Last week, Mayor Polisena Jr. announced a misguided effort to take over the Johnston School Department.
Let me be clear: under no circumstances will we agree to allow the Mayor to “takeover” the District.
The members f the School Committee and I believe the Mayor-s ill-advised attempt to supersede this Committee’s authority granted by state law will not improve educational outcomes for Johnson students and may even make the situation worse.
The reality is, the challenges to the district is facing have been caused by financial mismanagement, not by the District or the School Department, but by the town.
For over 10 years, our teachers and administrators have done an exceptional job with considerably fewer resources than our peer districts in Rhode Island because the Town has failed to appropriately fund Johnston Public Schools. The difficulties the District has faced are multifaceted. Johnston like most other public school districts across Rhode Island, has faced drastically higher costs due to increasing numbers of special needs students and multilingual learners in addition to soaring operating and facilities costs as a lingering result of the pandemic.
Mayor Polisena Jr. says we cannot afford to invest more, but the reality is we cannot afford not to support our students. Despite higher costs associated with providing high quality education services to our children, the local appropriation to the District has flatlined.
Nearly all of our peers across Rhode Island have greatly increased the local appropriation to their similarly sized school districts, and in many cases, despite declining enrollment. The local appropriation to the Johnston Public School District increased by just $484,873 between Fiscal Year 2012 and 2.021 while enrollment increased by 114 students during that time. In Fiscal Year 2022 the Johnston Public School District did receive an additional $1 million in its local appropriation.
IN total, the two increases in 13 years amount to less than 4 percent. Prior to a new collective bargaining agreement last year, Johnston teachers had not received a wage increase in six years.
Welcome the Mayor’s interest in the dire challenges facing Johnston Public Schools and have already committed to fully supporting the audit of the District’s finances. The members of the School Committee and I are hopeful that we will be able to work together to identify sustainable solutions that will help the Johnston Public School District continue to provide high-quality educational outcomes to students and adequately support school staff.
Editor’s Note: This statement was read into the record to conclude the Thursday, June 20 Emergency School Committee meeting. Robert LaFazia is the chairman of the Johnston School Committee.
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