Chariho School Parents’ Forum

December 15, 2009

Coming to a town near you

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton,State-wide — Editor @ 12:22 pm

RI Future posted a memo from the Governor’s office about the suplimental budget. Emphasis (bold) and notes (red) added :

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNORINTEROFFICE MEMORANDUM

TO: Andy Hodgkin, Beverly Najarian, John Robitaille, Gary Sasse, Rosemary Booth Gallogly, Mike Cronan, Fred Sneesby
   
FROM:  Amy Kempe

RE: FY 2010 Supplemental budget briefing schedule and message points

DATE:  December 14, 2009

General Message Points (working draft only)
o The state needs to find $225.1 million in six months.  o $125 million revenue shortfall
o $60.8 million carryover from FY 09
o $33.9 million agency expenditures, directed related to increased caseloads due to the stress on our social services

o By now, we are all aware of the fiscal crisis the State is facing.  For the past two years, revenues have continued to decline. Rhode Island is not alone, but we have felt the economic recession longer than other states.

o Rhode Island slid into this recession before the rest of the country.  As a nation, economists predict that state finances are not expected to recover for at least two years.

o Yet, despite being in this longer, we have managed our way through it without raising broad based taxes.  And, that must continue. 

o The state’s fiscal situation continues to generate difficult and often painful budget choices. There are no more easy solutions.  There are no good choices.  There is no more money to be handed out.

o The supplemental budget I am submitting today addresses three broad outcomes which is reflective of the continued slide of revenues

o First, it addresses the FY 09 closing deficit of $60.8 million through a series of one-time savings

o Second, it resets spending levels on the state side for the remainder of this fiscal year and for future years.

o And third, it gives the cities and towns the tools they need to mange their budgets and reset their spending levels.

o In total, we are reducing general revenue spending by $155. 2 million from the FY 2010 enacted budget.

o To address the FY 09 carryover deficit, I propose a number of land sales.  Specifically:

o The Veteran’s Auditorium, valued at $10.75 million, to the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority.  Under the proposal, the Convention Center Authority will issue a $25 million bond for the purchase and rehab of the Vets Auditorium

o The former site of the Training School in Cranston, valued at $6.2 million

o The current facility housing the estate’s centralized IT center, for $1.5 million, and

o Two acres situated within Roger Williams University, valued at $2.8 million
o I am shifting $5 million of the federal stabilization money from FY 2011 to this year.

o An additional $7.2 million in federal reimbursement for child support enforcement, from FY 2005 through today. The state will realize  savings from this program through federal reimbursement going forward.

o The supplemental shifts $22 million in repayment to the Rainy Day Fund to FY 2011. 

o There is an additional $6 million from our developmentally developed providers.  Under Medicaid, provider donations are allowed without a reduction in the FFP. If we were to resolve the deficit by reducing provider billing, it would require a reduction of $17 million all funds or a rate reduction of 20 percent, which would have a significant effect on services to individuals.

o Over the past several years, we have made considerable structural changes, reduced personnel expenses by XX percent, redefined eligibility standards for our social service programs, and trimmed states spending across the board.  Last year, the General assembly passed significant pension reform. 

o But, as I stated last year when I signed the budget, the pension reform did not go far enough.  We need to go back at it this year, specifically with regards to COLAs.

o Last year, I proposed sweeping pension reform that included ending COLAs.  I am again asking the General Assembly finally do away with COLAs.  There is no such thing as a COLA offered as part of a retirement plan in the private sector.  It is archaic idea, and one can no longer afford it.

o Under my propossal, which Rosemary can outline in greater detail, the state will eliminate the COLA for state employees, teachers, judges and state police for employees who were not eligible to retire on September 30, 2009.

o The article does continue COLA for those who are eligible to retire on or before September 30, 2009, and those who became eligible and retire through the passage of the legislation shall continue to receive a COLA

o Further, the article gives authority to the General Assembly to review annually and give an ad hoc COLA adjustment to retirees who are not otherwise eligible

o This will save a total of $43 million in this fiscal year, and reset our baseline for next and future years.

