Public education in Rhode Island

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K-12 Education in Rhode Island
State Superintendent: Deborah Gist
Number of students: 142,854[1]
Number of teachers: 11,414
Teacher/pupil ratio: 1:12.5
Number of school districts: 54
Number of schools: 308
Graduation rate: 77%[2]
Per-pupil spending: $13,815[3]
See also
Public education in Rhode Island
Rhode Island Department of Education
Rhode Island school districts
List of school districts in Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The Rhode Island public school system (prekindergarten-grade 12) operates within districts governed by locally elected school boards members and superintendents. Rhode Island has 46 school districts.

The Rhode Island state constitution requires that the state "promote public schools and public libraries, and to adopt all means which it may deem necessary and proper to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education and public library services."[4]

School revenues, expenditures and budget

See also: Rhode Island state budget
Rhode Island's education costs are 27% of the state budget

For FY 2010, Gov. Donald Carcieri recommended a total budget of $7.615 billion.[5] The governor recommended a total education budget of $2.071 billion. Of the total education budget $1.093 billion will be directed towards the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The education comprises of approximately 4 different revenue sources:$1.049 billion from general revenue, $306.6 million from federal funds, $8.7 million from restricted receipts, and $706.7 million from other funds. In the state of Rhode Island general revenue accounts for 50% of total education funding, 14.8% is generated via federal funds. Federal stimulus funds will account for $92.2 million of the total budget.[6]

The cost per pupil is $13,539, the 8th highest the nation according the Census Bureau 2007-2008 report.[7]

Personnel salaries

In 2009 just days before the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year thirteen school districts and two state-run schools did not have new teacher contracts filed. Schools without new teacher contracts included:Burrillville, Chariho, Cumberland, East Greenwich, East Providence, Ponaganset, Glocester, Middletown, North Providence, North Smithfield, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Westerly, Davies Career and Tech and the Rhode Island School for the Deaf.[8]

According to the Rhode Island Department of Education the average beginning teacher salary in the 2008-2009 school year was $38,232. The average maximum teacher salary was reported at $70,221.[9]

Performance-based pay

In September 2009 the East Providence School Department proposed to pay teachers based on performance instead of seniority, however, the East Providence Teachers Union rejected the proposal. According to reports, teachers in the district have been working without a contract for more than year.[10]

Role of unions

The main unions related to the Rhode Island school system are Rhode Island Federation of Teachers (RIFT) and NEA Rhode Island (NEARI), an affliate of the National Education Association (NEA). NEARI is the largest education association in the state. For the 2003 tax period NEARI had: $3.49 million in total revenue, $3.22 million in total expenses and $4.45 million in total assets.[11] RIFT had: $1.96 million in total revenue, $1.81 million in total expenses and $727,960 in total assets.[12]

List of local Rhode Island school unions:[13]

Role of school boards

The State Board of Education is the main policy-setting body that oversees elementary and secondary education in the state.[14] The board was originally established in 1870. The board consists of a total of 11 members - 8 board members appointed by the governor, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, the chairman of the Board of Governor for Higher Education and the Chairman of the House Finance Committee.[15] Every month, on the second and fourth Thursday, the board holds meetings that are open the public.[14]

The board's powers and duties include:[15]

  • approving the master plan, adopting standards for elementary and secondary education
  • adopting standards for the certification of teachers
  • determining how to coordinate and adopt various educational requirements
  • presenting the state budget officer a total educational budget for elementary and secondary schools, boards and individual education agencies
  • creating and/or dissolving any necessary agencies or subcommittees
  • approving subjects and courses of study
  • making recommendations regarding transportation

Taxpayer-funded lobbying

See also: Rhode Island government sector lobbying

The main education government sector lobbying organization is the Rhode Island Association of School Committees.


The State of Rhode Island maintains its own Transparency Portal, which contains links to the FY 2009 financial records and personnel statements of fifteen government departments. In relation to education, Department of Education offers information on projects, teacher pensions, scholarships, loans and grants.


A 2009 study, Leaders and Laggards, conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for a Competitive Workplace, Frederick M. Hess of the conservative American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, and the Center for American Progress, gave Rhode Island: "D" in academic achievement; "B" in truth in advertising about student proficiency; "D" in rigor of standards; "D" in post-secondary and workforce readiness; "D" in for its teacher workforce policies; "C" in data quality.[16]


  • In August 2009, Keith Kenyon, a North Kingstown Schools athletic director, resigned in the middle of an audit into school funds under his control. In early August, shortly after preliminary audit findings were released Kenyon was placed on administrative leave. Of the audit Kenyon said,"At this time, I’m unaware of any intentional wrongdoing on my part...However, if the future of this process reveals any shortcomings by me, I assure you I will take all reasonable steps to address and correct any findings which would suggest improper personal benefit to me."[17]
    • The audit was commissioned after the February arrest of a booster club board member for embezzling. School officials said the February incident "did bring to light some of the historic concerns that have always existed" about the handling of the school accounts.[17]
  • In February 2009, Nyles Kruger, a booster club board member, was arrested by state police for crimes including embezzling. Prior to the arrest Kruger was charged with passing fraudulent checks. Kruger resigned from the board and paid $4,500.[17]

Academic performance

The charts below detail the number of schools that made and did not make the (Adequate Yearly Progress) AYP in the 2008-2009 school year. AYP is used by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program to determine the academic performance of schools.

