Tonight was the Rhode Island Governor’s State of the State Address. Gina Raimondo is beginning the final year of her first term and her address was predictable in that it had some stellar moments and well deserved applause lines as well as some glaring omissions.
But I am already indebted to my Governor because her address got me through my first, somewhat painful, workout on my new BowFlex Max Trainer. I have a bit of a habit of buying exercise equipment, both new and used, and then never using it. But 2018 has brought a new day—and it started tonight during the state of the state when I got my a** kicked on my new machine. (And a huge hat tip to my husband who put it together for me. But I did sew a button on his jacket today so either hell has frozen over or I am a freaking amazing wife.) Like the shirt I got him for Christmas? Seems especially fitting today. I think I’ll make him wear it tomorrow.
But in all seriousness, Governor Raimondo did not focus on education in some of the ways I wished that she would have during her address. She did make mention of an urgent problem in our schools that needs fixing and will cost $1 billion. Our buildings are literally crumbling because of decades of disrepair, band aid fixes, and a pitiful culture of caring about kids by kicking the can down the road. So good on the Governor for tackling this huge and costly nightmare that has been desperately waiting for a leader. The condition of our schools, the places where our children are forced to spend their days, is an abomination.
Raimondo also highlighted the increase in pre-K options, universal kindergarten, tuition free community college—all are worthy of celebration, fist-bumps, and high- fives.
Every child deserves to start life with a good shot at a strong education. That’s why we’ve invested in public pre-kindergarten and made all-day kindergarten universal. #RISOTS https://t.co/8wdaC5Dbgl
— Gina Raimondo (@GovRaimondo) January 17, 2018
(And on a separate note, one of the highlights of my year was watching students testify in favor of the RI Promise scholarship. In light of our President’s recent comments about Africa and Haiti, reading the testimony of a former Central High School student from the Congo is well worth your time.)
Governor Raimondo did not talk about student outcomes. A glaring omission, in my view. Or how, despite a rising high school graduation rate, there is no evidence that kids are learning more or graduating more prepared for their future. The welding program at Coventry High School that she highlighted is definitely an example of students graduating with a skill that makes them employable in the future. But what about the kids who don’t want to be welders and instead want to be astronauts, architects, math teachers, and surgeons?
Let’s look for a moment at the most recent PARCC results. No test is perfect and tests don’t tell us everything but they are one important measure and there is good reason to sound the alarm.
But if nothing else, I really wanted to hear her talk about the dire situation right now facing our Latino children, a population that is growing but for whom the future outlook puts them 50th out of 50 states. This is a crisis.
A report released in October by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “2017 Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children,” measures the prospects for children of different groups.
The foundation looked at 12 areas: babies born at normal birth weight; children ages 3 to 5 enrolled in nursery school, preschool or kindergarten; fourth graders who scored at or above proficient in reading; eighth graders who scored at or above proficient in math; females ages 15 to 19 who delay childbearing until adulthood; high school students graduating on time; young adults ages 19 to 26 who are in school or working; young adults ages 25 to 29 who have completed an associate’s degree or higher; children who live with a householder who has at least a high school diploma; children who live in two-parent families; children who live in families with incomes at or above 200 percent of poverty; children who live in low-poverty areas.
By those highly predictive measures of future success, broken down by race and state, Rhode Island’s white children ranked 14th in the nation. Its African-American children ranked 18th.
But the outlook for Rhode Island’s Latino children was dead last. (Providence Journal)
With the state’s Hispanic community growing, this finding should alarm every citizen. These children are literally Rhode Island’s future.
Surely the Governor would concede that we can love Rhode Island and still be honest about the brutal truth facing our Latino families and their children. A ranking of 50th is staggering—gasp inducing— and certainly is one defining component of the current state of our state. But somehow there was no mention of any new and bold educational initiatives or reforms for 2018. We heard about what we have done but nothing about what we will do.
Thankfully, Superintendent of Central Falls, Victor Capellan, is more bold and forward looking than our Governor at the moment on this issue and he has put out a call to action.
We are impatient with the alarming headlines. This is a call to action. Those who defend the status quo or ignore this imperative must ask themselves if they would accept these results for their own children. All the actors who play a role in this dreadful scene must take a look at their own actions or, worse, inaction. All of us are complicit. We cannot wait for another report. (Providence Journal)
So let me shout it from the Good School Hunting rooftop: We must demand the same opportunities for other people’s children that we would demand for our own. Otherwise, we are complicit. And in a state as tiny as ours, those being hurt by our inaction and our silence are our friends and neighbors. Our kids’ teammates and opponents on the field and on the court. Their futures matter as much as every other child’s future. And 50th out of 50 isn’t acceptable. It’s shameful.
An impassioned Senator Cory Booker told the National Security Secretary yesterday that her “silence and amnesia is complicity.” Well, what about the Governor’s silence about the reality facing Latino students in her state during the one and only moment all year where she officially comments on the state of the state? We need her voice on this. Now.
Election years should not deter elected officials from doing right by kids. There will be no excuse if urgently needed education initiatives are pushed to the proverbial election-year-back-burner. That would not be leadership.
So please, Governor, speak up.