o The pension savings break down as follows:
§ $11.3 million from state employees
§ $507,950 from State Police
§ $240,190 from Judges
§ $18.5 million from teachers, with the savings passed on to the cities and towns § $12.3 million for the state’s share of teacher pensions

o We have made significant changes to our personnel budgets in the past few years with the changes to retiree healthcare and last year’s pension reform.  We continue to tackle personnel costs in this supplemental with the elimination of the pension COLA.  We have made significant changes to the social services budget. 

o Because of the economic recession, our social services are increasingly pressured.  To accommodate for that, we have continued to constrain spending throughout state government.  In this budget, we find an additional $19.6 million in agency reductions.

o Also, we anticipate seeing $8.7 million in employee medical benefit savings. This is a significant saving that result in the changes to employee cop-pays and our wellness program. We are making a healthier workforce that is making smart healthcare decisions.

o We cannot get through this economic recession without addressing how we fund our cities and towns.  I have said this over and over again, and we can no longer

o First, I am proposing withholding the 3rd and 4th quarter vehicle excise tax from the cities and towns, for a total of $65.1 million.

o I know that many of our cities and towns have also opened up their labor agreements and negotiated higher health insurance co shares and co pays, and delays of wage increases. I applaud those efforts. 

o But, all our cities and towns need to take that cue, and work with labor unions to bring them in line with the private sector, in terms of healthcare costs and a reduction in pay.

o I don’t expect our cities and towns to make up for the reduction in aid by renegotiating contracts alone.

o Last year, I proposed a series of budget articles that would give the cities and towns the tools they need to manage their budgets and cut expenditures.  The General Assembly did not pass these tools, despite cries from the municipalities and independent analysis that the packet of tools could save cities and towns $125 million per year.

o Specifically, statewide purchasing system, end to minimum manning, increased health insurance co-shares to be equal to that of the state plan, and a BRAC commission to study school district consolidation (eeek – i’m fearful of the last one).

o I urge the General Assembly to pass the municipal tools articles immediately upon returning to session. There is no need to debate them again this year. Pass them and free the cities and towns to manage their own budgets.

o Of the $41 million in reduction in education aid, $18.3 million is offset by the savings from the elimination of the pension COLA.  The reduction is further offset by the distribution of $4.6 million in Recovery Funds

o This leaves approximately $20.6 million, which mirrors the personnel reduction the state workers accepted this past year. 

o This past year, the state employees agreed to take essentially a three percent pay cut.  Many municipal employees have done so too.  Many municipal employees too have taken a pay cut.  I am very appreciative of the understanding by state and municipal employees that we do have good jobs, with good benefits and good working conditions. There are many Rhode Islanders who don’t.  And, a three percent pay cut is a small sacrifice for the greater good.

o The total personnel budget for schools last year was $XXX million.  Three percent of that total is $20.6 million. Do the math. $20.6 million is the exact amount I am proposing we reduce education aid.

o Personnel costs continues to be one of the biggest pieces of municipal budgets, and if we are to get through this economic recession, all employees – including teachers – need to be part of the conversation and solution.

o Over the past several months, my team and I have met with mayors and town managers to alert them of the proposed funding changes, and time and time again, the message they have shared is that they need relief, not only of the many unfunded mandates, but also help in controlling the spending on the school side. 

o Once again, I am submitting legislation to suspend the Caruolo Act in any year there is a reduction in state aid. (not sure it needs to be tagged to a year with a ‘reduction in state aid’)  The legislation gives the appropriating authority – the city and town councils – final approval for all school labor contracts.  This unifies the budgeting and taxing functions and ensures school committees are not over promising and thereby putting cities and towns in greater financial danger.

o There are a number of smaller budget items included in this supplemental, which Rosemary and her team can go over in greater detail with you after this.

o As I said earlier, our fiscal situation leaves us with only difficult choices.  We have for too long now not tackled the tough issues and given in too early to special interests. We can no longer afford to operate as business as usual.

o Later today, Rosemary and her budget team will present this corrective action plan to the House Committee on Finance. I strongly urge the Committee and the General Assembly to act quickly and pass these much needed changes.  If they do not, they will be setting this state, the taxpayers, and those who rely on government services on a much longer road to recovery than we can afford.

