EDITORIAL

Time to compromise

Posted

Not surprisingly, since state and federal laws regulate most of the waivers sought by the Warwick School Committee, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner denied a list of cuts and proposed fees to balance the school budget.

The committee requested the commissioner’s approval to implement fees for sports and busing to help offset its budget shortfall as well as to make cuts, such as a reduction in school bus monitors. The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union immediately objected to the fees, citing the promise of a free education from kindergarten through grade 12.

Had Commissioner Ken Wagner ruled otherwise, the Rhode Island Department of Education would have likely been dragged into a legal battle and, undeniably, the Warwick community would have been in turmoil. Few gave the list of waiver requests a chance of approval, yet, as we see it, it was a necessary step in the larger picture of whether schools receive additional city funding. If the schools sue for more funding, as may happen, they now have the argument that they sought and were denied relief by the state.

A lawsuit is not a welcome action regardless. It places the decision process in the courts when, clearly, Warwick should decide what is best for itself. In addition, as Mayor Joseph Solomon points out, it could become a financial sinkhole for both the schools and the administration.

Worse still, a suit would divide the community against itself. We see it as scarring relationships and causing rifts that could take many years to heal. Divisive behavior, as we have seen throughout contract disputes in recent history, is already commonly seen in school affairs – and it benefits nobody, especially the students.

This is not to suggest that the School Committee should rule out a lawsuit if, in fact, it cannot strike an agreement with the city and feels the approved level of funding would dramatically compromise education. A suit is a fallback, but that said, a poor one.

We are encouraged by Monday’s talk between the mayor and school officials. Hopefully it is the beginning of a dialogue that will avert a suit and ensure a good school system going forward.

This, however, is not an easy gap to close. It’s going to take sacrifices on both sides. Consider the challenge:

l In round numbers, schools requested an additional $8 million in city funding as a result of cuts in state funding, contractual obligations towards salaries and pensions and state mandated costs that are increasing exponentially, such as special education and costs for servicing students who go out of district or to charter schools.

l The City Council approved an additional $1.5 million, leaving schools $6.5 short.

l At Monday’s meeting, schools suggested they could get by with an added $5.3 million.

Thus far, Mayor Solomon hasn’t made a counteroffer or any commitments. His reasoning that he can’t make any promises until he knows what is available first is fair. Furthermore, as he points out, any changes in budget allocations, assuming that is the action to be taken, would require City Council approval.

Meanwhile, as painful as it was for the School Committee to make cuts and draft a list of waivers, with the rejection of the waivers it must turn to even deeper cuts to balance the budget – though the implications of this reality, for now, are unknown.

The sooner the city administration defines the extent of its ability to compromise, the sooner the schools can define the extent of its cuts.

Perhaps that middle ground won’t be found and a suit will become the move, but for the administration to not try would be a travesty.

Comments

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richardcorrente

The School Committee (SC) was given $163million dollars (+-) of taxpayers money this year. (over one-and-a-half-billion-dollars since 2009). According to their mission statement, that money is supposed to be used for teachers raises. It wasn't. It was also supposed to be used to maintain our schools. It wasn't. A great deal of it was spent on administration raises and new positions created BY the School Committee Administration, FOR the School Committee Administration. It was. At one point the SC increased THEIR staff by 30% when AT THE SAME TIME the number of teachers were being REDUCED by the same 30%.

THEN... they ran short of money and wanted the City Council to bail them out. They still won't be accountable to the City Council but they want the City Council to bail them out. They proposed cuts that they MUST have known the state would deny, and yet today I still don't see them offering to cut a dollar from their own salaries.

One piece of good news is that it seems that all sides are, at least, communicating. That is a start and I hope it leads to a solution. I, for one, respect and appreciate the efforts of all involved.

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Tuesday, July 31
CrickeeRaven

One lie after another from the make-believe mayor.

None of whay he wrote above is true. Proposed cuts to the school budget for FY19 do not affect increases in teacher salaries and benefits or building maintenance.

There were no "new positions."

There is also no such thing as "School Committee Administration" or "school committee staff," and administrative staff did not increase by 30 percent as teachers were reduced by 30 percent.

(The current teacher population is just under 900; in order for his claim to be true, the district would have had to layoff some 450 teachers, or 30 percent of 1,350.)

His lies do nothing to influence the ongoing budget discussions; if he were not so intent on humiliating himself through his use of this website for free political advertising, he would realize that his best contribution would be his silence.

But he is intent on proving his unfitness for office, which honest, taxpaying voters will reward by rejecting his candidacy on Sept. 12.

Wednesday, August 1
richardcorrente

Dear CrickeeMarkRaven,

"There were no new positions"??? Even the School Committee admits that they created an "Assistant Principal of Climate and Culture" as well as an "Assistant Principal of Teaching and Learning". Where have you been?

Happy Summer everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Wednesday, August 1
CrickeeRaven

The make-believe mayor yet again engages in selective disregard of facts and attempts at misdirection.

"Even the School Committee admits that they created an 'Assistant Principal of Climate and Culture' as well as an 'Assistant Principal of Teaching and Learning.'"

That was not the make-believe mayor's contention. He is claiming that the assistant principal positions at the consolidated high schools increased the administrative staff.

They did not.

First, these positions were placed in Warwick high schools for the students -- not "created BY the School Committee Administration, FOR the School Committee Administration," as the make-believe mayor falsely claims in making up a nonsense term meant to fool readers.

Second, these positions are staffed by existing assistant principals -- not new hires.

Thus, there was no "increase in staff" by moving these assistant principals to positions at the consolidated high schools.

"Where have you been?"

Not living in the fantasy world that the make-believe mayor inhabits, where he thinks his lies will somehow become true if he repeats them enough.

"CrickeeMarkRaven"

The make-believe mayor is welcome to contact the person who he thinks is using this screen name. He will learn, as with so many of his other statements, that this one is false.

Six weeks remain until honest, taxpaying voters overwhelmingly reject his disgrace of a campaign.

Wednesday, August 1