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Chafee requests flexibility on Race to the Top

January 31, 2011

Governor Lincoln Chafee has asked federal officials to give Rhode Island flexibility on implementing the part of Race to the Top that relates to charter schools.

Chafee has called for a “thoughtful pause” before opening any new charter schools.

“The main point here is let’s look before we leap,” said Chafee spokesman Mike Trainor. “Governor Chafee believes strongly that before there’s any further expansion of charter schools, we should use the existing 15 charter schools to do some comprehensive, evaluative study of their effectiveness.”

Two education reform advocacy groups, Democrats for Education Reform and the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now (RI-CAN), have urged Chafee not to put the brakes on school reforms that include an expansion of charter schools. State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has also warned that the move could endanger the $75 million federal Race to the Top grant awarded to Rhode Island to promote a slate of reforms aimed at improving public schools.

A separate $2.4 million federal grant received by Rhode Island last year calls for increasing the number of charter schools in the state from 15 to 35.

Trainor says Chafee has had two conversations with Federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan in which he expressed his concerns about charter school expansion and requested flexibility so that the state can conduct a full study of existing charter schools.

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