The NEA North Kingstown teachers’ union would like to thank the families, community members and our colleagues in the school department for their support and help with the overnight roll out of distance learning in North Kingstown. The response has been overwhelmingly supportive.
Unfortunately, in recent weeks, NEANK has been accused by Councilwoman Mary Brimer of misrepresenting the facts in an informational email that we sent to members of the community involved in education regarding the Town Council’s lack of funding for NK schools.
The facts are clear. By law, the Town Council can’t decrease the budget from what was allocated to the school department last year. So, for Ms. Brimer to write to the local papers that the school budget was fully funded with a small token increase is deceptive. The School Department asked for $55,855,000 and the Town Council voted to give $53,906,526. The state funding for next year is uncertain at this time.
The Town Council voted Monday, May 4, 2020 in a 3-2 vote to have the School Department use fund balance savings to fund their school budget for next year. In addition, the Town Council voted 3-2 against moving a $400,000 line item from the school department’s capital improvements line to the general budget line. Both of these strategies lower the amount of money that appears for the school department’s “maintenance of effort” for this year while the actual amount spent to educate children is greater. However, when the budget is crafted for 2021-2022, we can only start with the number that the town has for the School Department budget, not what was actually spent. This has caused a structural deficit for the School Department. The Town Council has layered an educational programmatic crisis on top of an economic crisis for our families. During this crisis and beyond, the teachers of North Kingstown will continue to do what we have always done. We will educate and support our students and their families to the best of our ability. We will continue to advocate for our schools in order to maintain the high quality of education that the residents of North Kingstown deserve. We would like to thank Mr. Blasbalg and the rest of the school committee along with Town Council President Mancini and Councilwoman Elliott for doing the same.
The writer is president of NEANK.