School Choice

Center Releases Bright Today School Choice Video to Celebrate Milton Friedman Legacy Day


NEW VIDEO: Parents Discuss Why School Choice Would Benefit Their Families as Part of Friedman Legacy Day Celebration

Bright Today Educational Scholarships Would Empower Parents to Choose the Best Educational Path for their Children

Providence, RI —  The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) joined in the national celebration of the 10th annual Milton Friedman Legacy Day by releasing a new school choice video, featuring two Rhode Island families. Milton Friedman, regarded as the ‘father of school choice’ , would have been 104 years old today.

SCAs creator of and lead advocate for Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESA) in Rhode Island, the Center encourages families concerned about the lack of educational options available for them to learn more about its “Bright Today” ESA scholarship program, Bright Today legislation, which would empower all Ocean State families with new capacities to choose alternative public or private schools for their children, has not moved in the state’s General Assembly over the past two years.

“Everybody agrees that educating our youth is a moral obligation and a vital basis for renewed economic growth. Yet very few in our political class have the courage to stand up to the special interests who want to maintain a government-run school monopoly,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Just look at the kids in our new video and tell me how we can deny them a better opportunity to improve their chances to go to college, to build a career, and to succeed in life.”

The video, featured on the website, includes commentary from Gertrude Jones, former President of the Providence School Board and Lifespan Vice President and diversity consultant, who is also an adjunct educational scholar to the Center.

Improving educational outcomes for Rhode Island students is a key component towards improving the state’s dismal 48th place national ranking on the Family Prosperity Index. The Ocean State Current, the Center’s blog and journalism website, also published today a related op-ed – Doing Better by RI’s Children – on the school choice issue.

Over recent year, the Center has partnered with the national Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice and with the local RI Families for School Choice to promote the ESA legislation

Statement on RI Dep’t of Education Transgender Guidelines

Click link to read RIDE Transgender students guidance 6-7-16

June 6, 2016

Official Statement from the Center:

“While professing to protect students from bullying and to respect all students, the RI Department of Education (RIDE), via its June 2016 “guidance” document on transgender students, itself appears to have been bullied by the federal government; seeks to bully local school districts into conformity; and openly flaunts its disrespect of of other students.

In perpetuating a disturbing trend of ‘government by political correctness’, RIDE has succumbed to federal pressure and has adopted a one-size-fits-all position that may not be compatible with the morals held by many public school families. There may never be a more obvious reason to empower parents with additional choices to escape an increasingly politicized government school system that does not respect their personal values.

The repeated emphasis in the document on laws dealing with “discrimination” can only be seen as a heavy-handed threat to local school districts by elitist bureaucrats who believe they know what’s in our family’s best interests.

The open and blatant disrespect (page-9, paragraph-2) for the comfort level of the majority of students, in favor of the comfort of a tiny minority of students, along with the disdain for the rights of parents and the sanctity of the family (page-7, paragraph-2), is particularly alarming.

The Center maintains that no statewide or federal dictate can possibly satisfy the varying sentiments among Rhode Island’s diverse array of local communities.”

New Report Cautions Lawmakers; Reversing Education Reform Harms RI Student Achievement, Especially the Disadvantaged

Center’s Scholarship Legislation Part of Thursday’s State House Celebration of National School Choice Week

NEW: Failing RI Report Card Grades Not Advancing Social Justice

November 17, 2015

Non-Competitive Grades Harming Work, Mobility, and Opportunity for Rhode Islanders
Preponderance of Fs and Ds Should Signal Need for Change in Policy Culture

Providence, RI — The opportunity for upward mobility for many Ocean Staters continues to be hampered by a non-competitive business climate and onerous family tax burdens, as evidenced by the poor grades the State of Rhode Island received on the 2015 Report Card on Rhode Island Competitiveness, the fourth annual such report, released today by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

Burdened with public policies that discourage work and a productive lifestyle, the state’s poor grades in 10 major categories (two F’s, seven D’s, and one C) reflect a government culture geared to benefit special interest insiders, while at the same time promoting job-crushing and soul-crushing dependency among the general populace.

Raising even further alarm, Rhode Island ranked dead-last, overall, when compared with report cards from other New England states.

