Indeed, given Chafee's generally moderate approach to governance, it might be too much to expect a radical shift in the orientation of the board. But there could be some flash points when it comes to education reform, writ large: charter schools, among them.
The state pledged a major charter expansion when it won $75 million in federal education aid through the Race to the Top competition. Chafee, though, says he has concerns about the performance of the academies — and the drain they place on the rest of the school system.
Gist has suggested that a reneging on the pledged expansion could threaten Rhode Island's award. And it remains to be seen if Chafee will press the issue. But his talk has been pretty tough.
The governor-elect was on vacation as the Phoenix went to press this week. But his spokesman Mike Trainor emphasized that Chafee is in favor of a "moratorium" on charter school development while he reviews data on effectiveness — data that seems unlikely to improve in the coming months.
Education reform, of course, is not limited to K-12. The neglect of the state's higher education system is approaching something like a crisis. And while a major fix will be near-impossible in the current budget climate, expect Speaker Fox — who considers his Rhode Island College education transformative — to make some moves in this direction.
Rhode Island, as a whole, might be considered a loser when it comes to the national elections.
The state's entire delegation is Democratic, of course, and the GOP tide means Representative James Langevin and Representative-elect David Cicilline will find themselves in the minority on the House side.
Rhode Island's clout in the chamber takes a further hit with the departure of retiring Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, whose gold-plated name and plum spot on the House Appropriations Committee was of great value.
Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse will still be in the majority in their chamber. But the Democratic margin will be thinner there. And Reed's seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, while still a major asset for the state, could be of diminished importance if a GOP pledge to ban earmarks holds up.
Bottom line: even if you voted for the pols who won in November, you still managed to lose. This is Rhode Island, after all.
David Scharfenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.