5 underserved school districts receive $20M in state funding for facilities equity

PROVIDENCE – Schools in Central Falls, Woonsocket, Providence, Pawtucket and West Warwick will be receiving a portion of $20 million in funding to help with various construction and renovation projects to improve the learning environments.

Gov. Daniel J. McKee and the R.I. Department of Education announced Wednesday that the five noted districts are the recipients of the Facilities Equity Initiative pilot program. The program, McKee and RIDE said, is a joint effort with the R.I. Office of Energy Resources and the R.I. Office of Diversity, Equity and Opportunity, as well as a new measure ensuring communities across the state receive an equitable share of the $250 million school construction bond approved by voters in 2018.

The initiative was first introduced in October 2021 and provides funding to five districts with the highest reimbursement rates. McKee and RIDE said $13.4 million will be used to finance 26 projects, such as new science labs, media centers and community rooms, in 17 schools throughout Central Falls, Woonsocket, Providence, Pawtucket and West Warwick.

R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said in a statement that the new projects will help build modern facilities for students and teachers to enjoy. “We have a responsibility to provide every community with the very best schools we can offer,” she said.

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An additional $6.6 million will go toward completing ongoing construction projects at schools in Central Falls, West Warwick and Woonsocket after RIDE and the R.I. Board of Education approved a one-time adjustment to the “pay-as-you-go” funding distribution formula of the 2018 construction bond, McKee and RIDE said. Initially, the pay-as-you-go method had the state providing 15% of upfront funding for school projects, which, McKee and RIDE said, favored districts with greater resources.

With this one-time change to increase the offering of the state’s remaining 85% share, McKee and RIDE said it makes sure lower-income communities receive equitable funding through the bond.

“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,” McKee said in a statement Wednesday.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.