On Independence Day 2007, the Ocean State Policy Research Institute publicly announced its mission to promote freedom in Rhode Island. The following month, OSPRI participated in the Heartland Institute's Eastern Regional Energy Summit in Newport for elected officials.
Ocean State Policy has taken an active role in welfare reform, specifically the state's 11-year-old Family Independence Program. OSPRI is developing policy recommendations with government officials, service providers and administrators. The governor has indicated this is a priority.
Institute founder and president William "Bill" Felkner has had hands-on success in this area. During a stint in the Governor's Policy Office he reports, "I was able to see some of my welfare reform ideas become proposals in the budget. That helped solidify my interest in starting a think tank."
To restore excellence in Rhode Island's schools, OSPRI has begun publishing a series of papers titled "What Works in School Choice." This series highlights successful educational options around the country. Higher education is also a focus of OSPRI. Institute scholars have contributed research and opinion for the National Association of Scholars recent report, "The Scandal of Social Work Education," and the Manhattan Institute's "Minding the Campus" project.
Good ideas do not advance on their own. Thus, the Institute has developed a network of media, taxpayer and advocacy groups, and politicians and government officials who meet monthly to discuss events, projects and ideas. Called The Thursday Meeting, this informal gathering provides a regular channel of communication among those who seek a better Rhode Island.
Outside the world of insider politics, Felkner has "experience garnering considerable public attention to the issues" through published articles and radio appearances. The Institute will be served well by this experience, plus Felkner's entrepreneurial business background, which includes getting a patented product on Wal-Mart shelves.
The Institute's board of scholars and research associates have their work cut out for them.
OSPRI's president points out, "In an economy that is producing fiscal surpluses for most states around the country, Rhode Island is projected to face deficits for the foreseeable future. Why? Our legislators have a spending problem."
Undaunted, Felkner says, "Ocean State Policy seeks to empower engaged citizens, activists and opinion leaders with the research and budget transparency needed to make informed decisions." He asserts, "There are many cities and states in this country that have expanding economies, well-educated children and reduced poverty.And these are being accomplished for considerably less than what Rhode Island spends on failing efforts.We can do better."
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Ocean State Policy Research Institute
William Felkner, President
434 Brook St.
Providence, RI 02906