioned against rolling back the clock on education reform.
“We need to get these students as much help as humanly possible,” she said. “Our responsibility as legislators is to make sure we deliver educated adults.”

March 19, 2014

Bill Seeks to Postpone Testing on Common Core

by Benjamin Branchaud
 Narragansett Times

     The Common Core standards, marketed as a system to determine what is expected of students at each grade level, will be the basis of standardized testing beginning with freshman from the class of 2019.
     House Bill 7256, which will be heard today, seeks to postpone testing on the Common Core standards until 2019, when students will have had a full four years of instruction on the standards.
     State Rep. Teresa Tanzi (D-Dist. 34) is signed on to the bill and feels strongly about the educational system and the need to introduce new systems gently and with care.
    "You can't just create an effective curriculum overnight and then test our students on it and have them be held accountable on an untested and unproven curriculum that was just established," said Tanzi. "We're holding them accountable for a curriculum they haven't been exposed to."
     Tanzi does not necessarily oppose the Common Core standards, but sees a need to test them and examine them more closely.
     "You need to make sure that before schools are ruining student's lives by not graduating them, that the curriculum they created is tested, tried and true," she said.  "Here we are doing very little in reality to improve or accelerate the implementation of this.  I do not - in any way, shape or form - want to lower the standards. I just want to make sure that our students aren't guinea pigs."
     Massachusetts, which is in a three-state educational consortium with Rhode Island and New York, recently took a similar position on the implementation of a new curriculum.
     "In Massachusetts, when they created their own curriculum, they took 10 years to phase it in," said Tanzi. "Then they invested millions of dollars into districts throughout the state, creating an opportunity for schools to really implement the curriculum well. This clearly has an impact on students in our (the South Kingston/Narragansett) district.  You can't create it in one shot.  You can't write a brilliant novel without any edits. Rhode Island, so far, has refused to reconsider implementation. Our commissioner has said 'We're not going backwards.'  If we see that something is not going well, we have to respond.  This is not about pride or ego.  This is about our kids."
     South Kingston Superintendent Kristen Stringfellow is enthusiastic about the bills, including this one, that are in the general assembly regarding education.
     "This looks to me like a philosophical look at 'What is the role of a state assessment?' It's very important," she said.  "I'm looking at 12 different bills right now that are very thoughtfully presented. Every single sentence and paragraph, from my perspective, has a lot of information in it that would be impactful to our educational setting."