Robert Walsh Responds to Tom Coyne
Robert Walsh, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the National Education Association, has responed, point-by-point, to Tom Coyne’s education proposals for Rhode Island. Mr. Coyne’s proposals are in boldface. Mr. Walsh’s responses are in italics.
1. Start by saving money through the use of a single state health insurance plan for teachers and putting RIPTA in charge of scheduling out of district transportation.
1) A single plan would likely average costs among districts versus saving significant funds, due the the use of a statewide rate versus community ratings. It’s good to see Mr. Coyne’s faith in the union members at RIPTA, however, perhaps letting the state fund the out of district transportation requirements would be best.
2. Use [funds saved from proposal 1] for (a) more in-class room materials; (b) merit pay for the best teachers; and (c) shoring up the teachers crumbling pension system.
a) We certainly need more class room materials b) merit pay reintroduces politics into the system and misunderstands how teachers are motivated and c) we have been advocating shoring up the pension system for years.
3. Institute a common state teachers contract with a longer school year and longer school day.
More time (which means more compensation) may be merited in some districts (or programs within districts), but not in others. If Mr. Coyne is unhappy with what teachers are doing, why does he want them to do it for a greater period of time?
4. Restore management rights to school principals so they can pursue innovations that are appropriate for the students they serve.
Management has lots of rights, but teachers are the ones pursuing innovations, principals (all of whom were teachers) should manage the process.
5. Reform our current system for classifying children as “learning disabled” as recommended in the late Rep. Paul Sherlock’s report to the General Assembly.
Why is he picking on these students, and how will it improve outcomes? Which students does he believe are incorrectly identified?
6. Make it easier for experienced mid-career people to teach in areas where they are needed, like math and science.
Gutting the pension system and having lower pay than math and science professionals currently receive is a lousy start.
7. Lift the ban on charter schools.
How about taking the programs that work in charter schools and applying them to all public schools? How about funding charter schools without robbing local school districts of needed funds so taxpayers will support them as learning laboratories?
8. Strengthen Rhode Island’s academic standards, and require that students demonstrate proficiency as a graduation requirement.
Good idea – fund the programs to back it up.