September 24, 2014
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My take on the news
Why city administrators would be better suited to run school finances
Lonnie Barham

USING FEDERAL SCHOOL FUNDS FOR ADULT EDUCATION: In his inaugural address, Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian proposed that the Warwick School Department use its federal funds to finance tuition for Warwick adults to attend CCRI. The Mayor's proposal shows he has little understanding of school financing and the onerous rules that control how federal funds are spent. Most federal funding comes from the Title I program that dictates all funds must be used for schools, mostly elementary, with large percentages of students who hail from homes with near poverty-level family incomes. Using these funds for other purposes, even for other elementary schools, is strictly prohibited and illegal. Even if the meager federal funds intended for districts to provide adult GED instruction and testing could be used for other purposes, to include adult tuition at a community college, Warwick schools cannot afford to fund such a program when schools are deteriorating and many classrooms still lack the resources required for successful learning.
The Mayor's misunderstanding of school department financing is not unusual for a mayor in Rhode Island where city leaders have no control over school spending. It's just more justification for the General Assembly to eliminate school committees and require mayors, municipal managers and city/town councils to oversee schools just as they do other municipal departments. Leaders who control school funding would then also control school spending and would become stakeholders in our children’s education. Not only would city leaders then be required to understand school finances, they would be far more likely to ensure proper school funding - thus increasing the likelihood of student success.

A SENSIBLE SUGGESTION FROM AN ANTI-GUN RADICAL: Bob Kerr, the narrow-minded Providence Journal columnist whose stance on gun control is so far to the left he is in danger of falling off the political precipice, has repeated a suggestion made by a retired military officer to a Boston Globe columnist – require those seeking to purchase guns to provide evidence of liability insurance before they can buy a weapon. It would function much like automobile liability insurance. Insurance for higher risk guns would be more expensive, thus acting to limit their purchase. It will cause gun owners to better protect their guns from theft and accidental misuse, and will ensure taxpayers don't have to foot the bill for medical bills and other costs related to misuse of guns. Although his column made ludicrous satire of law-abiding citizens who own guns, Kerr at least included this reasonable suggestion at the end of his diatribe. It's unfortunate, but most gun owners probably didn't read it since most rational readers avoid Kerr's childishly offensive rhetoric.

BISHOP TOBIN ON RIGHTS: Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin portrays himself to be a firm advocate of religious rights and freedom. He recognizes and strongly supports the U.S. Constitution’s edict that the government cannot force citizens to practice a specific religion or prohibit them from practicing the religion of their choice, though he would be much happier if the government coerced non-believing citizens to listen to prayers and to be exposed to unavoidable religious banners. The bishop’s limited belief in citizen’s constitutional rights seems to stop, however, at the church’s doorstep. He is adamantly opposed to marital union between some law-abiding citizens, and opposed to the constitutional right of equal protection under the law that such unions ensure, when those seeking marriage happen to be loving couples of the same sex. The good bishop has also indicated that he is opposed to the constitutional right for Americans to bear arms since, in his mind, legislators should “…severely limit the number and nature of guns available to the general public.” As usual, Bishop Tobin is extremely selective in the constitutional rights he supports. Anyone who fails to support even one constitutional right has no authority to preach adherence to another constitutional right. It’s pure hypocrisy and Bishop Tobin and his entire diocese should recognize it for what it is.

A BAD PROPOSAL: Providence Housing Judge Jorge Elorza has proposed the General Assembly pass new legislation aimed at banks to force them to fix and maintain abandoned properties that are undergoing foreclosure. Heavy fines would accumulate and would be passed on to new owners of these properties. Banks are not in the real estate investment and property management business. If a bank knows it will be saddled with such heavy fines and home maintenance responsibilities after a borrower stops paying his mortgage and abandons his property, they will refuse to lend to applicants in cities like Providence. And, if fines and penalties transfer to new property owners, no one will buy any of the foreclosed properties.

MASTER LEVER MUST GO: When the governor, 37 legislators, Common Cause Rhode Island, Operation Clean Government, and loads of citizens – Democrat, Republican and Moderate – all support ridding Rhode Island ballots of the onerous and confusing master lever, it's high time self-serving legislative leaders get on board with it. The two dinosaurs who still apparently support the master lever are House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed. Kudos to Moderate Party founder Ken Block and the two clean government organizations mentioned for conducting an exhaustive analysis of the master lever problem that proved it misleads many voters and causes many races, especially school committee races, to be overlooked by voters. Every reasonable Rhode Island voter should visit the website www.masterlever.org to determine which legislators refuse to support elimination of the master lever and, while there, sign the petition that encourages legislators to support sending this archaic political tool to the dust bin. After all, with Republicans almost an extinct species in Rhode Island, the dominant party advantage the master lever was designed to maintain will remain alive and well without the master lever.

FILIBUSTER CLARIFICATION: Last week’s column spoke of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s opposition to the current U.S. Senate filibuster rule that requires a “super majority” of 60 senators to pass a bill when the rule has been invoked. The column mentioned that “Whitehouse wants a simple majority, 51 of 100 senators, to always rule.” The Senator’s office has pointed out that Whitehouse doesn’t want to get rid of the filibuster outright, as that part of the article implied. He does, however, want to return to a filibuster procedure that will destroy the filibuster as it has been practiced by both parties. He wants a filibustering senator to have to talk on the senate floor for hours, days or months to prevent a simple majority from passing a controversial bill, or until 60 senators vote cloture to end the filibuster. Both parties long ago agreed to abandon this practice since it interfered greatly with Senate functioning and was not as effective as the current practice in which the Senate switches to other bills when a filibuster is invoked. Senator Whitehouse seems quite cavalier about those times when an act authorized by a simple majority is inimical to the best interests of the American people. The requirement for a super majority of 60 senators to pass bills on very divisive issues ensures the voice of the minority party is heard and remains best for our country.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: As reported in last Sunday's Providence Journal, Republican State Senator Dawson Hodgson gave the most logical rationale for supporting gay marriage in Rhode Island, "I was raised to believe that every American is equal under the Constitution and every human is equal under God. Marriage is a collection of rights, benefits and privileges, and when the government confers those rights on any two individuals, they have to be available to any two individuals under the law. We don't have the obligation or the role to make people feel good, and we can't legislate tolerance. But we can guarantee every American is protected equally under the law. " Well said!


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