The Politics of Education
[I]t shall be the duty of the general assembly to 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.
Article XII, section 1, Rhode Island Constitution
I don't blame the teachers and the teachers unions for all the wrongs in the public schools…. I do blame them for refusing to be part of the solution.
House Majority Leader George Caroulo, during a 1998 floor debate on charter schools
Elementary and secondary education is a vital service. 1 Though most education concerns have traditionally focused on local communities, as the link between the quality of public education and a growing technological economy becomes clearer, policymakers, educators, and politicians statewide are working toward reform. Education policy is one of the critical issues facing the state, and the intersection between state and local politics make it an ideal policy case.
The core issues relate to promoting a quality education for all public school students, grappling with the escalating costs of public education, and monitoring problems related to education standards and performance. Significant obstacles include an over-reliance on local property taxes for funding, bureaucratic inertia related to the strong Rhode Island tradition of local control and accountability, and personnel and policy mandates promoted by the powerful teachers unions. Reforms initiated in the late 1990s, however, suggest that policies and priorities—increasingly mandated by state government—have the potential to produce a more effective system.