“This report card clearly demonstrates the wreckage that decades of liberal policies have wrought upon our state. These unacceptable grades should be a wake-up call to lawmakers that a government-centric approach is not producing the social justice and self-sufficiency that Rhode Islanders crave,” suggested Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “If we want to provide more mobility and opportunity for our neighbors and entrepreneurs, we must completely reform our public policy approach. We must learn to trust in our people and remove the tax and regulatory boot of government off of their backs by advancing policies that empower the average family with choices, that reward work, and that grow the economy.”

The two categories with F grades are Infrastructure and Health Care; the seven D’s are Business Climate, Tax Burden, Spending & Debt, Employment & Income, Energy, Public Sector labor, and Living & Retirement in Rhode Island; while Education received a C-. Among the 52 sub-categories evaluated, Rhode Island received 19 F’s, 24 D’s, 5 Cs, 3 Bs, and just one lone A.

In a related 1-page brief, the Center also analyzes report card trends over recent years as well as comparisons to grades for other New England states.

The RI Report Card, originally developed for the Center by a national economist, compiles into a single document the state rankings among key economic and social indexes, as published by dozens of credible 3rd party national organizations.

The 2015 report card, with citations, as well as reports from prior years can be downloaded at

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 |

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise research and advocacy organization. The mission of the 501-C-3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

STATEMENT: Statewide Teacher Contract Is An Off Base Approach

November 11, 2015

Statewide Contract Would Infringe on Local Sovereignty, No Focus of Educating Students

Providence, RI — The focus of educational reform should be for the benefit of students – not on compensating adults – according to a statement today from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. Further, a statewide teacher’s contract, currently being looked at by a new Senate commission, would infringe on the sovereignty of municipalities and local school committees.

“It is a highly disturbing trend in Rhode Island for the State to continue to seek control over more and more local matters. We saw this with RhodeMap RI, with firefighter union issues, and now, potentially, with teachers. It is well established that local government is the best government where the people can best hold their elected officials accountable,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Too often, the teachers unions make the compensation of teachers the focus of debate rather than the education of students in our under-performing government-run school system. ”

The Center maintains that a one-size-fits-all approach is off-base and cannot possibly serve the best interests of the many and diverse local school districts in Rhode Island; and that giving more centralized influence to unions is not in the best interests of our children.

However, the Center believes there can be a state role in saving money for local school districts. Negotiating and offering a large group health insurance option, that local districts can choose to participate in or not – as opposed to a mandate that would surely be part of any statewide contract – is one such concept.

The Center is part of a statewide coalition advocating for an educational choice policy that would directly benefit students trapped in schools that do not adequately prepare them for college or for life, by empowering parents to choose the best educational path for their children. For more information, visit

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 |

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise research and advocacy organization. The mission of the 501-C-3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

Bright Today Scholarship Legislation to be Heard Wednesday in RI Senate

May 19, 2015
Bright Today Scholarship Legislation to be Heard Wednesday in RI Senate
Center Publishes New Booklet Summarizing Win-Win-Win Policy Solution
Providence, RI – Bi-partisan Senate legislation that would empower parents with greater choices when it comes to determining the best educational path for their children will be debated Wednesday in the Senate Committee on Education in Room 313 of the State House.

“No child should have to attend an under-performing school just because of their zip code or be forced to wait for vague promises of tomorrow’s reforms,” said Senator Marc Cote (D, Woonsocket), lead sponsor of the bill. “In order to have a bright future, every child deserves a great education of their family’s choice – today.”

At the 4:30 pm hearing for S0607, which would provide ‘Bright Today’ scholarships for private educations, and which would allow open enrollment within public schools, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will provide testimony and will distribute a report-booklet, which highlights the key findings of multiple publications by the Center.

“In the five months since the launch of this school choice campaign, there has not been one credible argument made against this WIN-WIN-WIN policy solution,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The booklet, The Way of the Future, shows how this major educational reform can provide immediate relief for thousands of under-served students, without costing taxpayers a single new dime and without adversely impacting public schools.

