RI Future, the Center for Freedom and Prosperity and now the Providence Journal’s Ed Fitzpatrick all agree on this one: Rhode Island’s library funding formula is way too regressive. This odd trio represents a fairly decent cross-section of the local punditry, and another great reason why the General Assembly should pass Rep. Shelby Maldonado’s and Sen. Betty Crowley’s bill that would help reduce the library funding disparity.
Rhode Island is very generous to libraries in affluent suburban communities and relatively stingy to the libraries in poor urban cities. In fact, the state library funding formula funnels the most state aid per resident to, in order most to least: Barrington, Jamestown, North Kingstown, East Greenwich and Cumberland. The least state aid goes to, in order least to most: Central Falls, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, West Warwick and Providence.
RI Future first reported this in March, 2014. The state funding formula for libraries is so regressive that even the Koch brother-aligned Center for Freedom and Prosperity recognized it needs to be altered in its Spotlight on Spending report last year. The attention inspired Rep. Maldonado and Sen. Crowley, both of Central Falls, to author legislation that would increase state library funding to the poorest cities in the state.
Fitzpatrick joined the chorus in his Sunday column, with an endorsement of Maldonado’s and Crowley’s bill. It is “absolutely a good idea because libraries are especially crucial sources of information and education in poorer communities, where fewer people have the money for laptops or books from Amazon,” he wrote.
It’s worth noting that Central Falls’ library was shuttered when the city went through bankruptcy and at the time the state gave more matching funds to Barrington than it would have cost to keep Central Falls’ library open.