Planning ahead is important, but the future is hard to predict. Who would have thought that education in 2020 would have resulted in:
- Buildings being shut for months;
- Kids learning at home on laptops;
- School buses being mothballed;
- Teachers working online at home; and
- Business and social events done virtually?
Chariho is not a community. It is a regional school district made up of three towns from which it gained its name. It lacks the neighborhood feel of many of the villages in the area. However, it does depend on taxpayer support, and it was formed as a result of a state incentive. Rather than bus secondary students to the neighboring towns of Westerly and South Kingstown, residents, lured by a financial carrot, wrote a charter and built their own complex. Other financial, state-sponsored incentives created further additions, including its vocational-technical school and its RISE program.
State revenue for education is critical to funding our schools. However, too often we have counted our chickens before they’ve hatched. As a result, taxpayers have been left to dig deep in their pockets to make up for broken promises and mandates.
- The regionalization bonus comes and goes.
- Transportation subsidies fluctuate.
- The only single, state-sponsored vocational school located in southern Rhode Island has morphed to become a competitively operated facility with the ultimate funding source being the Chariho taxpayers.
- The costs of programs for special needs students is a complex web of local, state and federal revenue that is unpredictable.
Change is certain. Its outcomes are uncertain. Our vision for education in the future — be it this September or 50 years from now — is hazy, at best. We know what we have, we know how to adapt, we know commitments can be violated, we know we can’t count our chickens before they hatch. Critical transition periods, like today, are times to pause not to plan. The bird we have in our hands is often better than the one in the bush.