Closing the Cumberland Gap

Rhode Island's 5,000-student Cumberland School District has hit a rough patch. Its state funding has dropped by $6 million over the last decade. And in neighboring Massachusetts, student test scores in districts with similar demographics are nearly double those that Cumberland is able to muster. But the city's mayor, Daniel McKee, has a plan. He is spearheading an ambitious, from-scratch initiative to replace the current public-school bureaucracy with a network of charter schools. He plans to bring in proven charter operators to run the schools, and his proposal, in addition to improving quality, will also make school budgets more transparent and cut costs. Gadfly hears that an old friend (who knows much about successful charter schools) is doing much of the plan's heavy lifting, too. Kudos to this small town for thinking big.

"McKee unveils plan for ‘Municipal Academy,'" by Marcia Green, The Valley Breeze, December 12, 2007

"Cumberland proposes regional school system," by Philip Marcelo, Providence Journal, December 14, 2007

"Rhode Island Coalition Aims to Start Network for Regional Charters," by Scott J. Cech, Education Week, December 18, 2007