Are you listening, Bristol? Law is on Warren’s side

To the editor:
The Town of Warren maintains that pursuant to Article VII of the Enabling Legislation, the treasurer of the Bristol Warren Regional School District is responsible for apportioning the proportionate share of costs between Bristol and Warren on a per pupil basis. Additionally, The Town of Warren asserts that the new state wide funding formula determines the amount of state aid each town receives on per pupil based on the number of students who receive free or reduced price lunch and our capacity to pay. For the fiscal year 2014, approximately 46 percent of Warren students receive free or reduced lunch while only 32 percent of the Bristol students receive a free or reduced priced lunch.
Our position is clear and firmly rooted in the legislature’s intent to equalize the burden that is placed as the result of increasing poverty and our inability to fairly generate revenue. At the last JFC meeting Warren cited the legislation, RIDE documents and several other publications that support our claim. For example, Leslie A. Maxwell, a contributor to Education Week, asserts in her article entitled “School Funding Formula Aims at Equity” that “the new formula is linked to student enrollment and accounts for a community’s ability to pay local school costs. Districts with increased student enrollments or that serve large numbers of poor students will see their state share of aid rise, while those with falling enrollment or fewer poor students will see their funding decrease.” Bristol’s only offered an empty response void of any evidence to refute our claim.
Sadly, the Bristol members of the JFC instead voted to allow the district to take the state aid allocated to the Town of Warren and gave it to themselves. Clearly, this violates the legislative intent of the funding formula which is outlined on RIDE’s web site. In fact, RIDE provides an extraordinarily salient list of legislation summary points. RIDE argues that the new formula “uses a unique state/local share ratio that considers a district’s ability to pay through adjusted assessed property values and the poverty concentration of the district. This calculation is effective at equalizing the local burden of areas with concentrated poverty and puts emphasis on the area of greater need, whether it is municipal capacity to pay or student need” (RIGL16-7.2-4).
Furthermore, members of the League of Women Votes of Rhode Island, Barbara Feldman and Joanne DeVoe stress in an article entitled, “The Education Adequacy Act: a Formula for the Distribution of State Aid to Schools,” that “when the Rhode Island General Assembly passed the Education Adequacy Act in June of 2010, it was a bold new public education funding equalization program that had been designed by Brown University experts and featured a formula that included a quadratic mean. No other state has utilized this quadratic mean formula. The new state aid formula is planned to cost the state the same amount as the current system but redistributes those funds according to the latest data on student enrollment, student needs, and local ability to pay.”
It is in this way that a local community, burdened with a concentration of poverty, is provided a boost in state aid. Clearly, this highlights the legislative intent of the new funding formula and the most recent documents provided by RIDE breakout the state aid  by  carefully considering a municipality’s  capacity to pay  and their individual community’s student need. The breakdown of the revenue by the Department of Education is a transparent way to account for additional local burden that exists because of a high concentration of poverty. The purpose of submitting the dollars in this way is self-evident. The calculation equalizes the local burden of towns such as Warren that experience high concentrations of poverty when compared to those with fewer financial burdens. Nevertheless, while the evidence to support our argument continues to compound the Town of Bristol’s only response in no one they talk to agrees with our conclusions. Perhaps Bristol’s members of the JFC should carefully examine the legislation and read the supporting documents instead of simply speaking to each other.
Chris Stanley
402 Market St., Warren

Mr. Stanley is the president of the Warren Town Council.

8 Comments

  1. David Coccio said:

    Here is what I see when looking at the RIDE site.

    https://www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Funding-and-Finance-Wise-Investments/Funding-Sources/State-Education-Aid-Funding-Formula/FY-2014-Enacted-Education-Aid-6-28-13.pdf

    Chariho has it’s own $ amount, as do the individual towns that make it up.

    Bristol-Warren and Exeter-West Grenwich do not.

    You mention as supporting documentation “intent” and other articles. But, I don’t see anywhere you have posted language from the law (sorry if I’m missing it). Anyone can write their opinion on it, but that doesn’t make it correct.

