Rhode Island Mayoral Academies

Elisabeth Harrison

A judge has declined to stop a new charter school from opening in Woonsocket. City officials sought an injunction to block RISE Prep, a special type of charter school called a Mayoral Academy. They argued it would take taxpayer money away from local schools. Rhode Island Mayoral Academies Spokeswoman Katelyn Silva disagrees.

“If there are small areas where we can tweak the funding formula to feel more equitable on all sides we are behind that 100 percent,” said Silva. “Until then, I do think that money follows the child is the fairest way to fund public education.”

Elisabeth Harrison

National education advocacy group Chiefs for Change has a new CEO, and he comes from the Ocean State. The group has tapped Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) CEO Mike Magee.

Magee, who co-founded RIMA with then-Cumberland Mayor and current Lieutenant Governor Dan McKee, will step down from the organization on September 1st.

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.

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.

Rhode Island’s Board of Education has voted to give preliminary approval to a new charter school in Woonsocket. The RISE Mayoral Academy would start out with a kindergarten class and grow to a K-8 school serving more than 700 students from Woonsocket, Burrillville and North Smithfield.

Critics say charter schools draw money away from regular public schools, a particular problem in Woonsocket, where school officials are working under severe budget constraints.

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. 

Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian has halted public hearings on a proposed Mayoral Academy Charter School.

Avedisian, who is the mayor sponsoring the proposal, says numerous issues including West Warwick's potential to pull out of the proposal,  preceded the request.

The Rhode Island Department of Education has scheduled a round of hearings on six new charter schools proposed for the state.

The hearings are intended to gather public input on the proposals, which include two new mayoral academies in Woonsocket and Warwick.

Mayoral academies serve students from multiple districts, which usually include a mixture of urban low-income and suburban communities. They pride themselves on challenging academic programs and promoting college prep even for the youngest students.

Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy has won a $450,000 grant from Next Generation Learning Challenges, an advocacy group focused on increasing the use of technology to improve public education, to open its first high school.

Achievement First, a big box charter operator from Connecticut, opens its first school in Rhode Island this month. Plans for Achievement First in Rhode Island originally called for a network of public charter schools serving students in Kindergarten through the end of high school, but the proposal almost immediately ran into opposition from parents and teachers.

Blackstone Valley Prep has received the go-ahead from state officials to continue operating for another five years and more than double the number of schools it runs around the state.

Blackstone Valley Prep, a charter school, currently operates two elementary schools in Cumberland and a middle school in Lincoln. Plans call for a high school to open this fall at a location still to be determined.

Environmental advocates gathered at the Statehouse Wednesday to protest legislation that would roll back restrictions that prevent schools from building on toxic sites.