A Voice in the Wilderness, Calling Out the Real School Problem


It can get lonely battling the status quo in Rhode Island, but every now and then, one has reason to believe that many more people share our despairs and hopes than are willing to speak up and give them voice.  Kenneth Petitti’s recent letter to the editor of the Providence Journal is one such bit of evidence:

There is one simple reason why Rhode Island and its schools are in such a mess: the corrupt connection between the politicians and all public employee unions.

After wages and pensions, there’s nothing left for infrastructure. The unions continue to feed at the trough, while the taxpayers yearn to move elsewhere.

Yes, we have a responsibility to renew the government’s school buildings’ ability to host a modern education, but we can’t only do that.  If we don’t change the incentives that led Rhode Island’s ample education resources (read: “high taxes going to education”) to be directed away from basics like building maintenance, we’re only buying a few more years and creating hundreds of millions of dollars in increased ratchets for our taxes.  (That is, payment on our maintenance debt will be built into government budgets and never go away, even as buildings are paid off or even closed.)

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We need a new approach.  Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s big long-term fix when it came to pension reform was to give an unelected board the power to hand the General Assembly two choices next time the pension system went off the tracks.  Her big long-term fix for our neglected bridges and roads was a new tolling system.

Those were the wrong approaches to reform, but the school building plan doesn’t even have that, and we’re not going to get the sort of reforms we need until the people who come forward with them know that they’ve got support.

  • Guest

    “A voice in the wilderness, calling out the real school problem” Kenneth Petitti’s letter to editor in Projo got it all wrong and this commentary amplification of his letter is also wrong.

    I will very very rarely go to bat for politicians who are being singled out for something totally out of their control due to people generalizing and faulting people by assumptions.

    Fact of the matter is according to Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) there are 66 school districts in the state of RI. Each school district has its own seperate administration, teachers, unions, maintainance and local funding provided by the local education authority (LEA)

    To be exact:
    32 regular school districts (single municipalities)
    4 regional school districts (more than one municipality)
    4 state-operated schools (statewide)
    1 regional collaborative LEA
    25 charter schools

    The only local education authority the governor would have any control over as far as direct school maintainance would be the 4 state-operated schools and 1 regional collaborative.

    The maintainance of the 32 regular school districts, 4 regional school districts and 25 charter schools are all under local education authority, school committees and the local taxpayers.

    If this commentary was made encompassing State of Hawaii or the District of Columbia then it might hold water as they are the only two that have single unified state-wide school districts.