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School committees await governor’s budget

March 8, 2011

As Governor Lincoln Chafee prepares to reveal his budget for the fiscal year that begins in July, many school leaders are hoping it will include the implementation of a funding formula that changes the way money is distributed to Rhode Island school districts.

The formula takes funding away from some suburban districts like Bristol-Warren while giving more money to urban districts like Providence and Pawtucket, which have higher numbers of low-income students. Tim Duffy from the Association of School Committees says the change will be an improvement in the long run.

“There’s a direct correlation between the achievement gap and povert,” Duffy said. “Because there are weights that are associated with free and reduced lunch students, its going to direct more money to districts with the most need.”

Duffy says local tax payers currently cover roughly 60 percent of public school costs. The funding formula calls for the state to increase its share to closer to 50 percent, which would mean an increase of nearly 18 million dollars this year.

“I understand how difficult the state’s economy is right now but this could be viewed as local property tax relief,” Duffy said. “If the state assumes more of that cost, less of that burden will be foisted upon local property tax payers.”

The budget announcement comes as the state is losing significant federal funding. Duffy estimates that the end of the stimulus program will results in a loss of $25 million in school funding and well over $200 million for medicaid reimbursement and other social programs.

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