Thornton buoyed by poll showing support for school repair bonds
While not a survey specific to Warwick schools, Superintendent Phil Thornton is encouraged by the recently released poll by the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University showing Rhode Islanders support the governor’s proposed $250 million state bond issue for public school repair and construction.
Conducted by Fleming & Associates of Cumberland at a cost of more than $9,000 between Feb. 12 and Feb. 15, 2018, the telephone poll surveyed 422 registered voters, including 122 respondents with children in local schools. It found that, in addition to 65 percent support for the statewide bond, voters give public schools a passing grade.
“The public opinion poll conducted by the Hassenfeld Institute reinforces the real need to make repairs and upgrades to our schools,” Thornton said in an email. “Two-thirds of the people surveyed favor the governor’s bond proposal and respondents also identified school facility conditions as the highest priority among a ranking of issues facing School Committees.”
Last year, the Warwick School Committee advanced a proposal for an $85 million Warwick bond to upgrade school buildings over the next five years. The bond would have addressed a plethora of issues, from the replacement of boilers and new roofs to improved security systems, lighting, doors and fire alarm systems.
After visits to all school buildings and numerous meetings, the City Council approved a reduced $40 million bond on the eve of the Feb. 1 deadline for schools to submit its request to the Rhode Island Department of Education. Depending on voter approval of the statewide bond and projects the city would complete, Warwick could be eligible for a 50 percent reimbursement from the state.
Warwick’s application is now under review by RIDE.
In order for the Warwick bond to appear on the ballot it will require General Assembly approval.
House Majority Leader and Warwick Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi said Tuesday he sees no reason, since it received unanimous council support, that the bond would not gain legislative approval. He said that once the council resolution has been transmitted to the General Assembly it would be given a hearing before the House Municipal Government Committee.
The survey addressed a variety of issues relating to Rhode Island’s K-12 school system and has a margin of error of 4.77 percent. The principle findings of the survey include:
- The majority of people surveyed gave Rhode Island’s public schools a passing grade, with 33 percent giving the school system an “A” or a “B,” and 35 percent rating the schools a “C.” The schools fared significantly better among respondents with children currently enrolled in school; 60 percent of this group rated the schools an “A” or a “B.”
- A slight majority (53 percent) of voters believe that public schools in their community prepare students for success in college.
- Nearly two-thirds of people surveyed (65 percent) said they favored the Governor’s $250 million bond proposal for public school repair and construction throughout the state over the next five years.
- More than 40 percent of survey participants called the condition of school facilities a “great” problem. Almost 30 percent rated parent-school communications as a “great” problem, and 24 percent described the adequacy of state financial support for schools in their community as a “great” problem.
- More than 93 percent of voters said the need for STEM classes (science, technology, engineering and math) was “extremely” or “very” important. Likewise, 87 percent said it was “extremely” or “very” important to have computer technology that would prepare students for careers. More than 79 percent felt art and music classes were “extremely” or “very” important, while 67 percent said the need for advanced academic classes was “extremely” or “very” important.