The Newport City Council voted 5 – 2 this evening to approve sending a request to the General Assembly to enact legislation authorizing the City of Newport and the Town of Middletown to establish a regional school district.
In Middletown tonight, Middletown Town Council was also considering several resolutions around regionalization.
The Town Council voted unanimously to take the next step towards regionalizing schools with Newport and a $235 million bond for all new Middletown schools.
Now that both councils have approved, that will mean the legislature will be asked to authorize the regionalization referendum in November. That request had to be submitted to the legislature before it recesses sometime in June.
What it doesn’t mean, is that a regionalization proposal will be complete, Newport Mayor Jeanne Marie Napolitano told What’sUpNewp’s Frank Prosnitz last week.
“This is an important first step,” Napolitano said then. “We don’t have all the details. What is before us is the document to send to the legislature seeking authorization to include the question on the ballot”.
She said over the next several weeks an impressive team will be working on what will be the final regionalization plan. That group includes officials from both communities, including lawyers, plus the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University.
What Was Approved
At tonight’s Special Meeting, Newport City Council voted 5 – 2 to approve “Action Item #6073/22, re: Regional School District – Ballot Authorization (w/accompanying resolution)”
Councilor Bova and Councilor McCalla voted against the resolution. Councilor Bova and McCalla explain their reasoning for voting against beginning at 58:30 below.
Middletown had previously rejected a regionalization proposal but apparently reversed its stance once the town’s school building committee proposed a $90 million school improvement bond. That plan was rejected by the council.
Newport, meanwhile, is in the midst of its school reconstruction project, an addition to Pell Elementary School, which is underway, and a new high school, with groundbreaking within a few weeks. Newport voters approved a $106 million school construction bond in 2020.
If voters approve regionalization, it will mean millions of dollars in savings for the local communities, lifting the state reimbursement up to 80 percent. Communities are only guaranteed 35 percent reimbursement, with additional funds available for reaching certain incentives. But without regionalization, that number would likely be no more than 52 percent. In real dollars, for Newport, the difference between 52 percent state reimbursement and 80 percent, is roughly $30 million.
Additionally, Mayor Napolitano and Newport School Superintendant Colleen Burns Jermain have said during interviews with What’sUpNewp that regionalization would likely offer more opportunities for students.
Watch Newport City Council Special Meeting
This story is developing, further updates to come.