Governor Donald L. Carcieri joined House Speaker Gordon D. Fox, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, bill sponsors House Committee on Finance Chairman Steven M. Costantino and Senate Committee on Education Chairwoman Hanna Gallo, Board of Regents Chairman Robert G. Flanders, Esq., RI Department of Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, and education leaders at a bill signing ceremony at the Rhode Island Foundation to formally sign into law H 8094 Aaa & S 2770 Aaa, The Education Funding Formula and Property Tax Equity Act.
The proposal, which was developed by the Department of Education with assistance from education experts at Brown University, establishes an education funding formula for the State of Rhode Island, the first in 15 years. Prior to the passage of the funding formula, state aid for education has been based on the previous year's amount and has not reflected changes in districts' student populations.
The formula thus takes into account both the needs of Rhode Island students and district capacity while providing much needed predictability into the education funding the state provides to its local communities. It will be fair to Rhode Island's local school systems given it is based on actual student enrollments and will provide a core instructional amount as well as additional funding to support student needs beyond the core services.
"Over the past 7 years, my administration has made it a priority to improve education in our state. From establishing rigorous standards to creating a statewide assessment system for elementary and secondary school students that is directly tied to standards, from instituting a host of measures to enhance student performance in math and science to providing school options for students and their families, we have set a new course for education in our state," said Governor Donald L. Carcieri. "Today, we celebrate the achievement of a critical component for improving our education system. Rhode Island no longer bears the stigma of being the only state not to have a predictable and reliable education funding formula. This important mechanism puts students' needs first, invests resources wisely, and furthers our collective efforts to transform education in Rhode Island."
"When I was sworn in as Speaker in February, I stated that one of my highest priorities was to see that the General Assembly finally passes a fair and equitable funding formula for public education. It took a great deal of dedication and hard work by so many, but I couldn't be prouder that it has finally been accomplished," said Speaker of the House Gordon M. Fox. "Commissioner Gist and the Rhode Island Department of Education were true catalysts, and Governor Carcieri and members of the Board of Regents were extremely supportive throughout the process. Many advocates from communities throughout the state provided us with invaluable input, and the final legislative product is a result of an enormous amount of energy and effort that will benefit our children for generations to come."
President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed added, "This fair funding formula will ensure that each district is treated equitably. This is the culmination of many years of hard work by Chairwoman Gallo, whose tireless dedication to this issue will ensure that every child in the state has an opportunity to receive a world-class education."
"The funding formula that Governor Carcieri has signed into law marks a significant advance in our work toward transforming education in Rhode Island," said Robert G. Flanders, Jr., Esq., Chairman of the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. "It brings greater predictability to the budget process, it is fair to students and to taxpayers, and it will ensure that we invest our resources wisely. I am pleased that so many Rhode Islanders came together to develop this funding formula and make it a reality." The key components of the Rhode Island Funding Formula are:
* a core instructional amount, derived from data on the cost of instruction in the Northeast region, that adequately funds student instructional needs;
* a student-success factor that provides additional funding to support student needs beyond the core services, with the ultimate goal of closing student achievement gaps;
* a system in which the money follows the student so that as enrollments rise or fall, aid will rise or fall accordingly;
* a state-share ratio that considers both the capacity each district has to generate revenue and the concentration of at-risk students;
* an innovative transition plan providing local districts time to adjust to the revised distribution of funds. It will phase in the changes in funding allocations over 10 years; and;
* a dynamic system that will redistribute allocations as enrollment patterns change.
Using the "Rhode Island Basic Education Program" as the standard, RIDE arrived at an average instructional cost of $8,295 per pupil. To account for differences in student populations, however, a funding increase of 40 percent per pupil also will be provided for every student eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch. "I am extremely proud of the result of our collaborative efforts after many years of working on this issue. The new formula now reflects the real situation of each student and each district, and where the money follows that student wherever he or she may go in the state. This is a system that will put the kids first, and will put our education dollars to the most effective and fair use," said Chairman Steven M. Costantino, Chairman of the House Committee on Finance and sponsor of the House bill. "With enactment of this legislation, we are taking the politics out of school funding and putting the students first," said Senator Hanna M. Gallo, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Education and sponsor of the Senate bill. "Research from all over the country has shown that low incomes tend to be linked to more expensive services in schools. This formula recognizes that link and addresses that challenge. This formula ensures that each school district gets the funding it needs to support its students." "Supporting student achievement is our highest priority," said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. "This education funding formula, which allocates resources fairly and redistributes state aid to education as enrollment patterns change, will allow us to ensure that student achievement remains the top priority for our state and for every school district."
"This is a real victory for Rhode Island's schoolchildren. The Foundation is proud to have played a role with many other partners in the development of a fair and equitable funding formula, which fits perfectly with our signature initiative in public education. We salute Rhode Island's elected officials for their vision and dedication to providing equal educational opportunities for this generation and generations to come," said Neil D. Steinberg, president and CEO, The Rhode Island Foundation. The Rhode Island Foundation supported the work performed by Brown University, the developers of the formula, as part of the Foundation's signature initiative in public education.
The House bill is cosponsored by Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), House Majority Leader Nicholas A. Mattiello (D-Dist. 15, Cranston), Speaker Tempore Elaine A. Coderre (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket) and Rep. Joanne M. Giannini (D-Dist. 7, Providence).
"Over the past few years, there have been countless leaders across all sectors of our state who have shared their insights and knowledge on the importance of developing a statewide education funding formula. This effort has been truly a collaborative effort, and I applaud the General Assembly, the Commissioner, RIDE staff, the Board of Regents, Brown University, the Rhode Island Foundation, Kids Count, RIPEC, the RI Association of School Committees, educators, and the many other community and education organizations that provided time, comment, and expertise in the creation of the funding formula," said Governor Carcieri.