Governor Gina Raimondo’s plan for two years of free college tuition is grabbing most of the attention in the budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, but there’s also new funding for K-12 schools. Here are some highlights.
The governor has proposed at total of $2.6 billion for K-12 and higher education.
$10 million funds the first year of the free college tuition program, "Rhode Island's Promise," which would pay for the first two years of tuition at the Community College of Rhode Island. The program would cover the last two years of tuition for students at the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island College.
To qualify, students must be Rhode Island residents, and they must be in good academic standing with their college or university to retain the scholarship. The proposal also includes some additional funding for student advising and outreach to families, with a total price tag estimated to grow to $30 million by 2020.
$1.2 billion goes to school districts and charter schools under the state formula for distributing elementary and secondary school aid. That includes an increase of more than $40 million from FY 2017 to fully fund year seven of a 10-year phase-in for the formula, which increases state funding for K-12 education and links it to student enrollment and financial need.
Also in the budget: roughly $2.5 million for students new to the English language. This continues a program from last year, which was scheduled to expire in 2018.
"We know as a state that they are our fastest growing student population," said Raimondo's Deputy Chief of Staff Kevin Gallagher. "The governor is proposing that it be re-authorized and that it be made a permanent feature of the funding formula."
An interesting new program proposed by the state Department of Education would provide new assessments for incoming Kindergarten students. Gallagher described the "Kindergarten Entry Profile" as part of an ongoing effort to get 75 percent of 3rd graders in the state's public schools reading at grade level by 2025.
"If you think about a typical elementary school, a 1st grade teacher gets to talk to the Kindergarten teacher about how all those kids are doing. But a Kindergarten teacher doesn’t have the same access to data and information about students and students who have special needs,” Gallagher said.
The governor has also called for a $1 million increase over last year's budget to add more state-funded preschool classrooms.