This morning we joined hundreds of other South Kingstown residents to march to Wakefield Elementary in a show of support for this vital local institution. In the past the annual "walk your child to school day" has been a visible effort to combat childhood obesity. This year, when the Town Council and School Committee are considering closing Wakefield Elementary, the message was more urgent.
While it is certainly time that Rhode Island join the other 49 states in determining a fair, equitable and predictable funding formula for our public schools, I have publicly urged that our legislators do so with care. Any formula where Barrington schools gain money, while South Kingstown loses 40% of its state education dollars, deserves a closer look. Before our state adopts the model put forth by the Rhode Island Department of Education, I would echo many of the sentiments adopted in the recent resolution passed by the South Kingstown School Committee and Town Council. Some highlights are below:
- "Core Cost of Education" amount should include local pension and post employment benefits costs, and, significantly for South Kingstown, transportation costs.
- The only income factor considered has been median family income, when median household income, per capita income, or some index combining these would generate different expectations of a community's ability to pay.
- The reference year used for calculating a community's ability to pay is 2006, and each town has revalued their property since then.
- The formula has two poverty drivers that multiply to redistribute income across the state, by layering both an income factor and the number of students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch. While I believe that Providence and Central Falls clearly need additional resources to invest in young people growing up in poverty, I hold that other need indicators must be accounted for as well, from the number of students learning English as a second language, to the number of special education students.