Not Funding Charter Schools May Hurt RI’s Stimulus Funding for Education

UPDATE: Angus Davis reports on Passing Notes that this morning Secretary of Education Arne Duncan commented on the mistake that Rhode Island is making by not funding charter schools:

Places like Rhode Island that are thinking about under-funding charters are obviously going to put themselves at a huge competitive disadvantage going forward. So we don’t think that’s a smart thing for them to do, and we’re going to make that very, very clear.” (APPLAUSE)

It is time for the General Assembly to reconsider whether they want to shortchange all of Rhode Island by not paying attention to the new Democratic national leadership on education.

ORIGINAL POST: In a post on his blog, Passing Notes, entrepreneur and education reformer (and member of the Rhode Island Board of Regents) Angus Davis responded to the state budget which cut $1.5 million in funds for charter schools:

Rhode Island Risks Losing $4.3 Billion “Race to the Top”

Statement of Angus Davis, speaking for Rhode Island Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education, Thursday, June 18, 2009:

Preserving the Governor’s proposed $1.5 million in funding for new charter schools is a priority for RIDE and the Regents as the General Assembly debates the budget. On June 8, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said states that fail to embrace new charter schools “jeopardize their applications under the [$4.3 billion] Race to the Top Fund.” Loss of support for new charter schools recently approved by the Regents would put Rhode Island at risk of dropping out of the race, just as it gets underway.

Rhode Island’s budget is balanced in part thanks to an influx of $110 million in new education stimulus funding (with $88 million more pledged next year, and $4.3 billion up for grabs through the ‘Race to the Top’ Fund), all overseen by Secretary Duncan and administered in Rhode Island through RIDE. Winning additional federal dollars (not just for public charter schools but for all public schools) depends on how we spend these new funds we were just given, and how our policies embrace education reform to raise student achievement moving forward. [full text]

It’s sad to think we may be jeopardizing large amounts of educational funding to our state because we did not fund charter schools. I hope the General Assembly will carefully consider this decision and its ramifications as they vote on the budget next week.


8 thoughts on “Not Funding Charter Schools May Hurt RI’s Stimulus Funding for Education

    1. You know Pat,I can never make heads or tails of the education situation in RI except that the relationship between the teachers,school boards,and town/city councils seems like “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” but don’t ask me which is which,because I don’t know.

  1. Kiersten,

    Based on BOE reports, there are a few entries for Angus Davis. Some have him employed by Microsoft, some self-employed and one by another employer. Also, one has no middle initial while another has an “M” as a middle initial. I’m assuming that the numbers of different people by the name of Angus Davis is equal to the number of folks named Geoff Schoos in Rhode Island. So, my guess is that they’re probably the same person.

    Whether the same person or not, the various iterations of Angus Davis seem to support democrats from Cicilline, to the Caprios, to state House Democrats, and to folks like Dan McKee, John M. Kelly (so common a name I can’t place him), and Doug Gablinske.

    For better or worse, it seems that the guys he finances seem to win.

  2. Pat’s innuendo is a bit…sad, I guess.

    OK, he’s a union guy. I get that. I’m pro-union (Solidarity forever!), but there are times to remain adamant and times to bend.

    I also understand the union’s “thin end of the wedge” argument. But, bottom line is that charter schools only work when they’re small and select.

    They do not threaten the status quo of the public schools because, time and again, when charter/experimental schools go big they inherit all the problems the public schools face, and prove equally as maladroit at solving them.

    However, I have still never, ever seen any proof that public schools are any worse now than they were 30 or 40 or however many years ago that alleged “golden age” existed.
    RI’s NAEP scores in math are up over 1992, and mathi is considered a better indication of teaching performance than reading.

    A recent study also showed that private schools are no better at improving kids’ math scores than public schools.

    All that said, it’s time the unions accepted the fact that teaching is no longer a poorly paid profession. No, it’s not law or medicine (See McAllen, TX), but the top step is making about twice median in RI, which is darn good.

    So, the union-busters masquerading as “reformers” need to drop it, but the unions need to face reality, too. Charter schools are not evil. They help, to some extent. They are part of the solution, but they aren’t the whole answer, either.

  3. klaus:

    Unmentioned so far is the fact that most RI charter schools are organized under the local school districts. That means the school boards control the money and the personnel — meaning unionized teachers.

    Now, I believe that teachers should have union protection, and that they deserve good wages and benefits for the jobs they do. I also think that school boards have generally failed to negotiate contracts that are both fair to teachers and affordable to taxpayers — but have succeeded in blaming everything on the teachers. The RI charter school model does not address any of this.

    To cite one example, the Beacon Charter School for the Arts in Woonsocket is an innovative program, but the principal there — Rob Pilkington, the head of the RI Charter League, by the way — can not hire non-certified (though qualified) teachers, nor can he pay non-union (i.e., lower) salaries. So, yes, charter schools are smaller and more select in their admissions, but they’re not a complete break from the public school model.

    In the end, the GA is wrong to propose cutting these funds — it’s another way they’re trying to push the costs down to the local school districts.

  4. Jesse,

    Thanks for the clarification. I agree that teachers should be unionized, and with pretty much everything else you said. I think more jobs/professions/sectors should be unionized.

    However, I also believe that contracts have to be realistic. Because so few jobs are unionized, raises in the private sector are negligible at best, non-existant at worst. This being the case, public sector employees have to realize that 2-3% raises each and every year are not sustainable.

    At least, not until money that is currently being siphoned off as corporate profits and executive compensation is re-directed to increasing wages for people that actually work for a living.

  5. Pat has a great update on the truth behind the charter school funding spin on RIF. Seems that the charters are in line for more money, not less.

    So, while I agree that a cut to charter school funding would be a bad idea, that’s apparently not the case. I apologize for the previous statement I made about the GA proposing a cut.

    Here’s the RI Future link:

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