PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee’s office said Tuesday night he hadn’t intended to issue a newly surfaced proclamation as part of a national campaign in praise of “school choice.”
National School Choice Week is a nationwide advocacy campaign run annually in January by a nonprofit that encourages parents to consider other options in addition to traditional public schools, such as charter schools, private schools and homeschooling.
The campaign is controversial with some supporters of traditional public schools, who argue it builds support for having state governments provide students with vouchers they could put toward the cost of tuition at private schools, shifting taxpayer funds out of traditional schools.
In a news release over the weekend, a spokesperson for National School Choice Week said McKee had issued a proclamation declaring this to be “Rhode Island School Choice Week,” and praising him for being the first Rhode Island governor ever to do so.
“We thank Governor McKee for issuing this proclamation and we encourage all parents to use this time to explore school options for next year,” Andrew Campanella, president of National School Choice Week, said in a statement. The group said McKee was one of 31 governors who issued such a proclamation.
McKee’s office had not publicized the proclamation prior to the national group’s news release about it. In response to a request from 12 News, the governor’s office on Tuesday shared a copy of the one-page proclamation, dated Jan. 1.
“School Choice Week is celebrated across the country by millions of students, parents, educators, schools, and organizations to raise awareness of the need for effective educational options,” the proclamation said in part.
Hours later, however, McKee spokesperson Matt Sheaff said the proclamation should never have been issued.
“The National School Choice Week proclamation was sent out in error with an electronic signature and did not go through the appropriate approval process,” Sheaff said in a statement.
McKee, a Democrat who took office last year and is preparing to seek re-election this fall, has long been among the most prominent supporters of public charter schools in Rhode Island politics, at times putting him at odds with the state’s teachers unions.
“The governor has been on the record for years supporting public money going toward public schools which includes public charters, but he does not support public money going towards private school vouchers,” Sheaff said. “Strong communities are built on strong public schools — traditional and charter.”
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook