Rhode Island Funding Formula Proposed

Last Updated: March 26, 2010

This article appeared in the March 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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As predicted, a new funding formula has been developed in Rhode Island, the only state operating its school finance system without one. The old formula expired 15 years ago, and the state has struggled with methods for funding schools since then. Last month, two districts sued the state over funding. (See RSFN coverage at: http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2417) The announcement about the new formula comes in the wake of a budget plan that would cut education by $34.5 million in the coming year, the largest cut in 20 years.

Education Commissioner Deborah Gist consulted with Kenneth Wong, Education Department Chair at Brown University along with other experts in developing the new formula. Key elements of the new formula include an additional 40% weight on top of “core” student costs for students on free or reduced price lunch and consideration of local districts’ ability to pay for education. However, the formula would severely penalize districts with declining enrollments, and education funding activists in the state have also pointed out that it does not contain a mechanism for raising core cost estimates often enough. Legislation to implement the new formula is expected to be introduced soon.

Read more:

Coverage of initial announcement of the formula:

Detailed coverage of elements of the funding formula:

Local coverage including a map showing impact of new formula on all districts:

Read more from the March 2010 Rural Policy Matters.