The LWVRI's Financing Education Committee met recently to set plans for the year. The new RI funding formula is in its second year of a 10 year phased in implementation. The RI Department of Education (RIDE) has a comprehensive section on the formula at its website, http://www.ride.ri.gov/, if you want to learn more about how it works. (Click on "funding formula" then click on "Formula Presentation" for an introduction to the formula.)
Keep it Simple. Don't be surprised if you have to read through the introduction more than once to get the gist of what's going on. In fact, that's one of the problems the committee we see with the formula. This lack transparency is cause in particular by the quadratic mean adjustment. This complexity makes it difficult to evaluate the formula's adequacy in providing equalization of local taxable wealth resources.
The committee also discussed the adequacy of using the federal free and reduced price lunch (FRPL) eligibility as the way of determining where funds should go to provide additional resources to children who need them. In the past, additional funds were provided for Special Education and English as a Second Language children. RIDE says it uses FRPL instead because eligibility is simpler to determine and many the Special Ed and ESL children also qualify for FRPL.
The FRPL. We all agreed that we have to start now to see if the FRPL is indeed the best means to use to give additional funds to districts whose students are poorer, non-English speaking or handicapped in some way.
We plan to develop an interview about the use of FRPL or Special Education and ESL as the determinants to distribute additional funds. These interviews would be carried out by League members with local district business manager or financial officer.
If you would like to join the committee please contact Joanne DeVoe. We will be meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 2, at Anna D's Cafe on East Main Road in Portsmouth.