To the Editor:
If we had a voucher system for education, we could unequivocally cut the roughly $49 million school budget by a minimum of $20 million, which would be the equivalent of a whopping $12.50 per thousand in property taxes. A house valued at $200,000 would save $2,500. So why isn’t the School Committee exploring all the options that would reduce costs, taxation, increase academic standards and empower parents and students?
At present, there are approximately 3,200 students and the cost per student, including kindergarten through grade 12, is approximately $15,300. Recently, they had three budget workshops to explore how they could trim $345,000, in which they hadn’t any success. Note: Rhode Island ranks 43rd in the country for spending per pupil.
Also, there are approximately 750 students that go to other schools in which parents pay out of pocket, which is saving our town approximately $11.4 million. The red flag here is what were their concerns, especially in light of our dismal state economy? We should and could know via a special committee that would have oversight over every complaint residents have, regardless of departments, that would be public knowledge. Also, approximately half of all public educators have their children in other school systems. What is it about public education that isn’t good enough for their children?
Between bullying – whereas approximately 160,000 kids stay home each day and 4,400 commit suicide each year – and political correctness that loathes free enterprise, capitalism and traditional family values, and as it’s impossible to fire incompetent teachers on top of all the unnecessary bureaucracy, etc., we need to demand vouchers that would address each of the above concerns. There are many educators who believe in school choice who could start up their own educational facilities and ventures, but the unions are calling the shots via the Democratic Party, in which noble educators have no voice. Recently, an East Providence schoolteacher testified before one of the committees in our Democratic, union-controlled legislature in favor of school vouchers and was told by the chairman of the committee that he should be more appreciative of his job and the union representing him. As any honest educator will tell you, when they attend union meetings, they never talk about the needs of the students; it’s always about the needs of the employees.
The cost of religious education pre-K through grade 8 is under $5,500, but if you have additional children in their system, it’s less because “they need the enrollment.” Higher grades go up to approximately $13,000 a year, therefore the combined cost is approximately half the cost of public education. At St. Rocco’s, the school day starts at 7:15 a.m. ending at 5:30 p.m., which is great for working parents, yet the Democratic School Committee is silent.
One relatively new concept in education is referred to as “online education,” where students can learn in the comfort and safety of their homes and at their leisure, avoiding the undertakings of harsh winter conditions. Also, there is home schooling, in which parents need support, including money. The reality, here, is educators could be instrumental in facilitating these cost-effective alternatives and not have to put up with all the bureaucratic nonsense. The possibilities are endless, and according to many advocates of school choice and education reform, because of union involvement, public education has become public enemy #1, in which our country is now ranked 14th in the world for academic outcomes, whereas China is #1.
In closing, the number of pages in the contracts that represent the municipal side of the budget is 140, in which 58 are for fire and rescue. The contracts are loaded with every inconceivable provision that can be dreamed up; tens of millions in unnecessary spending, not including the pension nightmare and continued paid health care, and you can also thank the Democratic Party for that. Our state and municipalities are in peril because of decades of dishonest leadership that always knew this day would come along. In fact, our mayor served 12 years in the General Assembly and going on six years behind the wheel at Town Hall and where are we? When I think of the fact that our state’s number one export is now our children who must leave in search of hope and opportunity, it’s very upsetting indeed.
Peter A. Filippi III
Founder of the Johnston Taxpayers Association