In her January 14 State of the State address, Governor Gina Raimondo made the improvement of education a top priority. Yet, she offered no viable prescription for the ailing public school system. It …
In her January 14 State of the State address, Governor Gina Raimondo made the improvement of education a top priority. Yet, she offered no viable prescription for the ailing public school system. It is no secret that the Democrat Party’s slavish adherence to the dictates of public school unions has resulted in the very mediocre education which exists today, particularly in urban locations. Enter House Republican leader, Blake Fillippi, who, in his response to her address, fingered the exact reform needed, i.e. to let school children who go to failing schools attend other successful districts in the state.
Rep. Fillippi has been a longtime advocate of allowing students in failing public schools to attend any school they want with successful programs as long as the district(s) has space. In effect, the educational funding follows the student as it does now when a learner goes to a charter school or vocational programs outside of its geographical area. Coupled with a great idea for “State Language Academies” where non- native speakers would be sent to learn English and then returned to the sending district to matriculate, the Representative has come up with a formula that deserves to be implemented.
I do not accept the arguments raised by those who are marinated in the status quo that such reforms harm schools where students are doing well by importing those from outside the district. For the 6 years I was legal counsel for handicapped children the same arguments abounded when it came to mainstreaming handicapped children. Far too many “educators” then claimed that their respective classrooms should remain sacrosanct and that sending children who were developmentally and behaviorally disabled would blow up the educational system. In fact, just the opposite happened. With carefully crafted Individual Education Plans (IEP) these students excelled in their new environment while mainstream students learned from their handicapped confreres. Few people today continue to challenge the mainstreaming in those districts where teachers show up to teach the integrated classrooms. (One major problem in Providence is the about 60 percent of teachers who are chronically absent from the classroom and the additional dearth of substitute teachers).
Let Rep. Fillippi’s proposals be implemented. His idea to propose a surcharge on the burgeoning college and university endowments for public education is a creative and targeted approach. After all, shouldn’t higher educational institutions assist in the educational formation of its future students? On the same news day that Mr. Fillippi’s proposal hit the Providence Journal, the newspaper also reported that Bryant University‘s president made more than any other college in the nation in 2017. His haul was $6.2 million for that year. Another Rhode Island president came in second place after J&W University doled out $5.3 million for its President. While both institutions are good places of higher learning, as a professor at George Mason University noted, Bryant University is ranked well as a northern regional university with a part-time MBA program which is not in the top 200, so it is hard to understand why a private college pays with such largesse.
The time has come to stop the rhetoric about education and take efficacious steps instead. Rep. Blake Fillippi’s proposals should be adopted at least in a pilot program.
Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.