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Cities and towns seek advance on education aid

January 30, 2012

As lawmakers wait for Governor Lincoln Chafee to release his spending plan, school officials are keeping their fingers crossed for no major cuts to public education, and some are even hoping for increases.

Many city and town leaders have asked the state to speed up implementation of its public school funding formula, which determines state aid to school districts. The formula calls for increases to several cash-strapped districts including Woonsocket and Providence.

In Woonsocket, school officials have run up a $2.7 million deficit, which contributed to a recent downgrade in the city’s credit rating. City and school officials are due to present a deficit reduction plan to the state on Tuesday, the same day the governor officially presents his budget proposal to lawmakers.

Woonsocket city officials say they are disappointed that fiscal austerity on the city side has fallen victim to apparent overspending in the school department, but both city and school officials are quick to point out that if the schools received state funding in the amount the formula says they deserve, there would be no deficit.

The state has been slowly phasing in the school funding formula to ease the pain for districts that face cuts, like Central Falls and the Bristol-Warren Regional School District. Whether the state can afford to increase payments to under-funded districts while continuing to insulate the losers remains a serious question.

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