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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RI-CAN (the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now) today released an open letter to Governor Lincoln Chafee congratulating him on his recent victory and urging him to continue the transformation of public schools begun in the past year by Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, Board of Regents Chairman Robert Flanders and the rest of the board.
“As governor, you have a unique opportunity to help Rhode Island become the gold standard for education policy that other states can look to for inspiration,” the letter reads. “We urge you to build on the progress made so far and keep the winning team together.”
RI-CAN Executive Director Maryellen Butke is joined in signing the letter by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation Founder Eli Broad, former NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, Hassenfeld Family Initiatives Chair Alan Hassenfeld, Acting New Jersey Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf, Black Alliance for Educational Options Board Member Howard Fuller, National Council on Teacher Quality President Kate Walsh, Democrats for Education Reform Executive Director Joe Williams, Vice President for Educational Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund Cynthia G. Brown, former Gates Foundation Education Executive Director Tom Vander Ark, Business Innovation Factory Founder Saul Kaplan, Progreso Latino Board Chairman Leo Morales, and many other prominent Rhode Island and national voices.
On January 31, the terms of eight of the nine members of the Rhode Island Board of Regents will expire. One of Governor Chafee’s most significant first actions as governor will be his appointments or re-appointments to this board. Commissioner Gist has previously stated that she is eager to lead the implementation of the four-year Race to the Top plan developed by her department as long as she has the full backing of this board and the governor.
RI-CAN is publishing the letter as the inaugural action of its 2011 policy campaign, called “Be a Superhero.” The campaign’s three goals and its website will be unveiled in the coming days. Building upon Rhode Island’s come-from-behind victory in last year’s federal Race to the Top competition, which was driven forward by an unprecedented collaborative effort and brought home $75 million for Rhode Island schools, the first goal is called “Super Leaders.” The aim is to keep Rhode Island’s winning education team together to ensure the successful implementation of Rhode Island’s four-year Race to the Top plan and the transformation that is underway to remake its public schools.
“In the past year, Rhode Island emerged as a national leader in education policy by forging an unprecedented coalition for change. We beat the odds and defied the naysayers by putting kids’ interests first and brought home $75 million for our schools,” said Butke. “Now we face a new test: whether we can keep the winning team together to ensure that we deliver on the promise of that victory by turning the ideas in the plan into reality. The choices Governor Chafee makes in the next four weeks will have profound implications for Rhode Island school children for the next four years.”
RI-CAN has opened up the letter to every Rhode Islander and asked them to add their names. The petition is posted on the RI-CAN website, www.ri-can.org.
About RI-CAN: Launched in December 2010, RI-CAN (the Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now, pronounced rye-can) is an education reform advocacy organization building a movement of Rhode Islanders creating the political will to enact smart public policies to ensure that every Rhode Island child has access to a great public school. Learn more at www.ri-can.org.
Jan. 25, 2011
Dear Governor Chafee,
Congratulations on your recent inauguration. As you begin your term as governor, we know you face many important decisions for Rhode Island. Perhaps the most crucial decision of all is the direction you set for our public schools. We believe that the best way to put Rhode Island children first is for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, Board of Regents Chairman Robert Flanders and the rest of the board to continue their work. We ask you to maintain the current board composition by nominating only Board of Regents candidates who will continue the transformation underway of Rhode Island public schools.
2010 was a landmark year for the state’s public schools. With the support of educators, labor leaders, students, parents and members of the business and philanthropic community, Rhode Island rose to national prominence as one of only 11 states, plus the District of Columbia, to win the federal Race to the Top competition. That victory secured $75 million – the largest federal grant Rhode Island has ever received – for public schools in the middle of a deep recession. Commissioner Gist also worked tirelessly with House and Senate Leadership, municipal leaders, school committees and others to bring Rhode Island a groundbreaking school funding formula to provide fair, transparent and predictable school funding for all students. These accomplishments were achieved through an unprecedented collaborative effort.
The current team has proved to be a winning one, scoring substantial victories on behalf of Rhode Island schoolchildren. But the battle is far from over. The reforms initiated over the past year are an important start to transforming Rhode Island’s public schools, but they must continue to have real impact.
As governor, you have a unique opportunity to help Rhode Island become the gold standard for education policy that other states can look to for inspiration. We urge you to build on the progress made so far and keep the winning team together by nominating or maintaining a Board of Regents that will support Commissioner Gist, the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education team and Rhode Island’s strategic plan to ensure that we reach our ultimate goal of providing great public schools for every Rhode Island child.
Thank you for your leadership.
Andres Alonso, CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools
Tom Vander Ark, Managing Partner, Learn Capital
Lisa Beaulieu, Vice Chair, Cumberland School Committee
Kenneth Block, President, Simpatico Software Systems
Roswell S. Bosworth, Jr., Publisher Emeritus, East Bay Newspapers
Jean-Claude Brizard, Superintendent, Rochester City Public Schools
Eli Broad, Founder, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation
Cynthia G. Brown, Vice President for Education Policy, Center for American Progress Action Fund
Governor Jeb Bush, Foundation for Excellence in Action
Maryellen Butke, Executive Director, RI-CAN
Christopher D. Cerf, Acting Education Commissioner, New Jersey
Kevin P. Chavous, National Board Chair, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO)
Michelle Cotes-Harkins, Partner, Harkins Wealth Management
James Diossa, Councilman, Central Falls City Council
Malcolm Farmer, III, Partner, Hinckley, Allen & Snyder, LLC
Chester E. Finn, Jr., President, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Yolie Flores, Vice President, Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education
Howard Fuller, Board Member, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO)
Alan Hassenfeld, Chairman, Hassenfeld Family Initiatives
Jock Hayes, Board of Directors, Bristol Warren Education Foundation
Matthew Hayes, President and Publisher, East Bay Newspapers
Paul A. Herdman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Rodel Foundation of Delaware
Frederick M. Hess, Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
David Hibbitt, Trustee, Community Preparatory School, Providence
Susan Hibbitt, Trustee, Lincoln School, Providence
Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce of Rhode Island
Alex Johnston, Chief Executive Officer, ConnCAN
Mike Johnston, State Senator (D-CO)
Saul Kaplan, Founder and Chief Catalyst, Business Innovation Factory
Lisa Graham Keegan, President, Education Breakthrough Network, and Former State Superintendent, Arizona
Joel Klein, Executive Vice President, News Corporation, and Former Chancellor, New York City Schools
Patricia Levesque, Executive Director, Foundation for Excellence in Action
Patricia Martinez, Executive Director, Center for Family Support and Student Development, Central Falls School District
David Milner, Chief Executive Officer, NuGen Capital Management
Kara Milner, Advisory Board Member, RI-CAN
Leo Morales, Board Chairman, Progreso Latino, Inc.
Sydney Morris, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Educators 4 Excellence
Jeff Mutter, Chairman, Cumberland School Committee
Joop Nagtegaal, Board President, Paul Cuffee Public Charter School
Donna Nesselbush, State Senator (D-RI)
Michael Obel-Omia, Head of School, Paul Cuffee Public Charter School
Michael J. Petrilli, Vice President for National Programs and Policy, Thomas B. Fordham Institute
Gwendolyn Samuel, President and Founder, State of Black CT Alliance, Inc.
Erika Sanzi, Cumberland School Committee at Large
Van Schoales, Executive Director, Education Reform Now
Jeff Senese, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Johnson & Wales University
Evan Stone, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Educators 4 Excellence
James Vincent, President, NAACP Providence Branch
Kate Walsh, President, National Council on Teacher Quality
Joe Williams, Executive Director, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)