Describing Ajello's bill, Rhode Island Policy Reporter wrote:
There was a bill introduced in the House last week calling for a real school aid
formula. It had 38 co-sponsors, including much of the leadership. You'd think
this was enough to pass it, wouldn't you? Silly you. A fair education formula
would cost money, and nothing that costs new money can pass this legislature,
because no one in a position of influence will endorse paying for it. They'll
"call" for a program like this, and talk about how wonderful and fair it
would be, but they won't pay for it, so it won't happen.
While the lack of will that RIPR describes make Gallo's strategy more politically viable, we're far less likely to get the results our state's education system so desperately needs, and in this case, something may not be better than nothing. Without an established implementation date, and without certainty about when funds will be available, Fitzpatrick observes, states won't get the funding predictability they require to create budgets that allow them to carry out instructional initiatives that make a real difference to learning and ultimately--as Deborah Gist, our new state education commissioner has pointed out--the state's bottom line.
Ajello's approach forces reconciliation, shifting money to some towns and away from other in order to address the inequities that have become status quo in the system. In the real money (ha) quote of his piece, Fitpatrick observes, "...while there would be winners and losers under a new formula, there are winners and losers now — meaning some districts are getting more than they should and some are getting far less." Facing that political reality and summoning the collective courage and will to address it is the most meaningful way the General Assembly can make a positive difference to the most disadvantaged populations in our state and, ultimately, to our bottom line. No one wants anyone to lose funding--there should not be losers, and with many others, I hope that state leadership will reassess priorities and combine the best of Ajello and Gallo's approaches, thereby raising all boats and damaging none.
In this financial climate, choices must be made, and the best choice is not to continue to try to ostrich the problem away. Put Ajello's funding in place, and work over its three-year phase-in to identify funds to supplement districts' budgets that may take a hit. Let the sand fall from the General Assembly's eyes so the see that this is a challenge to our state's welfare and sustainability that can't be ignored any longer.