A big part of blue state politics is the effort to equalize school spending across districts; rich Illinois suburbs can afford better schools than poor towns and cities, so they are asked to send extra money to Springfield to subsidize underfunded schools in Chicago. And it’s not just Illinois—state Democratic parties across the country are eager to subsidize schools in poor places with money raised in rich ones. (Incidentally, this may be one reason Democrats are struggling at the state level).
In the author’s opinion, this model might be just fine except for the fact that local interests on the subsidized side of the ledger want to keep control over their own affairs. That is, they want to set their own priorities and budgets and tell the folks in wealthier communities how much money to send.
Things may operate a little differently in Rhode Island than Illinois, given our size. The urban ring is a proportionally larger part of the state, so its representatives have an easier time running the state government for their own regional interests. That simply makes matters worse, though. In Rhode Island, all of government is an exercise in taking money from whoever has it in order to give it to whoever’s connected.
With fix-the-system reforms in the last decade, the administration of Republican Governor Donald Carcieri attempted at least to make districts accountable by implementing consequential statewide testing and some limited school choice through charters. The insiders didn’t like the pressure, so they’re successfully pushing back.
Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s alternative approach of setting up about a half dozen in-district “empowerment schools” that must have strong insider buy-in and that won’t be up and running for a number of years is simply not going to be consequential. So, children will continue to suffer the effects of poor education and the state will continue to suffer the loss of its productive class as people who want to live in a dynamic society continue to make the decision that it’s not worthwhile to remain in a place where government sees them as nothing more than a funding source.