“There’s a lot of legal steps that we would have to go through” before the state department of education would take control of the school system in Woonsocket, said RIDE spokesman Elliot Krieger this morning.
“There has to be a determination that there is a fiscal crisis,” he said. “We would not be the agency to do that.”
Krieger added, “It’s a pretty extreme step. But the state has gone that route before.”
In the early 1990’s, responding a fiscal crisis in the Central Falls school system, the legislature passed a law that allowed for the department of education to take over funding and management of the schools there. In that instance, Central Falls – like Woonosocket did last night – asked the state for help.
Below is the state law that would determine how – and if – a state take over would happen. It says a school committee “may … request the department of elementary and secondary education to assume the supervision, control, and management of the public schools. Upon receiving the request the department, if it is satisfied that the request is warranted and that the best interests of the public schools would be served, may assume supervision, control, and management.”
16-1-10 Assumption of control of city or town schools by department – School lunch program. – (a) The school committee of any city or town in which the taxable property is not adequate, at the average rate of taxation for public school support throughout the state, to provide with the money that may be apportioned from the general treasury an amount sufficient to provide and maintain public schools of a high standard, may at a regular meeting held before the first day of July in any year request the department of elementary and secondary education to assume the supervision, control, and management of the public schools of the city or town for the ensuing year; provided that the city or town has appropriated for the support of public schools for the year a sum equivalent to thirty cents (30¢) on each one hundred dollars ($100) of the assessed valuation of the city or town. Upon receiving the request the department, if it is satisfied that the request is warranted and that the best interests of the public schools would be served, may assume supervision, control, and management.
Krieger said Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has been in touch with Woonsocket officials and RIDE’s finance director has spoken with the state-appointed budget commission.
“There are other things we can do to provide help and assistance,” Krieger said, “like helping to design a budget. It’s not like there is a pot of money but we do have some expertise and technical support.”