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Governor McKee, Rhode Island Department of Education Announce $20 Million in Funding for Facilities Equity

Facility Equity Initiative and adjustments to school construction bond distribution structure will direct millions in funding to underserved districts


PROVIDENCE, RI — Governor Dan McKee and the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) today announced the recipients of the Facility Equity Initiative pilot program, a joint effort with the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (OER) and Rhode Island Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity (ODEO) as well as a new measure to ensure that communities across Rhode Island receive an equitable share of the 2018 school construction bond. In total, these actions will direct $20 million in funding to underserved districts.

"This new funding is an important step forward in providing every child in Rhode Island with modern school facilities where they can get an excellent education," said Governor Dan McKee. "For too long, our funding structures have left our most at-need cities and towns behind, but my Administration is working tirelessly to change that. We can give every student in Rhode Island the world-class schools they deserve."

The Facility Equity Initiative, first announced in October 2021, provides funding to the five districts with the highest reimbursement rates. Between them, the districts of Central Falls, Woonsocket, Pawtucket, Providence, and West Warwick will receive $13,392,362 in funding to 26 projects in 17 schools that will serve over 11,000 students, including new science labs, media centers, and community rooms. Applications were reviewed by a scoring committee comprised of members from RIDE, OER, and ODEO based on a prioritization rubric developed by the SBA based on the type of project, number of students impacted, wealth of the community, level of stakeholder engagement, and timeline.

"The school construction program that we launched in 2018 has made historic investments transforming school buildings across Rhode Island because all Rhode Island students, regardless of where they live, deserve equal access to a high-quality education, and poor school facilities should not be a barrier," said General Treasurer Seth Magaziner. "In just four years, we have made incredible progress, but there are still thousands of children across Rhode Island attending schools that are old, unsafe, and poorly equipped. I will continue prioritizing school modernization until all Rhode Island students are attending schools that are safe, warm, and built for 21st-century learning."

"We have a responsibility to provide every community with the very best schools we can offer,” said RIDE Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “These new projects will help build modern facilities for our students and teachers to enjoy. RIDE looks forward to working with our partners across state government to give our kids a brighter future."

"Nothing inspires us to work so hard or so collaboratively as the wellbeing and education of our children, and today’s announcement is proof of that," said Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam. "Our communities have put forward interesting, innovative projects to improve their facilities and I am thrilled that we can help make them a reality."

As part of Rhode Island’s commitment to equitable business practices, districts for which Minority Business Enterprises (MBEs) comprise at least 15% of the businesses engaged as part of their project will have their local share paid by the State, and the project will thus be 100% funded by the State. In total, the projects awarded by the Facility Equity Initiative pilot will provide a minimum of $2 million to Rhode Island MBEs.

"ODEO is very happy with the SBA increase to 15% minimum, the fullest possible participation of firms owned and controlled by minorities and women, by local municipalities in public construction programs and projects,” said ODEO Associate Director Tomás Ávila. “This ensures the state’s commitment to equitable business practices in school construction projects that benefit communities previously locked out and disproportionately affected by the pandemic."

"Making energy efficiency improvements to schools and public buildings are essential to our fight against global climate change," said State Energy Commissioner Nicholas Ucci. "We are thrilled to be participating in this endeavor with RIDE and ODEO to provide much needed assistance to public schools, particularly those in disadvantaged communities. These investments will help reduce utility costs while improving classroom lighting for students and faculty and giving facilities managers improved control over energy consumption. It's a win-win strategy for Rhode Island."

Building on the work done as part of the Facility Equity Initiative, RIDE is also making adjustments to Pay-As-You-Go funding distribution formula of the 2018 school construction bond to ensure every community has access to the funds. Since 2018, the bond’s funds have been available through a pay-as-you-go method in which the state provided 15% upfront funding for projects. This formula has favored districts with greater resources; collectively, Central Falls, West Warwick, and Woonsocket enroll 9% of the state’s students but are scheduled to received only 0.7% of the $250 million bond.

In order to rectify this and ensure that these communities are able to receive equitable funding through the statewide bond, RIDE and the Board of Education have approved a one-time adjustment to the formula for the remaining bond money to increase the pay-as-you-go offering to the remaining 85% of the state share. As a result of this change, the districts of Central Falls, West Warwick, and Woonsocket will collectively receive an additional $6,607,638 to complete their ongoing construction projects. Following this adjustment, the entire $250 million bond will be fully awarded in May 2022, meeting the mandate approved by popular vote in 2018 to put that money towards urgent school repairs.