Woonsocket educators say mayoral academy will cost taxpayers

Woonsocket educators say mayoral academy will cost taxpayers

WOONSOCKET - Citing the potential drain it could have on the district's limited resources, both the Woonsocket School Board and the Woonsocket Teacher's Guild have voiced opposition to a proposal to create a new charter school in the city to serve students in grades kindergarten through 8.

"It's going to cost the taxpayers more money if Woonsocket decides to go along with, or is forced to go along with, a mayoral academy," said School Board Chairman George Lacouture.

The board unanimously confirmed a resolution opposing sending students to the proposed school, which has the support of the woman who serve as the board's chairwoman, Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt.

Leading the movement to create the school is 25-year-old Rosalind Murphy, a graduate fellow at the Boston-based Building Excellent Schools program and former history teacher in Revere, Mass. The school would be housed in Woonsocket, and would serve 729 students once it's complete, with a focus on preparation for college. Fifty percent of the available seats would be offered to students in Woonsocket, with the remaining 50 percent split between the towns of Burrillville and North Smithfield.

While the original proposal for the school listed the name as PRIDE Mayoral Academy, an adjusted application submitted to the Rhode Island Department of Education lists the name as RISE, representing "the values of Respect, Integrity, Self-Determination and Excellence."

The Woonsocket Teacher's Guild has launched its own campaign against the school, saying that mayoral academies "cherry-pick" students and that it would siphon off funds from the public school system.

"The fact is that if this academy goes through, then it will drain sorely needed funding from the public schools", said Jeffrey Partington, president of 600 member WTG. "While parent and student choice is the mantra, the fact is that the poorest, neediest students left behind will still be in schools that lack the resources to meet their needs."

School Committee members also remained unconvinced of the program's merit.

"I've thought very hard about this mayoral academy and charter schools," said board member Susan Pawlina. "It's difficult because I am so pro-education and education takes many forms."

Pawlina admitted that as an engaged parent, she would have fought to get her student into such a school, believing he or she would receive a better education.

"It would have been false," Pawlina said, pointing out that this year, Woonsocket High School's top two students will be attending Harvard College next year. "My children have been able to get an excellent education through the public school system."

Pawlina pointed out that parents must apply to have their students accepted at such a school, lending some credence to the "cherry-picking" theory.

"Some of our poorest students' parents might not take that option to apply," agreed Lacouture.

Pointing to an article in The Breeze's Cumberland edition, Lacouture emphasized the cost. According to Cumberland Supt. Philip Thornton, the district spends $1,289 more per student for those who attend the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy.

"It is costing the School Department for the town of Cumberland approximately $2.9 million of funds to pay for tuitions," he said. "We're struggling financially and we cannot afford the luxury of a mayoral academy."

In Kent County last week, an application for another mayoral academy was put on hold after West Warwick leaders convinced Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian of devastating budget consequences.

WTG is asking the city's Budget Commission to rescind the application or begin a study of the effects the proposed mayoral academy would have on the School Department budget.

Still, many support the idea of a new choice for education in northern Rhode Island. North Smithfield parent Roseanne Nadeau briefly sponsored a petition promoting the school, but says she was told that approval by RIDE already looks promising, and later removed the document.

"Woonsocket, Burrillville, and North Smithfield currently do not have viable options for schooling our children. RISE Mayoral Academy is a proposed charter school (public and free) that will serve these communities giving a choice. RISE needs your help, support RISE, support school choice," a communication on the petition explained.

RIDE is accepting written comments for or against RISE Mayoral Academy from the public until Aug. 6, which can be emailed to charterschoolcomments@ride.ri.gov . To view the charter school proposal, visit www.ride.ri.gov/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Students-and-Families-Great-...


In 2010, the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank released these findings from a study they commissioned: They found that "the price premium parents must pay to buy a house in an area associated with a better school increases as school quality increases. This is true even after controlling for neighborhood characteristics, such as the racial composition of neighborhoods, which is also capitalized into house prices. In contrast to previous studies that use the boundary discontinuity approach, we find that the price premium from school quality remains substantially large, particularly for neighborhoods associated with high-quality schools."

To summarize: Better schools = higher real estate values --> higher real estate values = higher tax revenues for the city --> Higher revenues (paid by people who choose to pay them b/c they're choosing to pay for better education for their children) = better roads, safer streets, and ultimately a better business environment.

Woonsocket public schools currently invest 12% less (or ~$2000) than the state average per student. Cumberland public school currently invest 27% less (or ~$4300)than the state average per student. Cumberland is the home of the state's first Mayoral Academy (Blackstone Valley Prep).

Cumberland's real estate has appreciated 5.9% over the last 10 yrs. Woonsocket's real estate had depreciated 5.4% over the last 10 yrs.

Cumberland's Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy has the highest percentage of eighth-graders who were proficient or better in math in the state.
Eighth-graders scored 37 percentage points higher than the state average in mathematics.

This information took me 20 minutes to find via Google. Valley Breeze, you own it to your readers/community to dig one step further. Disseminating misinformation causes greater harm than not reporting at all. The function of the press is not to serve as an unfiltered megaphone for whomever gets in front of it. Woonsocket needs you! Help us dig through the BS instead of spreading the misinformation further.

So Cumberland real estate has appreciated??? That is a falsehood. I bought my house in 2005 for $290,000. At the time, it was valued at $285,000. Now, almost 10 years later, our new revaluation has it valued at $205,000. Would you please explain to me just how real estate has appreciated?

The mayoral academy is a poor choice right now for the city of Woonsocket. The current finances can not support such a venture. The school department is running on bare bones as it is, and they cannot afford their basic necessities.