NEA’s Walsh Blasts East Greenwich Council Shake-Up, Corrigan Interim Manager
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team
"There was a coup in East Greenwich this morning, with those wishing to destroy the schools now in firm control," Tweeted Walsh.
The Town Council recently hired Corrigan's firm Providence Analytics to undertake a portion of the school department's administrative functions. Corrigan has worked closely with former Rhode Island Supreme Court Justice Bob Flanders, including on the Central Falls receivership.
Meanwhile, East Greenwich Town Council President Sue Cienki is on the host committee for a fundraiser for Flanders, who is eyeing a run for U.S. Senate, this coming Saturday, June 24 (as first reported in RI Future).
Walsh Raises Concerns
"I heard about [Coyle] being out this morning. I knew that his job was in trouble, but I surprised," said Walsh. "A special meeting on a Monday morning?"
Walsh said that he has been watching the East Greenwich Town Council closely in light of recent actions.
"They level funded the schools, with Corrigan saying her firm would do administrative functions," said Walsh. "The Chair stopped taking testimony and approved the budget -- and now the school committee has to figure out how to implement some of the cuts. This is after it took us a year to get the contract."
"I'm really surprised by the whole thing -- our best performing communities are Barrington and East Greenwich," said Walsh. "And East Greenwich has not been as generous in funding, whereas the Barrington parents usually step up."
Walsh noted that he contested the characterization of the town's finances as presented by Corrigan.
"[Corrigan] was using terms like 'fiscal crisis'," said Walsh. "When a community like East Greenwich hears Corrigan using language like they used in Central Falls, if I'm a real estate agent in town, I'm freaking out. I know in the wealthier communities we rely on property taxes, but that's common across the state. East Greenwich is not Central Falls."
School Committee Chair on Record
Carolyn Mark, Chair of the East Greenwich School Committee, weighed in on the situation on Monday.
"There is a tremendous amount of upheaval going on in EG right now. On the school side, we are facing level funding in a time when our student population is growing, class sizes are at an all time high, our high cost special needs have increased dramatically, and the cost of our kindergarten program doubled in a year with the implementation of state-mandated all day kindergarten," said Mark. "Given all of this, I was deeply disappointed in the Town Council's decision to cut taxes when even just keeping the tax rate level would have provided the schools with the resources necessary to avoid significant cuts to staff and programs."
"On the eve of the Town Council's budget vote, the school committee sent a memo detailing the impact on the schools if the budget proposed by Providence Analytics was to move forward. But, unfortunately, the Town Council chose to prioritize a modest tax cut over providing adequate funding to the schools," said Mark. "On Tuesday, the EG School Committee will be finalizing our budget. We will be looking at the recommendations made by Providence Analytics and making our own decisions about how we believe our limited education dollars would best be spent."
The state's community college is poised to be the sole beneficiary of the Governor's Promise scholarship program.
It would make Rhode Island the fourth state to have tuition-free community college, allowing every resident the opportunity to earn an associate's degree tuition free. There is no means testing for the program and few standards.
The cost would be roughly $3 million in the FY18 (for the first cohort of students) and then $6 million the following year there are two classes.
As part of negotiations -- and the fiscal realities facing Rhode Island with a nearly $140 million shortfally, the Speaker announced Thursday that $25 million will be cut in general spending.
"It's something we discussed with the Governor and she thinks she can make [it] work," said Matteillo.
Also on the chopping block -- funding for the legislative office to the tune of $2 million.
Elderly and Disabled Bus Riders
After levying fares on some of the most needy RIPTA bus riders (the elderly and disabled) for the first time this past year, which resulted in strong public outcry, the House Finance budget contains just over $3 million -- for each of the next two years -- to refund the program this coming year.
Mattiello noted that after the two years is up, it is up to the Governor to find the funding.
On Thursday, Raimondo learned she is poised to get a piece (jCCRI) of her free college tuition proposal, which had been a major focal point of her budget proposal - and political strategy.
On the flip side, she is tasked with finding $25 million in government spending to cut, in order to balance the budget.
Unlike the May estimating conference, where Rhode Island revenues were found to be off nearly $100 million plus, the Governor can't say she didn't see this coming.
Medical Marijuana Expansion
In June, Raimondo called for an increase in medical marijuana dispensaries and an increase in licensing fees to generate $1.5 million in revenue for the state.
She called for "no less than six licensed compassion centers."
On Thursday, Mattiello said it was not in the budget, due the proposal's late timing.
Davies High School
The House finance budget contains additional help for manufacturing, including $3.6 million to upgrade facilities at Davies Career and Tech.
While Mattiello made scant mention of cuts in the briefing Thursday - save for the $25 million out of government spending -- the question was raised as to where the rest of the $140 million shortfall will come from.
"Millions in cuts came from the Commerce Corp budget. The budget kept the Rebuild RI funding, but money for several other Commerce programs were reduced," said Larry Berman, spokesman for Mattiello.
Mininum Wage Hike
Workers will be happy, employers might not.
The FY18 budget proposal calls for a $.50 minimum wage increase as of January 1, 2018, and then an additional $.40 the following year.
Business owners have continuously fought against such hikes.