Governor’s race focuses on test scores and tax returns

The candidates for governor seem to feel they have winning lines of attack, as Republican Ashley Kalus continued to hammer at the state’s delayed release of standardized test scores, while Democrat Dan McKee renewed his call that Kalus release her tax returns.

This, as Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said the Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System assessment scores in English language arts and mathematics would be released in mid-November, or after the November 8 election, because her department did not have adequate staff to prepare the scores for public release.

Asked Monday by WPRO’s Gene Valicenti whether she only had one staff member to input data, Infante-Green affirmed, “That’s all I have.”

“Leaders intervene and they solve problems. Dan McKee points fingers and belittles serious problems,” Kalus told a mid-morning news conference Monday on the street across from Infante-Green’s office at the Rhode Island Department of Education in downtown Providence. She questioned whether McKee had lied during a televised debate last week about whether the Department had the test scores, and withheld releasing them publicly.

“As governor, if my education commissioner is saying that they need more help to get the scores out on time, I would move heaven and earth to make sure it got done,” she said. She said parents rely on the scores to make decisions in developing students’ Individualized Education Program, which outlines a child’s learning needs.

At an unrelated news conference in East Providence earlier on Monday, McKee repeated his insistence there are no political considerations in the release of the RICAS scores.

“That data will be available when it’s available. Not before, and not pushed because of an election. We shouldn’t be politicizing what happens at the Department of Education,” McKee said.

McKee’s campaign tried Monday to turn the tables and called on Kalus to release her tax returns, which she declined to do earlier in the year, saying she had filed for an extension. McKee said he has released his returns each year since 2018.

Kalus seemed to condition the release of her tax returns on the release of the test scores.

“I said I am happy to release my taxes when he releases his tax returns and the subpoenas.” Kalus has pressed McKee to release subpoenas issued by the FBI for information related to its investigation into the state contracts in the early days of McKee’s administration with ILO Group, an educational consulting firm formed around the time he took office, ostensibly to help Rhode Island school districts deal with COVID related regulations.

Kalus’ campaign later said that she would release her tax returns Tuesday or Wednesday.

McKee has focused on Kalus’ residency in Illinois and Florida, and her move to Rhode Island in 2021 while contracting with the state to provide COVID testing services, saying that her tax returns provide a window into a candidates’ finances and background.

“I think the people do have a right to know whether she’s paid any taxes in Rhode Island. Right? Remember, she’s running for governor, and where she filed the taxes. I have provided that information for several years. She should do the same thing. She should provide her taxes over the last couple of years.”

“Remember, the reason that my opponent showed up in Rhode Island was money,” McKee said. “It was a COVID contract. She paid herself more money in a week, than a (sic) average resident makes in a year. So, the money and the taxes and where the money flows is important, so she should release her taxes,” McKee said.