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.

School Choice Saves Money for School Districts!

Families can be empowered with choices and student achievement can increase … while public school districts can realize net fiscal savings.

Bright Today Education Scholarships are the way of the future!

[button url=”″ target=”_self” size=”medium” style=”royalblue” ]Read “The Math of Educational Choice” report[/button]

2015 Ed Choice Legislation – The Way of the Future!

If enacted, the Bright Today Scholarship and Open Enrollment Act of 2015 would become the most innovative and universal school choice program in America! Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are the way of the future.

[button url=”″ target=”_blank” size=”medium”] Read the ESA policy brief here [/button]

Policy Brief: 2015 Educational Choice Legislation

Read the full Policy Brief here

Watch the full legislative press conference introducing the bi-partisan legislation

The Way of the Future in Rhode Island

2015 Legislation: The Bright Today Scholarship and Open Enrollment Educational Act

Policy Brief: Executive Summary

Representative Ray Hull - Bright Today Press Conference

Representative Ray Hull (D, Providence) is the primary sponsor of the Bright Today Educational Scholarship Act

LEGISLATIVE OBJECTIVES: The Bright Today Scholarship legislation not only creates new educational opportunities for families, but does so without adversely impacting public schools. The top-10 policy objectives met by this legislation:

  1. Establish RI as a national leader in education reform
  2. Empower all RI parents with immediate choices to obtain an adequate education for their children
  3. Meet the documented demand for school choice by increasing the supply of available options
  4. Create an environment in which public schools are likely to improve academic outcomes
  5. Increase or maintain current per pupil funding levels in district schools
  6. Save money for school districts that could be used to repair crumbling schools or for property tax cuts
  7. Keep 100% of locally raised tax funding for use in local district schools
  8. Cost nothing to implement – zero increase in any local or state tax or fee
  9. Provide higher return value for taxpayer dollars
  10. Improve overall statewide educational performance so as to be a boost to economic development

BILL FEATURES: Bright Today Scholarships are a form of Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). This innovative and cutting-edge educational choice bill, modeled after the ground-breaking Arizona ESA legislation of 2011, includes these features:

  • ESA scholarships are different from vouchers. 1) Funds flow directly into a debit account controlled by parents, instead of directly to a private school, 2) Funds can be spent on tuition or other educational services, 3) Unspent funds can be rolled over for future K-12 expenses
  • Universal Eligibility. Every RI K-12 student would be eligible (includes grandfathering of current private/home schoolers)
  • Approved educational expenses include: private school tuition, required textbooks, home school curriculum, fees for online or post-secondary learning programs, educational therapies for special-ed students
  • Scholarships are paid from the State portion of ed funding
  • Income Adjusted Scholarship awards, with $6,000 cap
  • Funding Formula. Scholarship students are still counted towards the public school district’s enrollment
  • Detail Admin. & Academic Accountability Standards
  • Fraud and Criminal Prosecution Provisions
  • Prohibition of Gov’t Control over private/home schools
  • Separate Open Enrollment provision allows transfers to other public schools


Participation rate in the early years is expected to be 2.77% of the current public school population, or 3,682 students.

More budget friendly than charter schools. The math and budget implications of Bright Today Scholarships are very different than that of charter schools, and much more budget friendly to public school districts.

Simultaneous reductions in district revenues and district expenses. If the outflow of scholarship funds is less than the cost burdens associated with educating those students, then districts will actually save money.

Not including grandfathering, the Center’s RI District Impact Model for Educational Scholarships (RI-DIMES), projects the following fiscal outcomes:

  • Statewide scholarship of $5,016. $18.5 million total
  • Higher per student funding of in all public school districts; $299 statewide average
  • Net district fiscal savings in all but 3 smallest public school districts, $16 million cumulatively in savings statewide
  • Increase in statewide educational funding, public and private; public funding levels remain constant, with $17.25 million in “new” private monies spent on education
  • No new taxes. All scholarships and administration are paid for via existing education funding levels.

District savings can be used to repair crumbling schools or to reduce local property taxes.

Per the 2015 legislation, grandfathering would mean higher near-term revenue reductions for districts, resulting in most districts seeing net fiscal losses in the early years, cumulatively statewide of -$2.6 million.

Public schools also benefit from higher parental accountability. National research clearly demonstrates that because of higher parental accountability standards and the competitive forces introduced through increased competition, that academic outcomes at public schools is likely to increase. No major national empirical study shows an adverse impact.

Center to Participate in Legislative Press Conference on School Choice Legislation

March 2, 2015
Center to Participate in Wednesday’s Legislative Press Conference
on School Choice Legislation To Release Policy Brief Describing
the Bright Today Scholarship Bil

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity will participate in the legislative press conference announced earlier today by the RI House of Representatives minority office regarding the Bright Today educational choice scholarship legislation that will be introduced this Wednesday in both the House and Senate.

Joining the bi-partisan legislative sponsors who will speak at the statehouse event, the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, will distribute and review an Executive Summary of the Policy Brief that describes the goals, features, statewide fiscal projections, and history of this bold legislation.

If enacted, the legislation would become the most innovative and universal school choice program in the entire nation, according to the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, which is partnering with local organizations in advancing the scholarship program.

Also expected to attend are members of the growing coalition, including Gertrude Jones, former President of the Providence School Board, who is also scheduled to provide remarks.

WHAT:     Legislative Press Conference – Bright Today Scholarship Bills

WHEN:     Wednesday, March 4, 3:00 pm

WHERE:  RI Statehouse – Room 101

WHO:     Representatives Ray Hull, Mike Chippendale

Senators Marc Cote, Nicholas Kettle

Mike Stenhouse

Gertrude Jones

The Center’s ed choice home page can be viewed at

RI Already an Example of Parental Choice of Schools

... unlike 1-size-fits-all government-run schools

… unlike 1-size-fits-all government-run schools

Rhode Island parents want school choice!

They prove it answering polls, and they prove it in their behavior.

  • Strong majorities — of 56% and higher — favor policies that allow parents to choose schools other than regular public district schools.
  • When asked what type of schools they would pick if they had a choice, 68% named something other than a district school.
  • Among states in which a majority of students take the SATs, RI was second in the number of SAT-taking students in private schools, and first in the number attending religiously affiliated schools, which tend to be less expensive.
  • Looking at SAT scores, RI public school students perform worse than the average for high-participation states, while private school students perform as well as or slightly higher than the average for such schools, which is significantly higher than the average for public schools.

Read the full “Parents’ Choosing Without School Choice” study, here.

See associated media release below … 

January 29, 2015
Report: In Practice and in Surveys, Rhode Islanders Want More Educational Choices
Center to Participate in Today’s State House Celebration of National School Choice Week 

Providence, RI — Rhode Islanders lead the nation when it comes to demanding and exercising educational choice … and they want even more. This according to a new report released today by the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, entitled Parents Choosing w/out School Choice, which bolsters the case that expanded school choice options are necessary in the Ocean State, the primary objective of the recently launched Bright Today Educational Choice coalition.

“Even with some of the highest property tax burdens in the nation, many families are sacrificing thousands of additional dollars so that their children can escape the government-run school system,”said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “And our report demonstrates that parents want even more options.”
Highlighting existing trends about parental choice, and as part of its celebration of National School Choice Week, the Center’s new study cites recent polls and national private school enrollment figures as strong evidence of the skepticism that most Rhode Islander have for the state’s public school system.
In practice, Rhode Island ranks second overall when it comes to states with high participation rates of SAT-taking students that choose not to attend a public school, while ranking firstby a large margin when it comes to attending religiously affiliated private schools, among this same group of states.
In surveys, according to a 2013 poll, Rhode Islanders lead the nation in wanting to send their children to private schools. In that same poll, 68% said their first choice for their children would be an education other than traditional public schools.

“School Choice Rabbi” to Speak at State House Event

January 28, 2015
Legislative Reception to Feature Speech by Nationally Renowned Educational Choice Rabbi
State House to be Illuminated in Yellow
Center to Man Exhibit Table and Release New Report
Providence, RI — Rhode Island Families for School Choice, a member of the recently launched  “Bright Today Educational Choice” coalition, will host its annual Legislative Reception at the statehouse tomorrow afternoon, featuring a rally-speech to attendees by the nationally renowned “school choice rabbi,” Rabbi A. D. Motzen from Cincinnati, as well as musical performances by area private school students.The event, which is part of the celebration of National School Choice Week, expects over 300 people to attend and will conclude with the state house being illuminated in yellow light, the signature color of the celebration. Also participating will be a representative from theFriedman Foundation for Educational Choice, and multiple private school groups.Legislators and the pubic are encouraged to attend to learn more about how expanded educational options can empower parents to be able to choose the best educational path for their children. The coalition expects to announce bi-partisan sponsored legislation in the coming weeks.

