2014-02-07 / Opinion

School Committee Accountability

To the Editor:

In consideration of the fact that the Charter Review Commission of the City of Newport has been formed, has been meeting, and has called for citizen input, the Newport Democratic City Committee (NDCC) offers the following statement:

Elected School Committee vs. Appointed School Committee: NDCC strongly supports an elected School Committee. Education is likely the most important item in a municipal budget. Most people recognize and determine the vitality and desirability of a community as a place to live and work based on the quality of its school system. In making decisions on moving to or remaining in a community, people want to know that the school system is adequately supported and represented, especially if they have school-age children. If the School Committee is appointed by the City Council, its members’ first allegiance would be to the Council that appointed them, not to the people in the community who currently elect (or appoint) them. Moreover, education, as an item in the city budget, might well be competing with money for filling potholes or for paint for park benches. While there are occasions when there is tension between school committees and city or town councils over the amount of money needed to operate schools, removing the electability of people to school committees is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. We need people who believe in and want to foster public education running for School Committee. But, we also need them to be directly accountable to the people in the community. We want to be able to talk with them directly to influence policy, but we also need to know that when we have these interactions with them that they have the authority to take the necessary action. The only way they are empowered is through the elective process. In addition, it should be mentioned that, while we have school committees for each municipality, public education is essentially a state responsibility. So, school committees are carrying out a state mandate that every child is entitled to a public education. J. Clement Cicilline

Chair

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