Education on Tap at the General Assembly

Feb 26, 2013

The House Labor Committee holds a hearing today on repealing what’s known as the Caruolo Act. The law, now infamous in Rhode Island education circles, allows school committees to sue their city or town for more funding.

There have been several attempts to do away with the Caruolo Act, but so far none have succeeded. Critics say it is nonsensical for an arm of local government to essentially sue itself, and local officials complain the lawsuits rack up expensive legal bills and sour relations between city and school leaders.

Some school committee leaders, however, contend that districts need to have control over their own budgeting process, and they say school committees need some type of recourse when a city fails to allocate enough funding for all of the services that schools are legally required to provide.

Also on the calendar today, a bill that would require binding arbitration to solve teacher contract disputes, a controversial move that has failed to gain approval from lawmakers in the past. This bill would also move the deadline for teacher layoff notices from March 1st to April 1st.  

A third bill would give local school districts more authority over how teachers are evaluated, requiring terms to be approved as part of union negotiations. It would also restrict the weight of student test scores to no more than one third of the teacher’s final rating.

On the Senate side, the Education Committee will hold the final confirmation hearing Wednesday for Rhode Island’s new Board of Education, charged with overseeing both K-12 and higher education.

The nominee, Karin Forbes, has already served on the former K-12 board. She’s also a former Vice-Chair of the North Kingstown School Committee and a former teacher.

The Senate Committee on Education has already approved 10 nominations for the 11-member board. Several of the nominees are still awaiting approval from the full Senate.