Charter Schools

Elisabeth Harrison

After months of anticipation, the General Assembly failed to pass a single bill related to charter schools.

That's good news if you're in the charter school world. It means lawmakers failed to reach agreement on bills that would place new restrictions on the expansion of charter schools and reopen the state funding formula to reduce money for charter schools.

Ian Donnis/File Photo / RIPR

State Senator Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket) joins Political Roundtable this week to discuss how the House didn't vote for Governor Raimondo's truck-toll plan; the impact of new legislation on charter schools; and the Cranston bridge closing controversy.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

One of Rhode Island’s most controversial school leaders is retiring. Fran Gallo, the superintendent of Central Falls public schools, steps down on Friday. Her tenure included the firing and re-hiring of high school teachers, which thrust Rhode Island into the center of a national debate over public education. Gallo sat down with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison at her office in Central Falls to look back on the firings, and what she’s learned from Rhode Island’s smallest school district.

Elisabeth Harrison

Calling it "the most restrictive and punitive charter school bill in the entire country," the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies lobbied against the legislation, which would require local approval for new and expanding charter schools.

RIMA, one of several charter school and public education advocacy groups to raise concerns about the legislation, cites negative consequences, including a "fiscal catastrophe" for schools in the process of adding grades.

The group used Providence-based Achievement First, which has opened two elementary schools, as an example.

Thanks for stopping by. The legislative year is almost over -- the traditional part, anyway -- but the political world always keeps spinning. I welcome your tips and thoughts at idonnis (at) ripr (dot) org, and you can follow me through the week on the twitters. Here we go.

On a 6 to 3 vote, the Senate Education Committee passed a bill Wednesday restricting the growth of charter schools.

The legislation sponsored by Senator Adam Satchell (D-West Warwick) requires city or town councils in a host community to approve new charter schools. The bill would also keep charter school funding at the current level until the state adopts a new formula for funding charter and traditional public schools.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

A pair of bills that could make it harder to open more charter schools are again up for committee votes at the Statehouse.

The House bill would place a one-year pause on the creation of new charter schools. After a legislative committee found reasons to re-evaluate the way the state funds public charter schools and public school districts, the bill calls for more time for lawmakers to consider changes.

UPDATE: The charter school bills have been scratched from Thursday's committee agendas, according to RIPR Political Reporter Ian Donnis at the Statehouse. 

The bills could make it more difficult to open new charter schools. 

One bill calls for a hiatus on granting new charters, due to concerns over funding. A legislative committee has suggested the state re-examine the formula for funding districts and charter schools, which currently receive state and local dollars for each student who enrolls.

Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee joins Bonus Q+A this week to discuss his efforts as lieutenant governor, legislation restricting charter schools, the PawSox and other issues.

RIPR FILE

State lawmakers say public schools may be paying more than their fair share to support charter schools. That’s the major finding of a legislative report about the school system’s "fair funding formula."

The fair funding formula requires public schools to pay charter schools a certain amount per student that opts to attend a charter school instead. That amount is calculated on how much public schools spend per pupil. But it includes expenses charter schools haven’t had to worry about.

RIPR

Charter school advocates packed the statehouse rotunda Wednesday to urge lawmakers to continue their support for charter schools. 

    

A statehouse panel is considering changes that could decrease funding for charter schools. Jeremy Chiappetta from Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy said families should have choices when it comes to public school.

“We are looking to continue to grow a high quality public school sector that includes charter schools, state run schools, independent schools and certainly traditional public schools,.” Chiappetta said.

A series of education bills on the agenda at the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday range from a tax credit for college graduates to funding for charter schools.

One bill would give recent college graduates a break on their state income taxes. The idea is to stem the so-called “brain drain,” when local graduates put their newly-minted degrees to work in other states.

The measure would give a maximum $5,000 credit for a worker who received a bachelor’s degree from a local college or university within the last 10 years.

Elisabeth Harrison

The second Providence elementary school operated by charter school network Achievement First will share a building with its first elementary school, which opened in 2013.

The building on Hartford Avenue was formerly home to a public middle school, but the city shut down the school, citing the cost of rehabilitating an aging facility.

Achievement First says it plans to eventually re-located the new school, "Iluminar Academy," but the co-location is likely to last about two years. The two schools will offer similar programs.

That's the question a legislative panel is investigating. Lawmakers are scheduled to hear from several local elected officials and school leaders on Friday.

Their concern is the impact of the state formula for funding public schools, and the way it calculates tuition for charter schools.

Cumberland Town Councilor Arthur Lambi, a Republican, is among those planning to testify. According to Lambi, Cumberland sends about $3 million to charter schools every year, and that number is expected to grow as charter schools add more seats.

Rhode Island's Board of Education is poised to vote Tuesday on a new mayoral academy charter school that would serve Woonsocket, North Smithfield and Burrillville.

The Department of Education has recommended preliminary approval for the school, which eventually hopes to serve 729 students in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade under the name RISE Mayoral Academy.

The board is also scheduled to vote on a proposed expansion that would more than double the student body at Blackstone Academy, a charter high school in Pawtucket. 

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