opinion Newport Rhode Island

Submitted by Chip Leakas, Treasurer, Citizens Exploring School Unification

Last fall, our organization collected approximately 1,000 petition signatures which were presented to the Middletown Town Council at the December 2nd council meeting. The petition stated; “The Middletown Town Council DECLINED to explore potential educational, extracurricular and financial benefits of Middletown and Newport school unification. We the undersigned respectfully ask the Middletown Town Council to reconsider its decision and authorize comprehensive, non-binding discussions of school unification.” 

At the December 2nd council meeting the council remained unconvinced, and the discussion was brief. The council’s response was a suggestion for CESU to present our data, research, evidence and rationale on the many benefits of school regionalization to the Middletown School Committee. CESU leadership is scheduled to present this information to the Middletown School Committee on January 23rd.  This same presentation will be offered to the Newport School Committee as soon as we can schedule with their committee.

CESU members will be taking their initiative directly to Middletown voters in a 2020 ballot referendum or “citizens referendum”, which would require a petition signed by 10 percent of Middletown registered voters confirmed by the respective town and city clerks.

Direct Democracy? What is a “citizens referendum” (also known as a “ballot initiative”) and how does that work? 

The ballot initiative is a means by which a petition signed by a certain minimum number of registered voters can bring about a public vote on a proposed statute or constitutional amendment – or in the case of Middletown, an ordinance. Ballot initiatives are also called, depending on the state, popular initiative, voter initiative, citizen initiative or, simply, initiative.


SEE Article IV.  Initiative and Referendum. Sec. 401.

Why is CESU going down this path?

First: We collected approximately 1,000 petition signatures of concerned Middletown residents in the fall of 2019 demonstrating that there is significant genuine public interest in learning more about regionalization, unification, and collaboration of school systems and districts in our area.

Second: Middletown Council representatives are elected to represent the interests of voters and residents. Some council (not all) have stubbornly refused to acknowledge community input and interest on gathering more facts to determine the suitability, viability, and feasibility of school regionalization.

Third: The next codified procedural step for Citizens Exploring School Unification is the “citizens referendum” which would authorize direct placement of this citizens referendum on the LOCAL ballot in the general election November 3rd as follows. 

A PETITION of Middletown, Rhode Island Residents
We the undersigned voters request the Town Council, under Section 401 of the
Middletown Town Charter, to adopt the following ordinance:
Middletown should join with Newport to appoint a Joint Committee to develop a plan for school district unification in accordance with RI General Laws, Chapter 16-3-5.
(Approval of School District Unification would require a Special Election in November 2021.)

Fourth: Direct Democracy in our local government provides the “citizens referendum” as a mechanism to go direct to the people with a new ordinance and bypass the Middletown Town Council for a VOTE! 

We really need your help! If you are interested in volunteering, canvassing, campaigning, fund-raising, hosting events, or supporting CESU – please visit our website to learn more! http://cesu.news  We have created a comprehensive news archive of important relevant news stories along with other important research, reports, studies, and data to help parents, families, residents and voters learn more! We are organizing many public events to sign the petition. Canvassers will be going door to door! Please look for important announcements regarding these events and activities.

Community Submission

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