Friday, October 23, 2009

Consolidating Rhode Island

I'm coming to the conclusion that this is necessary:

STATE HOUSE – Sen. Frank A. Ciccone III (D-Dist. 7, North Providence, Providence) announced today that he plans to introduce several pieces of legislation in the 2010 General Assembly session to consolidate cities and towns in Rhode Island and reorganize the composition of the legislature.

Senator Ciccone’s first proposal is to consolidate the state’s 39 cities and towns into a county-type form of government, in order to achieve significant cost savings. Under the legislation to be introduced in January, all municipal services- including public safety, public works and education- would be regionalized in each of the state’s five counties (Providence, Kent, Bristol, Washington and Newport).

Providence County is everything north of East Providence/Cranston/Sictuate/Foster. According to The Poverty Institute's 2007 numbers, the poverty rate in the City of Providence was 27.2% (39.6% child poverty). Providence County's poverty rate was 16%. The state's is 12%. So consolidating school governance to the county level would provide greater opportunities to desegregate by income -- and it is on those terms that I would favor it, following Wake County, North Carolina's lead and establishing a ceiling of 40% for the poverty level in each school, ensuring that every school has a majority of working, middle and upper class students.

Of course, that doesn't solve every problem in education by itself, but it makes every issue more tractable.


Alice Mercer said...

didn't they just eliminate that in North Carolina? I think I saw Bill Ferriter blog about that at Tempered Radical?

Tom Hoffman said...

Apparently so.

Claus von Zastrow said...

In the meantime, Lou Gerstner argues that we should get rid of all school districts, because.... Oh, I don't know. There wasn't any rational explanation.

Bill Ferriter said...

This is definitely going to be interesting to follow. Our system's (Wake County NC) policy of county-wide schools and redistricting to keep levels of poverty balanced has been remarkably successful.

There isn't a school in our county where I wouldn't want to teach because it is overwhelmed by the challenges of immense proportions of high needs students. What's more, there isn't a corner of our county where businesses are hesitant to relocate to.

Regardless of where they decide to "set-up shop," their employees will have good schools for their kids and their locations will have access to an educated workforce.

The challenge has always been in getting our community to see education as an issue where parents need to look at all children---a tough proposition, considering how passionately parents protect their own children.

I think your state is doing the right thing, but response from the wealthiest towns who will no longer be able to invest in their individual schools because decisions are made at the region level will be important to watch.


Tom Hoffman said...

Hi Bill,

Thanks for the input from someone who has experienced desegregation first hand. Rhode Island is still a long way from this -- the bill was just introduced -- and most of the rhetoric behind it is based on cost savings, not desegregation, so we're a long way from the promised land.