opinion Newport Rhode Island

 am writing in opposition to ballot question 5 in Newport proposing that Newport and Middletown merge our school committees and create a new finance committee.  My views in this letter are supported by my close following of this proposal since the spring, and are informed by my experiences as a Rogers graduate, a current parent of a kindergartener in Newport Public Schools, my professional experience in finance, and my educational experience with an MBA and an undergraduate degree in education policy.

This proposal is NOT “real regionalization.”  The proposal, together with the proposed school bond in Middletown, is that there will be two separate high schools in Newport and Middletown, and approving this ballot question locks the communities into a long-term plan to keep the schools separate.  Middletown’s plan is to use their proposed bond to build a new high school, new middle school and new elementary school.  No other regional district in RI or Massachusetts has two separate high schools.

Since the plan is for this awkward two high school setup, the idea of creating meaningful operating savings has been challenged by members of both school committees.  There has been no exercise conducted to place Newport and Middletown’s school budgets side by side to analyze the impact of this merger and show meaningful operating savings.

The only reason to vote for this plan is because of the incentives offered by the state.  However, there is no specific plan or clarity available as to whether the additional state money will be used to reduce taxpayer burden or will somehow be directed to benefit the school budget. Anyone who states that there is certainty in either community as to where the state reimbursement would be directed is misrepresenting the facts.  Voters deserve a plan that is not half-baked, and preferably one that is more equally beneficial to Newport and not so obviously a bail out for the Middletown Town Council / administrator’s unfortunate failure to appropriately plan for their schools’ capital needs.  

Penelope Billington Hunt, Newport resident

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