On a 6 to 3 vote, the Senate Education Committee passed a bill Wednesday restricting the growth of charter schools.
The legislation sponsored by Senator Adam Satchell (D-West Warwick) requires city or town councils in a host community to approve new charter schools. The bill would also keep charter school funding at the current level until the state adopts a new formula for funding charter and traditional public schools.
Tim Ryan, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Superintendents, said the issue is how charters are draining money from conventional public schools in some communities.
"Cumberland, for example, is almost up to $4 million, paying for charter schools from local funds," Ryan said, "and our problem there is, the local voters never had a say. And that’s what this bill does, it says if people are going to bill, the local municipal authority has to approve it.
But charter school supporters say the bill restricting charters is a blow against educational innovation, and that level-funding the schools set back the charter movement.
In a statement, Christine Lopes, executive director of the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now, said, "The new provisions in amended version of SB87 are a veiled attempt to cripple public charter schools in Rhode Island. Local input is important, but this language goes much further. Now, applicants that serve students statewide would need sign off from all 39 cities and towns before expanding or opening a single school, giving individual communities the ability to veto an application for the entire state. In truth, this bill seeks to create a permanent moratorium on public charter schools.”
Senators Lou DiPalma (D-Middletown), Elaine Morgan (R-Charlestown) and Edward O'Neill (I-Lincoln) voted against the bill.
The House Education and Welfare Committee is slated to consider a similar bill Thursday.