RI Supreme Court Favors Warren Over Bristol in School Funding Lawsuit

May 12, 2017

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has upheld a Superior Court ruling that stated that Warren taxpayers were shortchanged by the Bristol-Warren Regional School District to the tune of about $2 million in the 2014-2015 district budget.

The high court decision, released today, states that Warren correctly argued that under the state’s school aid funding formula should result in a smaller contribution to the two-town school district because Warren is the poorer community.

Bristol and Warren had been assessed the same local share per student to finance the regional district. But Warren objected because Warren students, due to a higher rate of state aid, were generating a greater per student share of the state education money.

Warren filed suit, asserting that support for the school district should not be allocated between the towns on a straight, per-student payment. Rather, Warren argued that the state education funding formula required that state aid be allocated on a weighted per student basis, which takes into consideration such socio-economic factors as the number of students on free or reduced lunches, the median income of each town and the total assessed property value in Bristol and Warren.

The unanimous Supreme Court opinion, authored by Justice Francis X. Flaherty, stated that state aid to education must be determined on the values of each city and town and not the regional school district as a whole.