Public schools

A total of 55 schools did not meet AYP goals in the 2008-2009 school year.[18]

Below are the results from 2008-2009 AYP testing for grades 3 through 8. The chart reveals the percentage of students that met AYP goals.[19] To see results, click on "Show."

Charter schools

According to AYP standards, below is a list of charter schools and their progress as of the 2008-2009 school year.[20] To see results, click on "Show."

State Budget Solutions’ Education Study: “Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working”

State Budget Solutions’ examined national trends in education from 2009-2011, including state-by-state analysis of education spending, graduation rates, and average ACT scores. The study shows that states that spend the most do not have the highest average ACT test scores, nor do they have the highest average graduation rates. A summary of the study is available here. Download the full report here: Throwing Money At Education Isn’t Working.

See National Chart to compare data from all 50 states.

State Spending on Education vs. Academic Performance 2012

State 2011 Total Spending[21] 2011 Education Spending[22] 2011 Percent Education Spending 2012 Total Spending[23] 2012 Education Spending[24] 2012 Percent Education Spending 2010 Avg. ACT score[25] 2011 Avg. ACT score[26] 2012 Avg. ACT score[27] 2010 Graduation Rate[28] 2011 Graduation Rate[29]
Rhode Island $11.4 billion $3.1 billion 27.1% $11.5 billion $3.2 billion 27.8% 22.8 23.0 22.9 78.4% 76.4%

School choice

School choice options include:

  • Charter schools: are public schools that are independently operated. Although, charter schools are funded by local public school districts, they offer different programs and curriculum.[30] Legislation was first accepted by the General Assembly in 1995 and later amended in 1998.[31]
  • Public school open enrollment: in Rhode Island, the state has a voluntary, inter-district open enrollment policy. In other words, students are permitted to enroll in any alternative district in the state.[32]
  • Online learning: the state of Rhode Island does not have a state-led online learning programs. Some of the state's high schools do however participate in the Virtual High School Global Consortium.[32]

External links


  1. National Center for Education Statistics, "Table 2. Number of operating public schools and districts, state enrollment, teacher and pupil/teacher ratio by state: School year 2011–12," accessed March 18, 2014
  2. ED Data Express, "State Tables Report," accessed March 17, 2014 The site includes this disclaimer: "States converted to an adjusted cohort graduation rate [starting in the 2010-2011 school year], which may or may not be the same as the calculation they used in prior years. Due to the potential differences, caution should be used when comparing graduation rates across states."
  3. United States Census Bureau, "Public Education Finances: 2011," accessed March 18, 2014
  4. Rhode Island Constitution,"Article XII, Section 1," retrieved September 17, 2009
  5. Rhode Island Budget,"FY 2010 Recommended Budget," retrieved September 17, 2009<
  6. Rhode Island Budget,"FY 2010 Recommended Budget - Education," retrieved September 17, 2009
  7. Maine Watchdog, Education Spending Per Child, July 6, 2010
  8. The Providence Journal,"15 teacher contracts remain unresolved in R.I.," August 23, 2009
  9. Rhode Island Department of Education,"Rhode Island Teacher Salaries 2008-2009," retrieved September 17, 2009
  10. WPRI,"Teachers reject performance-based pay," September 16, 2009
  11. Center for Union Facts,"NEA Rhode Island," retrieved September 16, 2009
  12. Center for Union Facts,"Rhode Island Federation of Teachers," retrieved September 16, 2009
  13. Center for Union Facts,"State of Rhode Island," retrieved September 16, 2009
  14. 14.0 14.1 Rhode Island Department of Education,"Board of Regents," retrieved September 17, 2009
  15. 15.0 15.1 Rhode Island Department of Education,"Board of Regents - powers and duties," retrieved September 17, 2009
  16. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute,"Rhode Island Education Report Card," retrieved November 17, 2009
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 The Providence Journal,"N. Kingstown athletic director resigns during audit," August 26, 2009
  18. Rhode Island Department of Education,"List of Schools Not Making AYP," retrieved September 17, 2009
  19. Rhode Island Department of Education,"2008-09 NECAP Preliminary Results (Grades 03 - 08) Percent of Students At/Above Proficient by District," retrieved September 17, 2009
  20. Rhode Island Department of Education,"2009 Multi-year Reports for Charter Schools," retrieved September 17, 2009
  21. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  22. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  23. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Total Spending" Aug. 4, 2012
  24. "Alabama Government Spending Chart - Education Spending"Aug. 4, 2012
  25. 2010 ACT National and State Scores "Average Scores by State"
  26. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  27. [ 2011 ACT National and State Scores " Average Scores by State"]
  28. National Center for Education Statistics
  29. National Center for Education Statistics
  30. Rhode Island Department of Education,"Charter Schools," retrieved September 17, 2009
  31. Rhode Island Department of Education,"Charter Public School Act of RI," retrieved September 17, 2009
  32. 32.0 32.1 The Heritage Foundation,"School Choice in Rhode Island," retrieved September 16, 2009