    Can you point directly to the law where it says Bristol gets X, Warren gets Y? It sounds from what you post, it is up to the treasurer. So, you’re saying the treasurer should do it differently because you want it to be done differently because it benefits warren (and I understand, that’s your job).

  2. hawk_girl said:

    As a Bristol resident, I agree that if the Bristol-Warren school district is taking only a head count into consideration in the determining of allocation of state funds, then Warren has a very serious complaint that should be addressed. Clearly, the district is benefiting as a whole from additional state funds based on the economic level of its students, and those monies should be split according to the number of economically disadvantaged students in each school.

  3. DownTown said:

    If Warren was separate from Bristol their per pupil funding from the State would be greater than it is as part of the regional system.

    The formula takes into account property values & the number of students eligible for free meals. Warren has lower property values also so if BW regional school system is just looking at a head count they are doing it wrong and will lose in Court.

    The somewhat bigger issue is that the State aid for both towns is dropping dramatically every year till the area has lost about $8 million a year in aid – every year.

    The school system here treated the extra money intended solely to cover one time costs for regionalization as a spending bonanza year after year.

    It should be noted that the same formula tells us that Central Falls has the ability to pay $12 million a year towards their school costs yet they haven’t paid a penny in over 20 years.

    • Metacomment said:

      You’re right about the spending bonanza.

      This school district is so financially irresponsible. Where and how is this $16 million in RIDE money benefiting the underprivileged students in both towns? I don’t see it. Hugh Cole School in Warren has most of these students and I don’t see any evidence of tools (eg. Smart boards) or resources (eg. Part time reading tutors).

      They just use this $ to bloat the administration. 20 years ago, schools had a principal and vice principal. Now, we are paying for an additional asst. principal and dean of students? How does this help the underprivileged?

      The school district should be able to operate without the RIDE money. The RIDE money should be for extra programs, but where are the extra programs? We need transparency from this district.

  4. John Tats said:

    The bigger question is, did someone actually know that the funding formula was being used incorrectly. Are we as taxpayers supposed to believe that with all of the highly intelligent individuals running our mutual school system, not one person employed there found it odd that Warren was always under the gun for finding funds to contribute yearly. It has been an uphill battle for several years, at times with little or no avenue of being able to balance a fair budget. And to think that someone at the highest school administration level had no idea what-so-ever that something was wrong, other than You people must come up with more money.
    This leads me to believe that perhaps the administration was walking the fine line of perhaps never being caught. Once the finger pointing starts, suddenly these people won’t even remember their own names if it means fessing up to a mistake. Quite honestly I hope that the school administration is forced into a forensic audit, only then will that actual abuse of the system come to light. I commend the Warren Town Council & Town manager for at least trying to fight for a fair and balanced budget.
    It’s more than obvious now that we have been toyed with, under the pretense that this “so called” funding mistake would never be figured out. I wish no hardship on our sister community of Bristol, but somebody in the administration had to know something was wrong and chose not to say anything.
    I want to thank the BWRS for destroying any trust that may have existed between the townsfolk & the school system prior to this raising it’s ugly head.

    • realspeak said:

      Hey tats, run for office…I have been reading your posts for quite sometime. Put your mon ey where your mouth is…maybe you will be the TAT who actually gets something done. One more thing,,, lets end the regionalization, I like many Bristol residents are tired of carring your town.

  5. realspeak said:

    Hey tats, run for office…I have been reading your posts for quite sometime. Put your mon ey where your mouth is…maybe you will be the TAT who actually gets something done. One more thing,,, lets end the regionalization, I like many Bristol residents are tired of carring your town.

  6. spkatz57 said:

    Seems to me that the logical solution is for each town, Bristol and Warren, to revert to their former separate school districts. Then, there can be no bickering nor accusing nor finger pointing as to whom is carrying whom and whom has the greater or lesser financial responsibility. That’s my two cents…

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