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August 25, 2009

Hopkinton down another $200k

Filed under: Budget,Hopkinton,Hopkinton Town Council,State-wide,Tax — Editor @ 7:25 pm

h/t RS for posting this link to a list of how much money each town will lose from the Governor’s proposed withholding of the car tax. If you caught my interview on the 6:00 ch 10 news you know I think this is good. The more pressure onto the towns the better. Sooner or later we are going to have to stop paying our public sector employees so much better than the private sector employees.

Hopefully, Hopkinton and all the other towns will look to cut spending rather than increase taxes.

See the list HERE.

If you are unfamiliar with the issue check out this morning’s ProJo article HERE and here is an excerpt:

While the governor can shut down state government on his own, he needs legislative approval for a second piece of his plan: withholding the last $32.5 million in promised car-tax reimbursements to cities and towns, which are already reeling from the elimination of a $55-million revenue-sharing program earlier this year. In short, he wants the lawmakers to restore to him an authority his predecessors had until 1996 to withhold money they have appropriated for a specific purpose

May 3, 2008

Tiverton’s anti-public sector union example

Filed under: State-wide,Unions — Editor @ 8:32 pm

Anchorrising has posted information on the Tiverton School and the problems created when the unions control the employees.  It has spawned more discussion here and here.

September 26, 2007

“R.I. students lagging on national tests”

Filed under: State-wide,Student Performance — Editor @ 3:18 pm

That was the title of today’s ProJo article.  Analysis over at the OSPRI blog.

June 12, 2007

Group home funding

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,RYSE,State-wide — Editor @ 11:27 pm

There is a very interesting post on “level funding” over at one of my favorite blogs, Anchorrising 

Please read the entire post, but here is one statement relevant to the rest of my comments.

Every community that received group home aid in 2007 is having their state education aid reduced by exactly their FY07 group home allocation meaning that, unless all Rhode Island group homes are being shut down (or unless a separate appropriation exists elsewhere in the budget that provides for group-home-related education costs), the legislature’s budget contains true cuts in education funding that go beyond just canceling the hoped-for increases.  

Currently, the State gives the local school an amount of money equivalent to the per-pupil education costs, multiplied by the number of students in the area’s group home(s) (using a formula to compensate for the high number of special education services needed). 

It appears that the funding is being transferred from the State budget to the local budget.  In a way, this makes sense.  A community should take care of it’s own.  But what if kids from Providence are moved to a group home in Richmond?  Now it is Chariho residents who pay the bill. 

This funding shift could go even farther.   If this budget goes through as described in the Anchorrising post, some services for group home kids will still be funded by the State (services such as psychiatric and diabetes treatments).  But what if there was a way to transfer those costs to the school too?  Enter RYSE. 

Image the opportunities a school like RYSE offers.   RYSE can provide education, individual and family services, diabetes treatments, and on and on – no longer on the State’s budget.  Funding responsibility is transferred to the local community. 

If you think this is far fetched, let’s look at a bit of history. 

Some kids make bad choices.  These kids get expelled from school, and with a lack of parenting, end up running the streets.  Because they continue to make bad choices, DCYF is called in to provide an “alternative learning environment.”  This is very expensive so DCYF pushes legislation that restricts the school from expelling the kids. 

This is exactly what happened and now, RI public schools may not expel a child for more than 10 days per year.  These kids are still removed from the school but they are not sent home.  They are sent to other facilities (Forwardview Academy, RYSE, etc..) that provide these alternative-learning services.   

If DCYF was able to shift the burden to the public schools, why can’t HHS, MHRH or whoever operates the group homes? 

This is indeed a slippery slope for not only wards of the state but for all public school kids.  Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that if a child needed any service other than education and basic nursing, the parent found it in the community.   Today, everything from clinical therapy to speech pathology is provided at the school.  

Theoretically, if a parent has the means (money or insurance), they can get services in the community.  But eventually, a parent may even loose the power to make those fundamental purchasing decisions.  Did we see a preview of this with Elaine Morgan?

June 7, 2007

Academic Achievement – an overview

Filed under: Chariho,National,State-wide,Student Performance — Editor @ 11:03 pm

** This post was made on April 8th but I have updated it with the new info **

In the big picture, student performance in America has dropped precipitously from it’s once lofty perch as the best in the world.  We are now at #18 of the 24 top industrialized nations.

