"Providing our young people with a world class education will create a world class workforce in our state," Fung said. "That, in turn, is an essential component of world class economic development for Rhode Island."
Here is the plan, in Fung's words:
Commissioner of Education:
As I have stated in the past, upon my election as Governor, I will look at each department head individually before determining who would be asked to remain as part of the Fung administration. While I support much of the work performed by Commissioner Gist, I believe accountability is essential and it must start at the top.
Therefore, I propose to have the Commissioner of Education report to and be accountable to the Governor, who in turn will be accountable to the voters for the state
of education in Rhode Island. In Cranston, I have been a hands-on mayor, working closely with my department heads and as Governor, I will continue to work with those who have primary responsibility for implementing statewide policy decisions.
Board of Education:
I am also proposing to return to two education boards. One for primary and secondary education (grades K-12) and a second board for higher education. It is imperative that we return to two separate boards in order to get our education system back on track.
At the outset, it is necessary to recognize that K-12 and higher education require separate plans. Taking this one step further, the Commissioner and members of the two education boards would comprise an Education Cabinet, led by the Commissioner of Education. As Governor, I will work with the members of this Education Cabinet to achieve one strategic K-16 vision for our students, breaking down the silos in our education system through better collaboration and communication.
With two separate boards and the Commissioner of Education reporting directly to the Governor, there would be no need for an additional commissioner and therefore, I would defund the Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner. This would save the state $2 million dollars in the first year alone and funds already allocated would be repurposed to enhance STEM education in our State and to plan for an expansion to STREAM education, which I will discuss in details in the coming weeks.
University of Rhode Island:
URI is our flagship university and should be treated as such. I would like to grant to President Dooley authority to establish a body such as a Board of Trustees or Board of Regents. Working in conjunction with President Dooley, guidelines would be established by which the newly formed board would be permitted to build an endowment and move toward a degree of independent operations.
Doing so may eventually reduce the University’s reliance on state funding, thus saving the state millions of dollars and providing more consistency and predictability in the University’s fiscal resources. While URI would remain under the umbrella and oversight of the Commissioner and the Board of Higher Education, its independent board would be more able to hone in on the University’s mission and objectives.
Jobs and Education Cabinet:
Lastly, and most importantly, I propose to create a Jobs & Education Cabinet. For too long, Rhode Island has failed to acknowledge the need for a single strategic vision incorporating both education and our workforce.
My Jobs & Education Cabinet would bring together leaders in business, education, the public sector, and non-profit organizations, along with the Directors of the Department
of Labor and Training, CommerceRI, NetworkRI, and Business Regulation, and of course, the Commissioner of Education.
This cabinet would specifically discuss the necessary skillsets that our students will need to compete in the ever changing workplace. With the recommendations from varying sectors, I will ask the Commissioner of Education and our Boards of Education to implement into their respective policy initiatives programs to address these issues.
In closing, it is imperative to recognize that education and economic development must not be treated as separate discussions. Education equals jobs.If we are serious about restoring our economy and putting our State back on track we must have a three part commitment: 1. Vision and Accountability that begin at the top. 2. A coordinated effort among educators, business leaders and government agencies to ensure that we pursue policies that are appropriate for the workforces of today and tomorrow. 3. Above all, an unending commitment to students first.