Matthew H. Young: Doing Better by Rhode Island Children

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Every family wants to be able to guarantee a strong education and a bright future for their children. Rhode Island, well-known for high levels of per-pupil school spending and a high rate of post-secondary education, would seem like a great place for families to secure the educations they want. Unfortunately, Rhode Island’s educational system only works for some.

If you’re Hispanic and live in the state, you probably never attend college, much less graduate. Nearly two of three Hispanics over the age of 25 have no college education—and only 12 percent will complete a bachelor’s degree program. White students are three times more likely to graduate college than their Hispanic peers.

What is life like for those left behind by the Ocean State’s current approach to education? Given the vast education-based wage gap (data shows that the median income for those with a bachelor’s degree is nearly double that of those without a college education), it is little surprise that Rhode Island’s Hispanic community is struggling with poverty. As Hispanic families fall behind academically, they fall behind financially.

Recent ground-breaking research from the Family Prosperity Initiative (FPI) demonstrates the inviolable connection between strong families with access to educational opportunities, and prosperity, as well as highlighting the critical importance of families in building a strong economy. This is especially true for families in Rhode Island — which, not surprisingly, ranks 48th on the Family Prosperity Index.

The median household income for Ocean State Hispanics is $25,000 lower than the statewide median income. Nearly three out of four Hispanic children are in low-income families. Poor educational outcomes lead to lower lifetime income, which, in turn, leads to poor educational outcomes — a vicious cycle that makes upward mobility and the American dream look more and more like a pipe dream for Hispanic families.

Imagine the desperation felt by families in Rhode Island’s minority communities: Unless you are well-educated yourself, you probably don’t make enough money to guarantee a quality education for your children. And so, the gap between haves and have-nots begins early, with a noticeable difference in educational achievement by the time children are nine years old.

What if Rhode Island’s government had the ability to — almost instantly — give families and students access to better educational outcomes? And what if the change was blocked by career politicians who are well-served by not fighting against the special interests who support the status quo?

That’s closer to the truth than most realize. The RI General Assembly’s recently approved educational budget includes union inspired budget cuts for charter schools — as reported by the Providence Journal. Charter schools are one of the few things conclusively shown to help close the educational gap. On standardized 8th grade mathematics exams, low-income Hispanic students in Rhode Island’s charter schools performed significantly better than average, while those in the public school system lag far behind. Why are we reducing funding to the one reform that might help Rhode Island’s disadvantaged students?

Rhode Island could learn a lot from Florida. In 1999, the Sunshine State implemented comprehensive educational reforms, including better charter school funding, school choice, and merit-based teacher pay. In the years since, these changes have resulted in minority students’ rapidly catching up with their peers. Florida’s low-income Hispanic students now perform well above national averages.

Rhode Island could begin to accomplish the same changes by implementing the Bright Today Educational Scholarships, a program promoted by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. Minority communities that have the freedom to choose the education that best serves them have a hope that Rhode Island families currently do not — the hope that with better education will come better jobs, better wages, and a self-sufficient, confident future.

For too long, we’ve been promoting the same tired approaches to educational and economic policy and, in doing so, have been slowly placing the American dream out of the reach of our most vulnerable citizens. Rhode Island must do better.

 

Matthew H. Young is a visiting fellow at the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity. His work may be found in First Things, Civitas Review, the Journal of Energy Security, and on Twitter @matthenryyoung.



  • Joe Smith

    Charter schools are one of the few things conclusively shown to help close the educational gap.

    Latest graduation statistics from RI Schools for Hispanics:

    Non-urban – 71%
    Urban (Prov/Paw/Woon/CF)- 66%
    Charter/State Operated (Met, etc.) – 67%

    Re: The RI General Assembly’s recently approved educational budget includes union inspired budget cuts for charter schools

    Devil’s in the details – did you read the whole article?

    “the urban charters sent a letter to the House leadership Tuesday supporting the House Finance budget, saying that they would gain money under that plan compared with the governor’s budget.”

    So, it’s not ALL charters, just suburban ones.. like Compass School (state wide suburban independent charter) that has, let’s see, oh 2% Hispanics (despite Hispanics being 25% of RI school) and less than 9% low income or Kingston HIll with less than 10% Hispanics?

    On standardized 8th grade mathematics exams, low-income Hispanic students in Rhode Island’s charter schools performed significantly better than average, while those in the public school system lag far behind.

    Okay, so was this apple to apple (computer based, since some charters use paper that has nationally by the PARCC folks been stated to be biased upward in score; and school to school – in other words, the public school the student would have attended)? No, I can cherry pick specific charters and specific schools in specific subjects and specific grades and show whichever point I want to make.

    I have no doubt that the data might show low income minority students do better at BVP than in Providence – great, send more low income students there. Not the same case for suburban charters – but if your point is ANY charter is better for urban low income minority, then let’s prioritize them first as opposed to the white two parent upper income families that go to those suburban charters.

    Rhode Island could learn a lot from Florida. In 1999, the Sunshine State implemented comprehensive educational reforms, including better charter school funding, school choice, and merit-based teacher pay.

    Okay, excusing the gross correlation versus causation point given it’s a blog post, let’s look at Florida.

    http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2015/mar/27/jeb-bush/jeb-bush-praises-florida-closing-achievement-gap/

    So, Florida’s results do show gain (again, depends on which groups, which year, etc.), it’s hard to pick out specifics but choice was offered to low income students. The merit pay was mainly for AP teachers and what a surprise, rewarding those teachers led to higher AP results!

    As for charters, you don’t provide the rest of the story.

    “Grassroots charter schools such as Pensacola Beach Elementary and Beulah Academy of Science thrive. Commercial charter schools administered by outside companies such as Newpoint tend to flop and their ineptitude costs taxpayer”

    “Yet charter schools in 30 districts have wound up closing after receiving as much as $70 million combined in such funding, the AP’s analysis showed. In all, more than $7.5 million went to almost 20 Miami-Dade charter schools that eventually shut their doors.

    Taxpayers usually can’t recover the capital money invested in those schools because most of it has been spent on rent or leasing costs. The Department of Education reported it has taken back just $133,000 in the last three years from schools that closed.

    “That’s definitely a concern as a taxpayer,” said Jaime Torrens, chief facilities officer for Miami-Dade schools. “If a school closes, whatever property was built with these public dollars, it doesn’t come back to the public. It remains with the owner of property.”

    when Balere Language Academy shut down amid allegations it threw raunchy after-hours parties in the cafeteria, $4,500 in equipment went missing. The school reported the items were stolen, according to Miami-Dade officials.

    “Miami-Dade School District officials on Friday were still trying to determine whether the Balere Language Academy — a charter school already facing financial free-fall and increased school district scrutiny — has also been doubling as an after-hours nightclub.

    This week district officials learned of R-rated party fliers, featuring bikini-clad women and bottles of booze, promoting a bash at 10875 Quail Roost Dr. — the address of the South Miami Heights charter school. Older ads, Twitter posts, Facebook photos and a string of parent complaints about smoky smells and empty beer bottles on campus also indicated past parties were held at the school.”

    Maybe it was school fundraiser?

    Now..since RIDE supervises charter schools in RI, we can rest assured about fiscal accountability here in RI..

    “He (Elliot Krieger) said RIDE is sometimes copied on quarterly reports and receives some reports in addition to the school’s annual budget. But that is not consistently done”

    • Mike678

      Your bias is showing. Are you perhaps associated with the Public School system?

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