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.
402 Market St., Warren
Mr. Stanley is the president of the Warren Town Council.