Education as a RI constitutional right passes Senate hurdle, moves to House

On Thursday, the full Senate passed two bills that could transform education in Rhode Island, though both have failed in the past.

One would make an equitable education a constitutional right, and the other would cap class sizes at 20 students in some public schools.

Breakdown of the bills

Senate Resolution 72, which would build “the fundamental right to a public education” and educational equality into the state’s constitution, has been a tough goal to reach for lawmakers who’ve chipped away at it for more than a decade. Last year, it failed to clear the House after gaining support from Education Commissioner Angélica-Infante Green, among other education leaders. At the time, House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said he feared lawsuits over curriculums and didn’t want education policy decided by “an unelected judge.”

More:Cap on class size, education as a right: How these new bills could change RI education

Now, the resolution is once again in the same place it was months ago, having seen Senate approval and on its way to the House.

Senate Bill 177, which would limit the size of kindergarten through second grade classes, also passed the Senate as it has in the past. However, if it became law, it would require hiring far more teachers during a time when a teacher shortage has plagued the state. Sen. Sam Zurier estimated it may necessitate finding 200 additional hires.

What happened last year:Constitutional right to an education fails in final hours of the General Assembly

Providence has one of the highest class caps in the state, at 26 students, though at present, it averages around 21. At present, the district remains short of staff, with 131 union-represented classroom vacancies, according to a district spokesperson.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Right to education, class-size cap clear RI Senate vote

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