The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will man an exhibit table at the event, with “Myths vs Reality” of school choice handouts available. The Center will also publish a new report Thursday morning that documents how Rhode Island families, at nationally leading rates, are already sacrificing income so that their children can escape sub-standard government-run schools and, instead, choose alternative private educational paths … and that such demand exceeds supply.

All participants will be available for media interviews at the event, or can be scheduled by contacting the Center.

WHAT:    Legislative Reception to Celebrate National School Choice Week

WHEN:    Thursday, January 29, 2015, 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm

WHERE: RI Statehouse Rotunda

WHO:      Rabbi A.D. Motzen; SPEECH at 3:30 pm

                   Michael Chartier, Friedman Foundation

The Center’s educational choice home page can be viewed at

National School Choice Week (January 25 – 31, 2015) will be America’s largest-ever celebration of opportunity in education. Featuring more than 11,000 independently-organized events across all 50 states, the Week shines a positive spotlight on effective education options for children. National School Choice Week is independent, nonpolitical, and nonpartisan, and embraces all types of educational choice – from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling.

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.

Center Launches New Interactive Tool to Compare RI to Other States on National Test Scores

January 21, 2015
New Interactive Tool Compares RI to Other States on National Test Scores
Allows comparison of student performance among various demographic groups!
Center also publishes key findings analysis using the tool

Providence, RI — As part of the recently launched  “Bright Today Educational Choice” campaign, the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that it has published a new, online tool that allows parents and educators to self-analyze the performance of Ocean State students as compared with other states.
The interactive tool aggregates scores from 2000 to 2013 from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, often referred to as the ‘nation’s report card’, which compiles student performance data for math and reading in all states. Various demographic student groups such as 4th/8th grade, reading/math, male/female, black/hispanic/white, low-income, and disabled can be filtered and compared to similar groups in other states

Using the tool, the Center also published a brief analysis with multiple comparisons that further demonstrate the need for families to have more choices when it comes to educating their children. Key findings show that for Rhode Island students:

  • Previous performance improvements have flat-lined in recent years
  • Overall performance is worst among all New England states
  • Hispanic performance is last among New England states
  • Low income student performance is also last in this region
  • As compared with five states that have been among the most pro-active when it comes to educational reform, RI students either lost ground or didn’t gain ground in EVERY demographic group

Last week, 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.

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.

The Bright Today coalition will announce specific policy solutions in the coming weeks and expects to have bi-partisan legislative support in the Rhode Island General Assembly for a package of related bills. Further, one coalition member, RI Families for School Choice, will host its annual school choice Legislative Reception at the Statehouse on the afternoon of January 29, as part of the National School Choice Week celebration.

The Center expects to release a number of education studies in the coming months, including a study on Rhode Islanders’ already high propensity to choose private schools; a demographic study on long-term spending pressures; and a financial modeling tool that will estimate the revenue effect of specific school choice policies.

Parents or individuals wishing to stay informed about or become involved with the campaign, should register at the RI Families or School Choice website, The Center has also set up an educational choice home page on its website that can be viewed at

Education Analysis: RI and National Test Score Trends, Steam Runs Out on Reform

Judging by trends visible using the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s online, interactive tool to compare scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, Rhode Island’s period of education reform produced some improvements, but they appear to have hit a political ceiling.

Key findings show that for Rhode Island students:

  • Previous performance improvements from earlier in the 2000s have flat-lined in recent years
  • Overall performance is worst among all New England states
  • Hispanic performance is last among New England states
  • Low income student performance is also last in this region
  • As a group, states with relatively strong school choice options improved in 2013 among every demographic group, whereas Rhode Island either lost ground or didn’t gain any.

Click here to read the more details about the findings.