opinion Newport Rhode Island

Local question 5 seems to be dominating this election. We know for certain that question 5 will not be combining school buildings. Newport will have Pell Elementary, Thompson Middle and the new Rogers High School and Middletown will build a new combined elementary school, middle school and high school.

As a voter I want to know more. I would like a more critical eye to be taken by our elected officials, toward evaluating the ramifications of this separate but equal plan. Instead, we are getting a sales pitch that has not looked past what the potential savings could be, especially when even those savings are not guaranteed. Why is it so terrible to want transparency – to know the facts, benefits, and risks before voting? Afterall, this question will be tying Newport and Middletown together educationally and financially for decades. We as a community (elected officials included) should be asking the difficult questions including (but not limited to):  How can we increase educational program offerings with 2 separate schools and not increase costs? How will Middletown invest their money back into this new, combined district when they will be maxed out on their ability to bond? How will the funding be allocated back to the schools with more students or more costly NACTC programs? Why has Newport had more workshops and critical discussions on food trucks and their locations, than we have had on an issue as complex as Question 5?  I am not against regionalization. However, I am against an ill-conceived, rushed, behind-closed-door deal that asks us to put our children’s and taxpayers’ future in the hands of a not yet identified elected school committee and an appointed finance committee.  This is not the regionalization Newport has been asking to study and is the beginning of a slippery slope that has the potential to lead to a segregated school system. Furthermore, history has shown us “separate but equal” does not and ultimately will not work. For these reasons I will be rejecting Question 5.

Mark Muenter, Ph.D., Newport

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