On a national level, Rhode Island ranks somewhere between #32 and #41 in student performance (depending on grade and subject).  And when you factor in poverty, cost of education and infrastructure, RI received a 0.9 GPA on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “Leaders and Laggards” report on education, the lowest GPA in the nation.

Now lets take it to a local level.  How does Chariho compare to our neighbors?

Below are the 2006 NECAP test results for several of our demographic and geographic peers (North Kingstown, South Kingstown, Coventry, Exeter/West Greenwich and Westerly).

Here is Chariho’s Grade 8 District Results Report

 chariho-g8.jpg

Notice the percentage of students who score in the top quartile (Level 4 “proficient with distinction”) and bottom quartile (Level 1 “substantially below proficient”).  Now lets compare those numbers to our neighbors.

North Kingstown

nk-8.jpg

South Kingstown

sk-8.jpg

Westerly

w-8.jpg

Exeter/West Greenwich

ewg-8.jpg

Coventry

cov-8.jpg

Notice that for students who score in the highest quartile (“proficient with distinction”), there are 15 comparisons to Chariho (5 schools and 3 disciplines – reading, math and writing).  In 14 of 15 comparisons, Chariho has the lowest percentage of students in the top performing group.  We beat Coventry in one category.

When you look at the lowest quartile (“substantially below proficient”), in all 15 comparison, Chariho has a larger percentage of it’s students who fall into this under-performing category. 

So, overall for our 8th graders, we ranked last in 29 of 30 comparisons and tied for last in 1.

Now lets look at Grade 3 comparisons.  Here are the Chariho results.

chariho-3.jpg

North Kingstown

nk-3.jpg

South Kingstown

sk-3.jpg

Westerly

w-3.jpg

Exeter/West Greenwich

ewg-3.jpg

Coventry

cov-3.jpg

In 20 comparisons (5 schools, 2 subjects, high and low performers) Chariho was the worst performer in 17 of the 20.  We did manage to beat Exeter/West Greenwich in 2 measures and tied them in 1.

This first graph compares Chariho to our peers on the percentage of 8th graders who scored in the top 25% of the proficiency rating (“proficient with distinction”).

This graph compares Chariho to our peers on the percentage of 8th grade students who score in the bottom 25% of the proficiency rating (“substaintially below proficient”).

So lets review, America is ranked 18th in the industrialized world (depending on subject and study).  Rhode Island ranks between 32 and 41 in the nation.  And Chariho ranks last in our demographic and geographic peers.  So where does that put our students in a globally competitive market?

May 18, 2007

Reshaping society – public school style

Filed under: Sex-Ed,State-wide — Editor @ 7:51 pm

Not long ago there was an unsigned editorial in the ProJo discussing a recent study on abstinence education produced by Mathmatica.  This article was not unlike many others written around the country.  Almost all main stream publications jumped on the bandwagon and said that abstinence programs were not effective at reducing sexual activity of teens.  Only Christian publications bothered to look at the details of the study.

You can find the complete study here.

I would suggest that you look at the study carefully.  What you will find is disturbing, most notably in the sampling.  What they did was looked at children who participated in abstinence education from the ages between 9 – 11.  Then, 4-6 years later, they surveyed the participants to see if their sexual activity was any different from students who did not participate in any abstinence programs.

Here are the main problems with this study.  First of all, they only looked at 4 of the approx 900 different programs (one of which was only an after-school activity).   But the most glaring problem was the fact that they only gave the children the abstinence information when they were ages 9 – 11.  Not exactly the ages when hormones are raging.  From the ages 12 – 16 they were given the standard “comprehensive sex-ed.”

Wouldn’t it be just as conclusive to say that if you give students “comprehensive sex-ed” for 4-6 years that you can convince children to become sexually active?  Maybe this study is more an indictment of comprehensive sex-ed than it is an indictment of abstinence programs. 

I do know what it has shown us is the bias and agenda present in many journalists.

If you think I am overreacting, let me remind you of the 2000, 2001, 2004 “Teach-Out” conferences held in Massachusetts.  This conference was nicknamed “Fistgate” for reasons you are about to learn.

“Fistgate” was the public school funded conferences where children as young as 12 were told such things as:

“Go out and get a bunch of condoms and plan a day of experimenting.”

