To the Editor:
Many Warwick families are extremely disheartened by Warwick Representatives’ (Shanley, McNamara, Solomon, and Vella-Wilkinson) sponsorship of H 5266. This bill seeks to preserve the choice of out-of-district students to attend Warwick’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, while ending Warwick students’ ability to attend a CTE program of their choice.
Warwick School’s FY19 budget projects “Tuition from Other LEAs” to generate $1,220,000 in revenue and “Tuition – Other Dist w/in St” to generate an expense of $1,029,249. Warwick Superintendent Thornton represents that the district is losing $1.4 million to out of district tuition for CTE but fails to mention the net gain for Warwick. Further, he misrepresents the CTE programs available within Warwick and the true reason some students are selecting out-of-district CTE programs.
Much of the out-of-district tuition revenue Warwick receives (if not all) is for students outside of Warwick to select one of the well-respected WACTC programs. However, these WACTC programs, the only CTE options available in Warwick, are structured for a very specific segment of the student population, and do not allow students planning to attend four-year colleges after graduation to pursue a CTE education during high school. In 2015 SMMA Consultants recommended the establishment of ‘academies’ as a part of high school consolidation to fill this void and despite this recommendation and constant pleas from parents and students, Warwick was not able and/or willing to provide CTE programs to students planning to attend four-year colleges.
Other districts in Rhode Island, such as neighboring Cranston and North Kingstown, have developed CTE programs that integrate a rigorous a four-year college preparatory program with a CTE education. In fact, many of Cranston’s and North Kingstown’s top students graduate from their CTE programs and go on to attend prestigious colleges throughout the Unites States that require a rigorous high school honors and AP curriculum and view CTE program completion as a competitive advantage for acceptance and success.
The General Assembly and RIDE, understanding and embracing the benefits of a CTE education and recognizing the limited ability of some districts to provide all of the expanding opportunities in CTE education, have created law and policy to allow every student in Rhode Island to select the CTE program that best suits their individual goals and interests. H 5266 seeks to end that opportunity, particularly for Warwick students. In essence, this bill seeks to keep the door open to out-of-district students wishing to attend a WACTC program that fits their needs, while closing the door to Warwick students seeking a CTE program that combines their goals and interests.
Warwick families are grateful that Representative Shanley has agreed to meet with them and others to gain a better understanding of the varying CTE opportunities available within the Warwick system and other districts. Hopefully he, and the other Warwick Representatives will reconsider H 5266 and any future bills that limit CTE opportunities for our children, particularly ones that disproportionately discriminate against the Warwick students they represent.
Jennifer Shuster Mann