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Stop the expansion of charter schools in Rhode Island

This petition had 2,555 supporters

As someone who cares deeply about the future of public education in Rhode Island, I object to the expansion of charter schools that is currently being considered by the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education.

Charter schools are already siphoning more than $100 million every year away from public school districts, forcing devastating cuts to school resources and programs that our students depend on. We’ve seen seen reduced numbers of guidance counselors, school nurses, and social workers, and elimination of arts and music programs, world language programs, after-school activities, and sports. Fiscal constraints have also led to reductions in the number of special education teachers, even though the district public schools serve a higher percentage of special education students than charter schools. Even basic materials like pencils and paper are no longer being provided in some districts. After twenty years, there is little evidence that the charter school experiment has improved Rhode Island’s education system. Rhode Island is funding these charters at the expense of the 95% of kids who attend public schools. It’s unconscionable that we are taking resources away from the kids who need them most.

One expansion proposal set for a vote will create a parallel school district in Providence. This proposal does not have the support of the mayors of two of the four sending communities. According to the Providence City Auditor, the district will lose about $179 million once the expansion is completed. The education funding formula has not yet been fully implemented and it would be catastrophic to Providence students in district public schools if charter tuition payments balloon.

Another proposal could potentially cause the closure of one of the two elementary schools in Central Falls in the foreseeable future and continue to destabilize the entire school district. Currently, more than one third of Central Falls’ students already attend charter schools, and further expansion jeopardizes the ability of the school district to meet the needs of the remaining students.

This entire process is extremely flawed and lacks transparency. This issue is being rammed down the public’s throat, even though it is clear that these proposals will have a severe negative programmatic and fiscal impact on public school districts. Adding millions of dollars of mandated charter tuition payments is not prudent for cities and towns, and adding financial obligations will cause district public schools to cut positions and programs for students. Shockingly, the public was not provided fiscal or programmatic data on these proposals during the public comment period. This is too important of an issue for the Council to vote on without letting the public see how it will affect their own public schools, children, and taxpayers.

For these reasons, we urge you to support the students and staff in our public school districts, as well as local taxpayers, by rejecting these charter expansion proposals.


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