Education Reform

Rhode Island: Legislature Proposes that Every Child in State Be Placed in Charter Lottery

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When Gina Raimondo, now Secretary of Commerce, was governor of Rhode Island, she was an enthusiastic supporter of privately-run charter schools. Her successor as governor was director of a charter school (Blackstone Valley Prep) before he ran for office.

Now, the Rhode Island House of Representatives has proposed a bill that would “automaticallly enter all public school students into charter school lotteries.”

The story reads:

The bill has the support of the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies, which includes the state’s two largest charter networks, Achievement First and the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, located in northern Rhode Island. After some initial misgivings, the Rhode Island Department of Education also backs the measure.  

Currently, families must apply or “opt into” a charter public school. This bill, which now goes to the Senate, would automatically enroll students into eligible charters and allow them to decline an invitation to enroll if their child is accepted. Most charter schools draw children from specific districts. 

But the executive director of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, which represents the mom-and-pop charters, said the new approach, while laudable, has serious unintended consequences.  

“Highlander is a K-12 statewide charter school,” said league executive director Keith Oliveira. “There are about 140,000 public school children in Rhode Island. Everyone in the state would be part of their lottery. 

“This is a nightmare for the school districts, which have to collect the data, places an additional burden on the Department of Education and on the charter schools, which will run the lotteries.” he said.  “The bill is intended to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.” 



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