The booklet lays out a full description and narrative on the benefits of the Bright Today Scholarship program. Highlights include: Low value by government-run schools. Public schools in Rhode Island yield one of the lowest taxpayer values in New England and across the nation, failing far too many students.The public supports school choice. Based on behavior and public surveys, Rhode Islanders firmly support empowering parents with private school options.Not a partisan issue. Choice is not a Democrat-Republican or left-right issue, and is supported by constituencies from across the political spectrum. Demand exceeds supply. Legislative and administrative restrictions on existing charter school and corporate tax credit scholarship programs means parental demand for alternative schooling is greater than what the state allows.

  • Myths debunked. Despite claims from opponents, there is no adverse impact on public schools. In fact, public schools generally benefit from the increased competition and parent-driven accountability.
  • School choice leads to net fiscal savings for public school districts. The math of educational choice, unlike charter school math, leads to increased funding per public school student and actual savings for most school districts.

Bright Today Scholarships are a form of Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs) where, just this week, Tennessee became the fourth state to officially adopt the innovative scholarship program. The bi-partisan House bill (H5790), also with a Democrat lead sponsor, is expected to be heard in the House Finance Committee in the coming weeks.

Background: In January 2015, the nonprofit Center published The Case for Expanded Educational Choice, putting forth arguments why the time is now to empower parents with more educational options for their children.
In March 2015, the Center published a report, The Way of the Future, describing the Bright Today Scholarship program outlined by the legislation.
In April 2015, The Math of Educational Choice, showed how most public school districts would actually achieve net fiscal savings via the Bright Today Scholarship program.
The main tenets of the “Bright Today Educational Choice” campaign, are that no child should be condemned to attend a failing school; that every family should feel confident that their children can dream of a bright future; that no child should have to wait for tomorrow’s reform promises; and that every child deserves an education of their family’s choice – today. A dedicated campaign website can be viewed at
The Center is part of a growing coalition, currently comprised of the nationally renowned Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, as well as number of in-state advocacy groups. For more information, concerned parents can also visit the Center’s ed choice home page at
Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

SCHOOL CHOICE to be debated on Smith Hill


Win-Win-Win policy solution empowers families with expanded choices, without any new costs to taxpayers, and without harming public schools!

Read the new report booklet

The Math of Educational Choice

Introducing the RI-DIMES Fiscal Modeling Tool

Empowering parents with greater choices when it comes to determining the best educational path for their children is not only supported by strong moral arguments, but can also lead to a net positive fiscal impact on the bottom line of public school districts, very different from the math of charter schools.

Read “The Math of Educational Choice” report

Click here for a school-district by school-district summary table of fiscal results



The Center, in conjunction with a PhD economics professor, has developed a fiscal modeling tool, Rhode Island District Impact Model for Educational Scholarships (RI-DIMES), that can project the statewide and district-by-district fiscal impact of the educational scholarship program component of the 2015 bipartisan legislation submitted in both the Rhode Island House of Representatives and Senate. In March 2015, the Center published a report, The Way of the Future, describing the Bright Today Scholarship program outlined by the legislation.

The RI-DIMES projections demonstrate that conventional beliefs about the fiscal effects of voucher-type scholarship programs exaggerate
the risk and, if the policy is well designed, do not apply at all.

In the first year, with fewer than 3% of public school students expected to opt for scholarships, which are capped at $6,000, RI-DIMES projects, under the “core” policy providing scholarships to current public school students who migrate out of the system (including new students), that:

  • Public school districts will see large aggregate net fiscal savings. With statewide savings expected to reach $17 million, 33 of 36 local districts will realize net savings in the first year. This figure could rise to $32 million per year and include all districts but one, under more-optimistic assumptions.
  • Funding per public school student will actually rise in every school district, by an average statewide increase of $316.
  • Total public and private spending on education will increase by $17.2 million, because the scholarships will provide an incentive for families to invest more of their private dollars into their children’s education.

When considering a “universal” policy as described in current legislation, in which current private school students are also granted partial scholarships, the net fiscal impact for public school districts is diminished, providing a wider range of possible first-year outcomes:

  • Under the projected assumptions, statewide savings would drop to about $1.85 million, with 50% of the public school districts still realizing net savings.
  • Under more-optimistic assumptions, all but
    one school district would realize net savings, with the statewide total savings approaching
    $18 million per year.

With our public school buildings in dire need of repair and maintenance, and with property taxes already high across the state, the proposed educational savings account legislation in just five years could free up $85 million to $150 million in revenue that could be applied to relieve these two pressing issues.