Chariho School Parents’ Forum

May 19, 2009

School choice gaining momentum

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 11:33 am

The most widely-read newspaper in America, the USA Today, has joined the team pushing for school choice:

Our View: Despite Success, School Choice Runs Into New Barriers
USA Today, May 19, 2009
Editorial

“Few national images are more shameful than those of innocent, low-income kids milling through decrepit public schools, uncared for, unsafe and barely educated. In Washington, D.C., alone, 173 schools — 67% — fail to meet federal standards of learning.

So it was curious that when President Obama recently allowed 1,716 of Washington’s neediest schoolchildren to keep, until graduation, the vouchers they use to escape their failed public schools for higher-quality private ones, he also closed the program to new applicants. All this occurred as the Education Department reported that voucher participants show superior skills in reading, safety and orderliness. The news was buried in an impenetrable study released without a news conference.

Why the ambivalence? Because teacher unions, fearing loss of jobs, have pushed most Democrats to oppose vouchers and other options that invite competition for public schools. Put another way, they oppose giving poor parents the same choice that the president himself — along with his chief of staff and some 35% of Democrats in Congress — have made in sending their children to private schools.

Vouchers have improved the math and reading of inner-city children from Dayton, Ohio, to Charlotte, N.C., various studies show. The Washington vouchers improved the reading of girls and younger kids by about half a school year, though results for other groups were iffier. Yet opposition is so fierce that few voucher experiments survive past the seedling stage. ….” 

Click Here to Read More

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May 18, 2009

Survey says, “RI’ers want school choice”

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 1:44 pm

A new report from the Friedman Foundation shows that RI’ers overwhelmingly want school choice. Among some of the results –

More than eight out of ten Rhode Islanders (83 percent) prefer choosing a school for their child among options that include private schools, charter schools, virtual schools, and homeschooling.  This figure is consistent with previous state surveys asking the same question, most recently in Vermont (89 percent), Oregon (87 percent), Montana (90 percent), and Maryland (82 percent). 

The complete study can be found HERE.

May 9, 2009

Don’t ask questions – just pay your taxes!

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,Hopkinton — Editor @ 11:05 am

I saw a letter from Bob Petit in the Sun today (may have been an old paper), it was unusually short and of a different writing style than normal, but the point was that we should all be happy with Chariho’s budget and give it a “Yes” vote on Tuesday.

What has Chariho really done?

Chariho’s General Fund budget went from $17,720,106 in 08/09 to $17,590,131 for 09/10 – a decrease of .73% (these figures are Hopkinton’s share only).

Good, a decrease, how did they get there?

As Sylvia and others have often written, Chariho has a habit of over budgeting to the tune of millions per year. They start the year with about $8m in surplus and allocate “reserves” for capital improvements (like the money they set aside to move the water tank at Ashaway – has it been done yet?) and other things that may or may not be used (such as health care self insurance which has caused the budget line item to quadruple since inception).

This year, they have taken $807,525 of Hopkinton taxes (surplus from previous years) and applied it to this year’s budget. So basically, they took the money from us last year and added it to their spending this year.

So, what does that make Chariho’s actual spending increase this year? This means that the $17,590,131 reported above is really $18,397,656 – or an increase of 3.82%.

Bob said, “Let’s remember that the superintendent submitted a budget that called for a decrease in member town contributions.”

What he meant to say is “this year” because the money was taken from us last year. Do they think we are stupid?  

Now let’s compare that to what Hopkinton is doing.

Town revenues are down  – building fees, property tax collections, etc… Hopkinton revenues (for the town, not school) dropped 1.26 percent, or a total of $223,884.

The Hopkinton town budget, as of today, has cut expenses by 2 percent, or $115,709.

So, the town has cut (so far) 2 percent from the operating budget and Chariho has increased theirs by 3.8%.

I urge all of you to vote “No” on Tuesday and send a message to Chariho that we expect them to make the same sacrifices we have.

