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Providence sues state in dispute over city school funding

September 30, 2021 GMT

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The mayor and city council of Providence sued the state Department of Education on Tuesday over a disagreement about the amount of money the city should put toward its schools this year.

The lawsuit argues the state is wrong in its calculations that Providence needs to allocate an additional $5 million to its schools in accordance with annual aid increases required by law, the Providence Journal reported.

The city claims COVID-19 relief funds totaling $50 million were excluded by the state from its school aid calculations.

“They cherry pick when they want to use federal funds and when they don’t. It’s our belief that for fiscal 2021, we don’t owe any additional money,” Mayor Jorge Elorza told the newspaper.

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Elorza also claims the school district has an $11 million surplus, or more.

The state Department of Education held a hearing over the issue in August, at which the hearing officer determined the city had not met its school aid obligations.

State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green then ordered the state treasurer to reallocate almost $5 million of aid earmarked for distressed Providence communities to the city’s schools, WPRI-TV reported.

The city in its lawsuit asked the court to reverse that order.

The state took control of the Providence Public School District in 2019 after an independent report by Johns Hopkins University found the district beleaguered with low test scores, crumbling infrastructure and widespread dysfunction.

The Education Department has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit.