The office of higher education would be dismantled under a General Assembly-approved plan to merge the state’s educational governing boards. Education officials so far have said little publicly about the move that essentially reverses a state-mandated structure created 30 years ago.
Some observers question whether the merger, part of the fiscal 2013 budget, will justly serve both higher education and secondary education.
In the budget, the R.I. Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Rhode Island Board of Regents, which oversees elementary and secondary education, would be combined into one board with two commissioners.
“The boards are very different,” said Gary Sasse, director of Bryant University’s Institute for Public Leadership. “The board of regents is responsible [for regulating] our public school system. Higher Ed has a different mission. The board of governors [duty] is to set policy to be drivers of economic development.
“When you look at the breadth of responsibility, it’s difficult to see how one board can meet both sets of requirements,” Sasse continued. “We know from history that they can’t.”
Sasse was executive director of the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council when, in 1982, the state separated its umbrella educational board into two sectors.
That was done in part, according to Sasse, when it was decided higher education was being largely ignored under that structure.
The R.I. Board of Education is established under Article 4 of the budget and effective Jan. 1, 2013. The Board of Governors and the Board of Regents would cease to exist on that same date. The office of higher education would be abolished on July 1, 2014. Implementation of the new structure would be complete on Jan. 1, 2014.
The article outlines that “the separate higher education system in the state of Rhode Island has not capitalized on opportunities and resources that have been made available due in part to a lack of coordination and efficiencies with elementary and secondary education. … Establishing a seamless, singular board of education will promote coordination and increase efficiencies.”