opinion Newport Rhode Island

On November 8, I will be voting to reject Question 5. 

For nearly two decades, I have been a proponent of real regionalization between Middletown and Newport public schools. However, the initiative on this year’s ballot is not real regionalization. Real regionalization would result in students from both communities attending the same schools, especially for high school, which is the standard throughout the United States. The proposal currently before Newport and Middletown voters—thrown together behind closed doors in a rushed and haphazard manner—is not real regionalization. 

Not only would approval of Question 5 result in no school unification, but Middletown’s proposed school construction bond of $235 million—if approved along with Question 5 in both communities—would result in Middletown constructing brand-new middle and high schools within the next few years. The result? Rhode Island taxpayers would subsidize an expensive scheme solidifying—in bricks and mortar—educational division between the two communities. With school-age populations steadily declining in both communities during the past 30 years, such an approach makes no sense educationally or economically.

A unified high school would provide a superior education for students from both communities—more Advanced Placement courses and better opportunities in the arts, athletics, and clubs, while combining the best in college prep and vocational instruction under one roof. 

“But this is our one last shot!” some have argued. In 2019, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and state leaders told Newporters that bond reimbursement money then on the table was a “once-in-lifetime” opportunity for all school districts statewide. Yet in 2022, just a few years later, RIDE and state legislators were ready to make a deal.

If Question 5 is rejected on November 8, officials from the State will be ready to revisit the issue beginning November 9.

Timothy Neary, Newport

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