Raimondo: I’ll veto bill that kills charter schools

Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday she will veto legislation that would require local approval for new charter schools to be built or existing ones to expand if the Senate approves the bill later this year.

In an interview with reporters, Raimondo said she believes “there are a lot of charters doing great work” and she can’t support a bill that would require every city or town council whose community sends students to charter schools to sign off on expansion plans.

“I would veto a bill that had the practical effect of killing charters,” Raimondo said.

Raimondo, a first-term Democrat, has not vetoed a single piece of legislation since taking office in 2015. In a statement Wednesday, House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello defended the bill.

“I believe in giving the local communities that are financially impacted by charter schools a voice in determining which students they will serve,” Mattiello said. “We have to be thoughtful before creating a second parallel school system that the public has to financially support.”

He added: “I will continue to discuss this legislation with the governor and the Senate president.”

Passed on Jan. 27, the local approval bill for charter schools was among the first pieces of legislation approved by House during the current session. A day later, the House approved legislation that would require the state Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to consider the financial impact on sending districts before new charter schools are built and existing ones grow.

The Senate has not acted on either bill.

Opponents say both bills would make it nearly impossible for charter schools to grow in Rhode Island. The governor has previously signaled that she does not support restricting the growth of charter schools, but Wednesday was the first time she made it clear should would veto a bill.

Raimondo has acknowledged that traditional school districts are hurt financially by the presence of charter schools because Rhode Island’s education funding formula requires money to “follow the child” no matter where they attend public school.

In her budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Raimondo has proposed tweaking the funding formula so that school districts will be able to hold on to $350 per student every time a child chooses to attend a charter school, a policy designed to “level the playing field” between traditional public schools and charters.

Raimondo has also asked the General Assembly to give school districts that send more than 5% of their students to charter schools – namely Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket, Cumberland and Lincoln – an additional $300 per student to cover fixed costs that remain with the districts even when students leave.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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