By Chris Barnett
Providence, RI – March 24, 2023 -The Long Term Education Planning Committee, convened nearly five years ago by the Rhode Island Foundation, has released its 2023 Policy Framework.
The Committee, which consists of educators, policymakers, and leaders from the nonprofit and for-profit sectors; was convened at the request of the Foundation in 2018 and continues to meet and collaborate on a quarterly basis. Most notably the group developed the 10-year plan for improving education in Rhode Island, released in February 2020, called Chart a Course, Stay the Course: Rhode Island’s Path to a World Class Public Education System. The plan was supported via resolution by the Rhode Island House of Representatives, Rhode Island Senate, and then-Governor Gina Raimondo. The Committee tracks progress against the plan at www.edinri.com.
“The Committee has remained focused on what we believe are the four priorities needed to establish a world class education system in Rhode Island – as laid out in Chart a Course, Stay the Course,” said Neil D. Steinberg, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation. “Those are High Standards, Educator Support, Investment Priorities, and Clear Governance. While work has been done over the last few years to advance all four, additional statewide efforts need to be established. The policy framework outlined today offers strategies for lawmakers to consider that will advance this critical work.”
The Long Term Education Planning Committee’s policy subcommittee, led by co-chairs Michael DiBiase, President and CEO of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council; and Frank Flynn, President of the Rhode Island Federation of Teacher and Healthcare Professionals; developed the group’s 2023 Policy Framework. The Framework was subsequently adopted by the full Long Term Education Planning Committee.
“Rhode Island’s education system needs the attention of all stakeholders,” said DiBiase. “To develop a world-class public education system, Rhode Island must establish incentives to recruit and retain a diverse, qualified teaching force, provide resources for high quality professional development and ongoing professional learning support, and have adequate funding to meet the needs of all students.”
Flynn added, “Educators and students are still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now is the time to double-down on our commitment to their success by enacting policies that align with these recommendations.”
With the release of its 2023 Policy Framework, individual members of the Long Term Education Planning Committee plan to express their support to leaders in the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Rhode Island Senate regarding aligned legislation.
“As a member of the Long Term Education Planning Committee and CEO and Superintendent of Blackstone Valley Prep (BVP), I’m committed to supporting the 2023 Policy Framework,” said Sarah Anderson. “From our vantage point at BVP policy change that aligns with this framework will make a marked difference for our students, families, and educators.”
The Long Term Education Planning Committee’s 2023 Policy Framework is as follows:
· Teacher Workforce – There is a need to invest in incentives to attract and retain teachers across the state. These investments should include re-establishing the state’s beginning teacher induction and mentoring programs that offered support to new teachers and creating better connections between districts and Educator Prep Programs. Additionally, we suggest providing loan forgiveness, scholarship and/or reduced tuition programs for individuals who commit to teaching, with a special focus on those committing to teach in “urban or urban ring” schools for a designated amount of time. Targeted financial incentives for teachers of color and teachers in shortage areas, such as math, science, and special education, should also be explored. We also recommend that the starting salary, as well as disparities in salaries across communities and for educators who work with differing levels of student needs, be reviewed and addressed. Finally, we suggest the state look at ways to provide additional incentives, such as housing support, to encourage individuals to enter the teaching profession.
· Funding Formula – There is a need to provide targeted funding to meet the needs of students, particularly those who are low-income, Multilingual Learners (MLLs), and receive high-cost special education services. We request that the Funding Formula assign a higher bonus percentage factor for low-income students and MLLs. The state should also increase reimbursement for high-cost Special Education students. We recommend utilizing the reallocation of the $66 million in hold harmless funding to reform the funding system.
· Professional Development – There is a need to establish a statewide fund, similar to the Professional Development Investment Fund that was last funded in 2009. This statewide fund would be used to provide a dedicated funding source to support a teacher directed, coordinated, comprehensive system of professional development that is focused on curriculum, instruction, and social-emotional learning. The focus should be on high quality professional development programs that impact student outcomes. We support a substantial state investment in this area.
· Unfunded Mandates – In recent years, the General Assembly has adopted a number of mandates that have required districts to provide professional development in connection with implementation. There is seldom additional time or funding allocated to fulfill these mandates, nor is there a process to prioritize across these well-meaning initiatives. Districts are challenged to balance student schedules and provide professional development around these legislative mandates year to year. We are calling for a full assessment of proposed and existing unfunded legislative mandates. The assessment will include an analysis of the cost and time needed for professional development, additional student course time, and the overall effectiveness on student outcomes. This assessment will focus on mandates adopted, and the impact, both individually and collectively, such mandates have had on teaching and student learning time. Any future legislative proposals should include a fiscal note and temporal impact statement (including the total number of required courses and proficiencies for graduation, the number of hours of professional development needed, teacher time out of the classroom, and how professional development will be funded as new teachers enter districts) prior to passage. We also recommend the state allocate funding for this study.
· Amend Article I of the Rhode Island Constitution – In 1995 and again in 2010, Rhode Island’s State Supreme Court held that Article XII, the Education Article, did not confer education as a right and thus was not subject to Article I’s Equal Protection Clause. In her 1995 opinion, Justice Lederberg wrote, “The education clause confers no such right, nor does it guarantee an equal, adequate, meaningful education.” We propose to amend Article I of the Constitution by adding the following: “Public education is a fundamental right of all Rhode Island residents. It shall, therefore, be the paramount duty of the general assembly, the department of elementary and secondary education, and other government agencies to provide all Rhode Island residents with equal opportunities to receive an education that is adequate and meaningful to permit them to achieve at high levels and to become lifelong learners, productive workers, and responsible citizens.” Additionally, we recommend the amended Article to be judicially enforceable.
As noted above the Long Term Education Planning Committee 2023 Policy Framework was adopted by the following Committee members:
· Neil Steinberg, President and CEO, Rhode Island Foundation
· Sarah Anderson, CEO and Superintendent, Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy
· Mary Barden, Executive Director, National Education Association of Rhode Island
· Kathy Bendheim, Managing Director, National Student Success Accelerator
· Paige Clausius-Parks, Executive Director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
· Dr. Danielle Dennis, Dean, Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, University of Rhode Island
· Michael DiBiase, President and CEO, Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council
· Dr. Jeannine Dingus-Eason, Dean, Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, Rhode Island College
· Tom DiPaola, Executive Director, Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association
· Tim Duffy, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Committees
· Frank Flynn, President, Rhode Island Federation of Teacher and Healthcare Professionals
· Tom Giordano, Executive Director, Partnership for Rhode Island
· Christopher Graham, Chair, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Education Committee
· Carlon Howard, Chief Impact Officer, Equity Institute
· Angélica Infante-Green, Commissioner, Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
· Dolph Johnson, Executive Vice President, Chief Global Human Resources Officer, Hasbro
· Robert Littlefield, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Principals
· Keith Oliveira, Executive Director, Rhode Island League of Charter Schools
· Dr. John Papay, Interim Director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform
The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Working with generous and visionary donors, the Foundation raised more than $75 million and awarded nearly $84 million in grants to organizations addressing the state’s most pressing issues and needs of diverse communities last year. Through leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping Rhode Island reach its true potential.