Education Partnership Reports: Learning a lot more about RI teachers’ union contracts

A lot of fur is flying in the Comments sections of various posts on teachers’ union contracts.
If you want to get some good information on such contracts in RI, your best bet is to go read the three annual reports by The Education Partnership:
Teacher Contracts: Restoring the Balance (Volume I, 2005)
Teacher Contracts: Restoring the Balance (Volume II, 2006)
Teacher Contracts: Restoring the Balance (Volume III, 2007)
Oh, you won’t find it a surprise that the NEA whines about these reports. No doubt they will do it again. But just remember this: The terms of these union contracts have been the dirty little secret of government. Unions and their partners in government have thrived by being largely invisible to the working families and retirees whose hard-earned monies are taxed to pay for all of the outrageous public school teachers’ salaries and benefits.
That invisibility is finally being destroyed now — and the resulting transparency explains their vehement reactions.
The good news is that the new-found transparency will never go away.
FURTHER THOUGHTS ON UNIONS & BOTH ECONOMIC AND EDUCATIONAL FREEDOM:
In the Comments section, the NEA’s Bob Walsh shares an 1893 Samuel Gompers speech which he suggests shows that labor unions have offered a consistent message over the years. It is worth reading for its historical value.
Here is what I wrote as a response to Bob in the Comments section:

It is now 114 years since that speech. A lot of societal dynamics have changed in major ways since then.
Many of us agree that private sector labor unions contributed to the betterment of society back in those days.
However, in recent decades, labor unions have become just another big business whose self-interest is promoting the ongoing strength of the unions, not doing things like ensuring our children get the best possible education so they can compete successfully as adults in a global economy.
Furthermore, an important distinction has arisen with the growth of public sector unions.
The demands of private sector unions have always been subject over time to market forces, where economic competition moderates the demands of both unions and management.
However, the demands of public sector unions are not subject to any market forces but achieve their ends through political power which then is used to protect their monopoly operations, like public schools.
It is incredibly ironic that it is now the labor unions who spend lobbying monies like a Fortune 500 corporation – just so they can protect their powerful monopolies. Underperforming monopolies at that!
For those of us in this century, the dominant issue is a passionate belief in freedom. But, my-oh-my, how times have changed who truly supports freedom. And who believes in the Founding principle that Americans are capable of self-government.
For some of us, this belief in freedom and self-government leads us to support entrepreneurial capitalism – not big business or country-club Republicans – because entrepreneurial capitalism enables any hard-working American to start a new business and have a shot at living the American Dream. (Nearly 20 years in Silicon Valley gave me a chance to see it up close.)
This belief in freedom also leads us to support school choice because we believe every poor inner city child should have the same educational opportunity that some of us – who are more economically fortunate – can “buy” for our own children.
Isn’t it ironic then that conservatives are the ones pushing economic freedom for the average American who, like each contributor to Anchor Rising, was born with no silver spoon or trust fund?
Isn’t it ironic that conservatives are the ones pushing educational freedom for poor inner city children while the teachers’ unions want to keep those same children enslaved in their underperforming public school monopolies?

Who then “stands for progress, for protection of the interests and rights of the masses” so no American is enslaved? Who then believes most fervently in freedom, self-government, and enabling every American to live the American Dream?

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Bob Walsh
Bob Walsh
13 years ago

Well, the labor movement has a consistent message:
“What does labor want? It wants the earth and the fullness thereof. There is nothing too precious, there is nothing too beautiful, too lofty, too ennobling, that is not within the scope and aspirations and wants. We want more schoolhouses and fewer jails, more books and fewer arsenals, more learning and less vice, more constant work and less crime, more leisure and less greed, more justice and less revenge — in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood nobler, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood brighter and happier. The labor movement of our country and of all countries stands for progress, for protection of the interests and rights of the masses. There can be no real freedom where labor is enslaved. It is our mission to see to it that the heritage handed down to us by our forefathers of this and other countries, who have borne scars of battle, is accepted, and that we take up the struggle where they were compelled to lay it down, be true to them, be true to ourselves and to the people of our time, and, more important than all, to hand down the heritage of freedom to those who shall come after us to bear the burden of their day, to make life and toil better — better worth the living and the doing.”
— Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, 1886-1924, in a speech on Aug. 28, 1893.

Donald B. Hawthorne
Donald B. Hawthorne
13 years ago

Bob: It is now 114 years since that speech. A lot of societal dynamics have changed in major ways since then. Many of us agree that private sector labor unions contributed to the betterment of society back in those days. However, in recent decades, labor unions have become just another big business whose self-interest is promoting the ongoing strength of the unions, not doing things like ensuring our children get the best possible education so they can compete successfully as adults in a global economy. Furthermore, an important distinction has arisen with the growth of public sector unions. The demands of private sector unions have always been subject over time to market forces, where economic competition moderates the demands of both unions and management. However, the demands of public sector unions are not subject to any market forces but achieve their ends through political power which protects their monopoly operations, like public schools. It is incredibly ironic that it is now the labor unions who spend lobbying monies like a Fortune 500 corporation – just so they can protect their powerful monopolies. Underperforming monopolies at that! For those of us in this century, the dominant issue is a passionate belief in freedom. But, my-oh-my, how times have changed who truly supports freedom. And who believes in the Founding principle that Americans are capable of self-government. For some of us, this belief in freedom and self-government leads us to support entrepreneurial capitalism – not big business or country club Republicans – because entrepreneurial capitalism enables any hard-working American to start a new business and have a shot at living the American Dream. This belief in freedom also leads us to support school choice because we believe every poor inner city child should have the same educational opportunity that some of us… Read more »

Pat Crowley
13 years ago

I know you are new to this blog, Don, but hasn’t it already been shown that the Ed Partnership has been pretty much discredited? Besides, I had heard that they were shutting down soon.
Where was EP during the budget fight? Talk about fair weather friends…

Tim
Tim
13 years ago

Donald,
Bravo! Your comments are spot on. The teachers unions are particularly disgusting (and immoral) with their fanatical opposition to any public school reform/choice for the inner city poor. They have no soul.
Ducky,
Mr. Donald Hawthorne is a longtime contributor to this blog. It is you who need to worry about credibility quacker.

