RI Families, Teachers Rally in Support of School Choice

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Students, parents and teachers gathered at the State House on Thursday to show their support for school choice as well as showcase different education options around Rhode Island.

The event, organized as part of National School Choice Week, featured representatives from private, charter, Catholic and Hebrew schools, who highlighted their work both inside and outside the classroom.

While a number of the state’s public school districts are underperforming — including the capital city’s — advocacy group Rhode Island Families for School Choice says parents should be able to choose a school that best suits their child’s needs. However, how it would be paid for is an issue at hand.

“We are here because we want to show members of the General Assembly that parents truly do want educational choice and opportunities for all types of students here in the state of Rhode Island,” Ed Bastia of Rhode Island Families for School Choice said.

Bastia explained that if a parent lives in an area with an underperforming school and they don’t have the financial means to send their children to private school, they should have options to do so.

“They know what their child needs and they should be able to choose a school that best serves their child’s education and allows them to learn in the best way they can,” said Sheila Konis of Rhode Island Families for School Choice.

According to Bastia, families would benefit from the expansion of a tax credit scholarship program currently in place, but he says the funding cap is problematic.

“We feel the parents are the primary educators and they really do know best,” he said. “Like they do with other schools like college selection, there should be some kind of input from the parent as to what schools they go through from K–12.”

State Sen. Ryan Pearson, who’s on the task force that’s studying the education funding formula, says finding ways to close funding gaps in school districts across Rhode Island needs to be prioritized. He also said he doesn’t think it’s realistic — at least in the near future — to provide more funding for school choice programs.

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