[UPDATE] I should add that even though we (Hopkinton) have cut 2% from operations and Chariho has shifted fund around to keep the net from them at a .74% reduction, the Town of Hopkinton is still facing a shortfall of about $240,000, which would mean an increase in property taxes (which I won’t vote for). It looks like Chariho expects the towns to make all the cuts. 

I would assume the other towns have made similar cuts. If Chariho cut another $1m each town would probably have enough to NOT RAISE TAXES. And let me make a prediction, next year we will find out that Chariho once again over budgeted well in excess of $1m.  (hint – look at the history of our health care costs – go back and see what it was when we just paid the bill due and see what it is now that we self insure)

Think back to the teacher contract issues in East Providence – didn’ t the teachers cry, “why give us all the cuts?” Well in Chariho they ignore the economy and keep business as usual while we cut to the bone. IMHO this is the key downside to a regional district – they don’t represent US.

May 8, 2009

Systemic conflicts

Filed under: Hopkinton,housing — Editor @ 10:44 pm

In case you missed this in the Sun and Times (or variation of)

“Right hand, meet left hand. Can’t we all get along?”

In November, Hopkinton voters will be asked to approve a bond for $2 million to place private parcels of land on “Open Space” classification which restricts development and reduces or eliminates property tax revenues collected from those parcels. The rationale is to restrict development in order to prevent houses that attract families with children who attend public school. The cost of one student far exceeds the average property tax collected. Currently, 49% of Hopkinton’s land is under either a permanent or temporary Open Space restriction, which means the other 51% have to pick up the slack.
 
Putting aside the question of whether or not this is a good strategy, if we also use tax dollars to fight this plan I think we can all acknowledge it is a poorly coordinated strategy.
 
Also recently approved was the Community Development Block Grant which included $98,000 of tax dollars to be paid to a private entity so they can build “affordable housing.” I was quoted as saying, “What is the driving market force here?” Mr. Spinella, of affordable housing firm FJS Associates Ltd, told the Council that there was “incredible need” for affordable housing.
 
This “need” is based on a figure, 10% of the total housing, that the government determined appropriate, not on an actual need as determined by the consumer. A house only qualifies as “affordable” if the property owner agrees to let the government determine what the property will sell for in the future. Furthermore, the government places other restrictions on which properties qualify as “affordable housing” and these restrictions have nothing to do with the price. As an example, mobile homes do not qualify, but are certainly affordable, and homes that have owners who choose not to take government subsidies (maybe they own the house outright or just don’t like taking other people’s tax dollars) also do not qualify, regardless of how inexpensive they are.
 
The anemic housing market, which we are “stimulating” with tax dollars, has plenty of empty affordable houses. The owners just aren’t desperate enough to sign over some of their rights to the government. But the real issue here is that it is counter productive to use tax dollars to hinder the housing market and then spend tax dollars again to “stimulate” that same market. We should just step out of the way and let the market do what it does best – fill needs, not agendas.

May 4, 2009

No surprises here

Filed under: School Choice — Editor @ 11:23 am

New State-wide Survey Finds Strong Support For School Choice Options

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Providence, RI – April 20, 2009 —Results from a new state-wide public opinion survey indicate strong support for a range of school choice options as a desired alternative to traditional public schools.

The survey results—released today by the Rhode Island Scholarship Alliance (RISA), the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and several other state and national organizations—show that, given the choice, three out of every four Rhode Islanders would select a private school, a public charter school, a home school or virtual school environment for their children.

“The results from this poll clearly show that Rhode Islanders are interested in a broader range of educational opportunities for their children beyond what might be currently available to them due to geographic restrictions or economic limitations,” said Dan Corley, Head of Community Preparatory School in Providence and President of RISA, the coalition of school choice advocates in the state working to promote the Rhode Island Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit Program. “These results also indicate that Rhode Island, like many other states, does not have sufficient school choice systems in place to match parents’ schooling preferences.”

