Governor Lincoln Chafee’s budget proposal includes thousands of dollars in new funding for public schools, colleges and universities. The $8.5 billion spending plan would increase funding for K-12 schools by roughly $38 million, and provide $10 million for public colleges and universities.
Chafee touted the power of education in his State of the State address, saying it should provide a pathway to a better life and a stronger state economy. He also made a strong argument for the role of government in growing the middle class.
On the K-12 side of the budget, Chafee is proposing a continued implementation of the state funding formula, which was designed to minimize disparities between urban and suburban school funding levels. Some advocates have called for accelerating the full implementation of the formula, but lawmakers have so far stuck with graduated implementation, to soften the blow to districts on the losing end.
There’s good news in the budget for the Department of Higher Education. The governor is proposing continued funding for the department, which was scheduled to lose all state funding under a previously passed budget. The budget would also fund a plan to create two councils within the State Board of Education, one for higher education, and one for K-12 schools.
In addition, Chafee is backing more than $150 million in bond referendums to build a new School of Engineering at the University of Rhode Island. The initiative is in line with state priorities around developing science and technology career pipelines, but some legislative leaders have expressed reservations about the burden of bond debt overall in the governor’s budget.