Stay(ing) the Course
An update on Rhode Island's Path to a World Class Public Education System
2023 Long-Term Education Planning Committee Policy Framework
If we establish incentives to recruit and retain a diverse, qualified teaching force, provide resources for high quality professional development and ongoing professional learning support, and allocate adequate funding to meet the needs of all students we will continue to develop a world class public education system.
In 2020, the Long-Term Education Planning Committee led by the Rhode Island Foundation released Chart a Course, Stay the Course. This report highlighted four priorities needed to establish a world class education system in Rhode Island. While work has been done to advance these priorities, additional statewide efforts need to be established. The policy framework outlined below is directly in line with the priorities identified in 2020 and have been prioritized as areas of focus for the Long-Term Education Planning Committee going forward.
Teacher Workforce – There is a need to invest in incentives to attract and retain teachers across the state. These investments should include re-establishing the state’s beginning teacher induction and mentoring programs that offered support to new teachers and creating better connections between districts and Educator Prep Programs. Additionally, we suggest providing loan forgiveness, scholarship and/or reduced tuition programs for individuals who commit to teaching, with a special focus on those committing to teach in “urban or urban ring” schools for a designated amount of time. Targeted financial incentives for teachers of color and teachers in shortage areas, such as math, science, and special education, should also be explored. We also recommend that the starting salary, as well as disparities in salaries across communities and for educators who work with differing levels of student needs, be reviewed and addressed. Finally, we suggest the state look at ways to provide additional incentives, such as housing support, to encourage individuals to enter the teaching profession.
Funding Formula – There is a need to provide targeted funding to meet the needs of students, particularly those who are low-income, Multilingual Leaners (MLLs), and receive high-cost special education services. We request that the Funding Formula assign a higher bonus percentage factor for low-income students and (MLLs). The state should also increase reimbursement for high-cost Special Education students. We recommend utilizing the reallocation of the $66M in hold harmless funding to reform the funding system.
Professional Development – There is a need to establish a statewide fund, similar to the Professional Development Investment Fund that was last funded in FY 2009. This statewide fund would be used to provide a dedicated funding source to support a teacher directed, coordinated, comprehensive system of professional development that is focused on curriculum, instruction, and social-emotional learning. The focus should be on high quality professional development programs that impact student outcomes. We support a substantial state investment in this area.
Unfunded Mandates – In recent years, the General Assembly has adopted a number of mandates that have required districts to provide professional development in connection with implementation. There is seldom additional time or funding allocated to fulfill these mandates, nor is there a process to prioritize across these well-meaning initiatives. Districts are challenged to balance student schedules and provide professional development around these legislative mandates year to year. We are calling for a full assessment on proposed and existing unfunded legislative mandates. The assessment will include an analysis of the cost and time needed for professional development, additional student course time, and the overall effectiveness on student outcomes. This assessment will focus on mandates adopted, and the impact, both individually and collectively, such mandates have had on teaching and student learning time. Any future legislative proposals should include a fiscal note and temporal impact statement (including the total number of required courses and proficiencies for graduation, the number of hours of professional development needed, teacher time out of the classroom, and how professional development will be funded as new teachers enter districts) prior to passage. We also recommend the state allocate funding for this study.
Amend Article XII of the Rhode Island Constitution – In 1995 and again in 2011, Rhode Island's State Supreme Court held that Article XII, the Education Article, did not confer education as a right and thus was not subject to Article I's Equal Protection Clause. In her 1995 opinion, Justice Lederberg wrote, "The education clause confers no such right, nor does it guarantee an equal, adequate, meaningful education." We propose to amend Article XII of the Constitution by adding the following: Public education is a fundamental right of all Rhode Island residents. It shall, therefore, be the paramount duty of the general assembly, the department of elementary and secondary education, and other government agencies to provide all Rhode Island residents with equal opportunities to receive an education that is adequate and meaningful to permit them to achieve at high levels and to become lifelong learners, productive workers, and responsible citizens.
Additionally, we recommend the amended Article to be judicially enforceable.
Adopted by the following members of the Long-Term Education Planning Committee:
- Neil Steinberg, President and CEO, Rhode Island Foundation
- Sarah Anderson, Executive Director, Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy
- Mary Barden, Executive Director, National Education Association of Rhode Island
- Kathy Bendheim, Managing Director, National Student Success Accelerator
- Paige Clausius-Parks, Executive Director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
- Dr. Danielle Dennis, Dean, Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies, University of Rhode Island
- Michael DiBiase, President and CEO, Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council
- Dr. Jeannine Dingus-Eason, Dean, Feinstein School of Education and Human Development, Rhode Island College
- Tom DiPaola, Executive Director, Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association
- Tim Duffy, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Committees
- Frank Flynn, President, Rhode Island Federation of Teacher and Healthcare Professionals
- Tom Giordano, Executive Director, Partnership for Rhode Island
- Christopher Graham, Chair, Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce Education Committee
- Carlon Howard, Chief Impact Officer, Equity Institute
- Angélica Infante-Green, Commissioner, Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
- Dolph Johnson, Executive Vice President, Chief Global Human Resources Officer, Hasbro
- Robert Littlefield, Executive Director, Rhode Island Association of School Principals
- Keith Oliveira, Executive Director, Rhode Island League of Charter Schools
- John Papay, Interim Executive Director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform
Reviewing the educator workforce
In 2022, the Rhode Island Foundation collaborated with Bellwether Education Partners to understand the status of Rhode Island’s teacher workforce, including the current policy landscape at the local, state, and national levels; ascertaining where shortages exist, and identifying barriers to entering and staying in the profession. This Executive Summary outlines the five barriers identified to recruiting and retaining educators in Rhode Island and recommends several policies to address them. The full data set collected to inform this summary can be requested by contacting Lisa DiMartino, Senior Strategic Initiative Officer, at (401) 427-4008 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our continuing commitment
Our collective goal of creating a world-class public education system in Rhode Island will be linked, in large part, to the ability of a broad range of stakeholders to remain committed to sustaining the specific priorities and strategies identified in the original Chart a Course, Stay the Course vision.
By committing to creating and maintaining this data dashboard, we are helping to ensure that data remains at the center of the implementation, sustainability, and accountability, and that we remain committed to tracking disparities and ensuring equity is centered in all of our work. This site will be updated annually in the spring with additional updates added as necessary.
The original Chart a Course, Stay the Course document was published in January 2020, and envisioned as a ten-year plan by the Foundation-convened Long Term Education Planning Committee. Stay(ing) the Course is a two-year progress report intended to indicate where we, as a state, are in meeting the priorities, strategies, and suggested next steps that were identified by the Committee, as well as to serve as a call to action for strategic change. In this document, you will find status updates on the priorities and strategies recommended in the original report.
The full Stay(ing) the Course report is available here.