When asked if it were your decision and you could select any type of school, what type of school would you select in order to obtain the best education for your child, here’s how likely voters in the state responded:

  • 56 percent selected private schools
  • 17 percent selected regular public schools
  • 13 percent selected charter schools
  • 12 percent selected home schooling
  • 3 percent selected virtual schools

While fifty-six percent of Rhode Island parents said they would like to send their child to a private school, only 11 percent of Rhode Island’s students currently attend private schools.

Thirteen percent of Rhode Island parents said they would like to send their child to a charter school, yet charter schools enroll only about 2 percent of the state’s students.

While seventeen percent of Rhode Island parents would choose a regular public school for their child, nearly nine of ten – 87 percent — attend regular public schools.

These statistics highlight the significant disconnect between schooling preferences and actual school enrollments.

“As we have found in several other states, parents in Rhode Island clearly want to have more options in the education of their children,” said Robert Enlow, President and CEO of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation, which undertook the survey on behalf of the organizations. “In short, they want school choice.”

While school choice opportunities are currently available for families in Rhode Island, the demand far exceeds current capacity.

The RI Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit Program allows any family with a household income of 250% or less of the federal poverty level the opportunity to apply for tuition assistance at nearly 60 participating K-12 private and parochial schools throughout the state. This program, approved by the General Assembly in 2006, allows eligible Rhode Island businesses to receive a tax credit in return for scholarship contributions. The program is limited to one million dollars in approved tax credits annually.

While close to 90,000 families in the state qualify for scholarship assistance, the program has only been able to provide partial tuition assistance to approximately 300 eligible families due to the current tax credit cap. Advocates of the program hope to see the cap raised in order to allow more eligible families the ability to choose the educational environment for their children, regardless of economic or geographic limitations.

Similarly, the state’s public charter schools, another option of choice for families, face an unmet demand. Due to the schools’ popularity and limited number of openings, admission applications have greatly exceeded capacity for several years requiring a random lottery system to determine student admissions. This year, Rhode Island charter public schools received 3,454 applications for only 559 openings, leaving more than 2800 students on waiting lists. About 3,100 students currently attend the state’s 11 charter schools.

In addition, the survey findings show that school choice is not a partisan issue among Rhode Island residents. The survey results indicate general agreement among Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

The scientifically representative poll of 1,200 likely Rhode Island voters was conducted on January 23 and 25 by Strategic Vision, an Atlanta-based public affairs agency whose polls have been used by Newsweek, Time Magazine, BBC, ABC News, and USA Today among others. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Rhode Island findings are the latest in a series of surveys commissioned under the Friedman Foundation’s Survey in the State project. Previous surveys include Vermont, and Oregon released earlier this year; and Montana, Maryland, Oklahoma, Idaho, Tennessee, and Nevada, released during 2008. The Foundation also polled voters in four states, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, and Illinois from 2005 to 2007. Other sponsors of the Rhode Island survey include the Black Alliance for Educational Options, National Catholic Education Association, Agudath Israel of America, and Catholic School Office – Diocese of Providence.

The Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1996 that believes the best way to improve the quality of education is to enable all parents to have a truly free choice of the schools that their children attend. The Friedman Foundation works to build upon this vision, clarify its meaning to the general public and amplify the national call for true education reform through school choice.

The full Rhode Island survey results can be found at www.rischolarshipalliance.org or at www.friedmanfoundation.org.

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Contact: Contact:
Joe DiLaura, Director of Communications Kate Nagle, Executive Director
Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice Rhode Island Scholarship Alliance
317/229-2128 or 317/645-8614 401/831-7472 or 401/742-6012
joe@friedmanfoundation.org knagle@rischolarshipalliance.org

May 2, 2009

Richmond v Hopkinton

Filed under: contract negotiations,Police — Editor @ 7:36 pm

There has been a lot of chatter comparing police contracts in Richmond and Hopkinton  I think there is a considerable difference but I would be interested in what you all think – it’s your money.

Find them both (or any contract) at http://www.oceanstatepolicy.org/transparency.php