WJF
WJF
13 years ago

I have heard that the East Greenwich teachers went home on Friday without paychecks, the current contract also expired that day. This should create a great deal of solidarity.
Has anyone else heard this or know more info?

johnpaycheck
johnpaycheck
13 years ago

message to bob walsh and pat crowly.
you have had the easiest jobs in the state for the last several years.
but a few things have changed… there is much more public information and the state and every municipality is going broke.
guys- your job is going to be alot tougher…

John
John
13 years ago

Crowley,
I for one look forward to the day your pension check bounces, as a result of you and your public sector union buddies bankrupting Rhode Island, via your support for outrageous welfare programs, ridiculous taxes, a corrupt and aggressively anti-business political culture that is no longer governed by the rule of law, and pathetic public schools. Frankly, it can’t happen soon enough.

Ken
Ken
13 years ago

What constantly amazes me is the incessant attack on teachers and their unions in Rhode Island. Rhode Island teachers are human beings; people just like you and I that also pay taxes and try to raise their children in an educational and safe way too! I constantly hear as an argument that the teachers are failing the student and testing scores are down and teachers are not doing their jobs. Longer days are needed! May 30, 2007 Governor Carcieri announced 85 percent of RI elementary and middle schools statewide are meeting their No Child Left Behind (NCLB) testing targets. The remaining 15 percent are being addressed and high schools are yet to be tested. Link: http://www.ride.ri.gov/Commissioner/news/pressrels/2007_pressreleases/news%20release%20%20-%20final%205-30-07%20%20classifications.pdf Might I suggest you open your eyes to what is happening to public education in the United States on a broader view while you are busy complaining about petty issues. There are two education unions and 36 school departments. What works in East Greenwich might not work in Central Falls, Newport or Tiverton. Intelligence shows when generalizations are made lumping unions and teachers together. There appears to be a movement to privatize public education because NCLB (taxpayer dollars) allows and pays parents to move their children into private schools. What a lot of you don’t understand is public school teachers have lost their “creativity” and “independence” in the classroom to make learning fun! They must teach to mandated material and standards by federal law and state laws. Teach to the test! No creative thinking! If you don’t believe the above statement, shut your mouth, get off your fat butt and spend a week in a school classroom in your community learning what happens daily in a school. New State of RI Fire laws it is mandate how much paper, charts and photos can be… Read more »

Tom W
Tom W
13 years ago

Ken:
Let’s stipulate for the sake of discussion that NCLB is flawed.
So revise it.
But let’s not use it as a mask to excuse the poor performance of the government education system in this country.
NCLB was enacted as a RESPONSE to decades of poor performance, decades during which, presumably, NEA-AFT teachers weren’t compelled to “teach to the test” as allegedly they are under NCLB.
Also, MCAS seems to be working quite well in MA.
Finally, testing of basic reading and math skills is eminently doable – the SAT has been doing this for decades – and the poor performance of U.S. students on these rudimentary / foundation skills makes irrelevant “creativity” etc. – until basic, fundamental and foundational skills are imparted, the rest will never be realized.
Methinks that most of the union / educational establishment’s criticism of NCLB is of the “shoot the messenger” and “divert attention” variety, for such testing helps negate the perennial education establishment of recent years of “these test can’t measure all we’re doing, and the children have ‘high self-esteem’.”
Sorry, but functional illiterates with high self-esteem is the last thing that this country needs.

chuckR
chuckR
13 years ago

Ken said
“What a lot of you don’t understand is public school teachers have lost their “creativity” and “independence” in the classroom to make learning fun! They must teach to mandated material and standards by federal law and state laws. Teach to the test! No creative thinking!”
I say – horsepucky! I graduated in 1968 from a rural farm community’s high school. I got two diplomas – one from Hilton Central High School and one from the New York State Board of Regents. Which do you suppose got my friends and I into Brown, Cornell, MIT, Yale and the U of Rochester, among other fine schools? (Not bragging us up, this is just how it was, and was for many years even in a little rural district.) How do you suppose we got there? With dedicated teachers who were able to teach to the tests, including about a dozen NYS Regents exams in my case, and well beyond those tests. I don’t recall all the particulars of their own educational backgrounds, but many were 90 day wonders at Brockport State Teachers College, where they added sufficient knowledge of the nuts and bolts of teaching to their degrees in actual real subject matter such as English, math, science and history. Sure, there were some odd ducks amongst them and I’ll bet some grumbled about what the Regents wanted them to teach, but I damn doubt they would ‘share’ this with my parents generation. Boomers have been called the me generation and the boomer teachers seem to have the schools set up currently so its all about them. We want the schools back for our kids.

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