“As with vegetables, children shouldn’t knock homosexuality until they try it.”

One instructor even went so far as to graphically describe “fisting” techniques, thus the moniker given to the conference.  If you have not heard about this conference, don’t be surprised.  It didn’t get much press – not nearly as much as is used to bash abstinence programs.

Do you think I’m kidding or overreacting?  Judge for yourself.  A parent recorded one of the meetings and audio clips can be found here.  (warning, many of these recording have graphic language)

It is truly shocking and something we need to vigilantly look out for here in RI.  Remember, RI was the first state where the ACLU was successful in banning abstinence programs in public schools.  Commissioner McWalters eventually reversed his decision but the ACLU is still trying.

May 12, 2007

EP, we feel your pain

Filed under: Budget,State-wide — Editor @ 8:36 am

As you read this article, keep in mind that Chariho is equally expensive and while we may score slightly better on the tests, we don’t have anywhere near the demographic charicteristics normally associated with poor student performance. 

Rick Croke: Explain This!

I was just wondering if someone could explain how the Seekonk School Department can maintain the 24 cents on the dollar on non salary piece of the pie while East Providence only has 13 cents on the same dollar? Seekonk’s 2007-2008 budget proposal is for $18,309,000.00 and they educate 2200 students that would breakdown to $8322.27 per student. As compared to East Providence which is currently operating on a $71,087,000.00 budget to educate 5895 students which costs us $12,058.86. They offer the same curriculum, with better student performance at a cost savings of $3736.59. oh by the way their dropout rate is almost nil and they don’t expel high school students like you run paper threw a shredder, and if you hadn’t noticed their school buildings are in much sounder condition.

This is just another reason to consider a public flogging of certain elected leaders who think we can tax our way to better a public education system

Can it get any more obvious than this?

Filed under: Budget,National,State-wide,Unions — Editor @ 8:31 am

I think this story illustraits the illogical opposition to teacher performance pay.   The report is worth the read.

Teachers Unions and Teaching Quality

Teachers union researcher Mike Antonucci yesterday posted some interesting findings surrounding the report written by eighteen award-winning teachers, calling for a fresh perspective on performance pay (click here for the full report). Antonucci takes a look at one of the report’s authors, Nancy Flanagan:

She is a recently retired 31-year teaching veteran, 1993 Michigan Teacher of the Year, and worked for two years with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and as a consultant with the Michigan Education Association.

Despite her awards and her long-standing professional relationship with the Michigan Education Association, Flanagan’s participation in a nuanced endorsement of performance pay has caused her union to roll up the welcome mat. As she told The Washington Post:

My state union, the Michigan Education Association, called to tell me that I will not be allowed to present at workshops and conferences in the future (something I’ve been doing for decade). I am officially persona non grata with the MEA.

If union foot-dragging on education reform weren’t clear enough from its shunning a Teacher of the Year, The Paducah Sun in Kentucky has more. A Suneditorial (subscription required) yesterday wrote up research by Illinois reporter Scott Reeder (whose Hidden Costs of Tenure website offers a treasure trove of information on how hard it is to get rid of a bad tenured teacher in his state) indicating that a common teachers union defense of tenure protection doesn’t hold up:

The teachers’ unions contend that the profession is self-selecting — that is, underqualified teachers leave the classroom before reaching tenure. But Reeder points to a North Carolina study that concluded: Teachers who left the profession early actually scored higher on teacher licensure exams than teachers who stayed in teaching. And a Harvard University College of Education study concluded: “Teachers with high IQs were more likely to leave teaching at the end of each year of service than those with low scores.”

That last paragraph sounds cold but some teachers do feel frustraition working in a system that rewards mediocrity and incompetence at the same rate as excellence. 

May 10, 2007

Fire code vote – update

Filed under: Budget,Chariho,State-wide — Editor @ 8:16 pm

Just in case you missed it in today’s Providence Journal, this editorial adds further support to my claim that changes may be coming to the fire code. 

In a previous post I notified you that Chariho is moving forward with a $532,000 contract to make fire code changes.  I suggested that we hold off, or at least communicate our concerns to the contractor, before authorizing the contract.  But these suggestions were ignored.

I doubt we will need to wait very long before I will be tempted to say, “I told you so.”

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