On Monday, May 24, RIPEC released “Comments: Analysis of Proposed Funding Formulas”. The Comments are a follow-up publication to the recently-released “Results: Education in Rhode Island” and examine the various funding formula bills that have been proposed this legislative session.
Rhode Island has not had a funding formula in place since the late 1990s and currently is the only state in the country without one. Over the past few years, various stakeholders have worked together to develop a formula that accurately accounts for district needs and State and municipal capacity, while ensuring that the most at-risk students receive the resources they need to succeed. During this legislative session there appears to be collective will to establish, for the first time in over a decade, a funding formula for the State. While there are strengths and weaknesses in each bill, and while it is important that perfect not be the enemy of the good, RIPEC believes that, in addition to adhering to the principles outlined above, the following be taken into consideration when evaluating the bills:
- What is the effect of including or excluding a “hold harmless” provision, particularly in districts that have experienced significant demographic shifts over the years?
- Is EWAV the most effective adjuster for municipal capacity given the lag-time in data reporting?
- What is the anticipated effect of the change in funding for charter and vocational schools on local districts that will now have an increased responsibility for supporting these institutions?
The time is right to reestablish a funding formula in the state. However, given the above concerns, delaying the implementation of the formula itself may provide the state with an opportunity to better examine the impact changes in enrollment may have on district funding, as well as an opportunity to further refine the formula. In addition, a delayed implementation date would allow districts to plan for the shifts in resources and adjust expenditures accordingly.
Although there are some significant differences between the bills, each of the three formulas considers the needs of the students and incorporates municipal capacity as a fundamental part of their proposals. However, one measure of student need and municipal wealth – the share of students eligible for free and reduced lunch – has recently been recognized as a primary factor in student academic success and has long been known to highly correlate with other aspects of student need. The bill developed by RIDE and sponsored by Representative Costantino, HB 8094, and the proposed Sub A to SB 2770, sponsored by Senator Gallo provides the closest alignment of funding to student need and municipal capacity.