To little fanfare, the state’s Funding Formula Working Group released its report making “Recommendations for Improvement of Rhode Island’s Permanent Foundation Education Aid Formula.” The tone of the coverage, such as it was, seemed generally to be that the working group acknowledged some challenges that the formula might be modified to addressed but was under such constraints in what it could recommend that it didn’t suggest anything particularly newsworthy. Given all of the work that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has done reviewing education data while research the plausibility of school choice in the state — particularly in developing the RI-DIMES model to predict the effects of school choice policies — the report contains a few points that might be worth raising in the future.
For the moment, though, taxpayers should take special note of this line, which deserves more attention than it received (if it received any):
The funding formula maintenance-of-effort language for cities and towns should be strengthened to account for reasonable factors such as inflation and enrollment increases.
Under Rhode Island law, local taxpayers must give their school districts at least the same amount of money as in the previous year, and they can calculate that amount per pupil, to reduce funding if enrollment drops. A change that imposed an inflation ratchet or that made bigger budgets for increased enrollment automatic while leaving smaller budgets for decreased enrollment to be fought in the political arena would be a significant step against local taxpayers, imposed at the state level.