On Tuesday, July 14th, South Kingstown will hold  a referendum on the School Budget.

Voters will be asked to vote yes on one of two questions:

Do you support the budget as recommended by the Town Council?

or

Do you support the petition to cut 1.2 million dollars from the budget?

The school budget has been designed to close equity gaps in learning which exist in 3 of SK’s 5 schools. These gaps are most prevalent between Special Education and General Education students.  These gaps also exist between white and multi-racial students.  It is a mandate from the Rhode Island Department of Education to close these learning gaps.

South Kingstown has piloted a program (co-teaching) in the past fiscal year to close these gaps in a first grade classroom. The results were extremely positive. In addition, research clearly indicates that closing these gaps in grades K-2 improves learning for students in higher grades and decreases over time the need for special education for some students. The budget calls for an expansion of co-teaching.

The concern among those who sponsored the petition for a referendum is 1.1 million dollars initially authorized for the school department to spend this year.  The money designated for transportation was not spent since all instruction was done virtually while students remained at home during the first stages of the pandemic.

The School Department returned the s1.1 million dollars to the town. The Town Council has reallocate it to the 20-21 school budget.

If the effort to reduce the budget is successful the school department has identified the areas to be cut:

  • co-teaching ($227,126)
  • curriculum development ($20,400)
  • social emotional learning and health ($154,187)
  • strengthening Professional Learning Communities ($25, 320)
  • growing STEM – science, technology, engineering, mathematics – ($208,700)
  • language and culture – dual language program – ($300, 906)
  • facilities and maintenance – ($11,000)

Also noteworthy are these two facts:

  • the 20-21 budget reflects a .76% increase over the past year.
  • the town experienced a decrease in state aide of !3.22% ($692,337)
  • nearly all the items that would be cut include staff which directly impacts students

Both choices on the referendum are tax neutral. The budget as presented by the School Committee and the Town Council does not require a tax increase. Opponents argue that the town’s returning the 1.1 million to the school department will increase the bottom line of the budget and may cause a tax increase in future years.  However, even if the proposed cut passes there will be no tax decrease this year.

The programs being cut would disproportionately affect the district’s ability to close the equity gaps between Special Education and General Education students, as well as white and multi racial students. This cut will impact programs that currently exist in the district and affect all students.

Plan to vote. Follow this link if you wish to have a mail ballot.

https://southkingstownri.com/DocumentCenter/View/4476/Emergency-Ballot-Application-for-July-

To vote by mail you must complete an Emergency Ballot Application and mail or deliver the application to the Town Hall, 180 High Street, Wakefield, RI 02879. Ballots will be mailed to persons who complete an Emergency Ballot Application, unless the ballot is received in person. Voted Emergency Ballots must be returned by mail or in person to the Board of Canvassers at Town Hall no later than Monday, July 13, 2020 at 4pm. 

Qualified electors may vote by Emergency Ballot in person at the Town Hall no later than Monday, July 13, 2020 at 4pm. Please call 789-9331, extension 1230 for an appointment.

The Budget Referenda will be held at the Community Recreation Center, 30 St. Dominic Road, Wakefield on Tuesday, July 14, 2020 from 8am to 8pm.

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