Another Notable Moment

Tiverton Town Councilor Brian Medeiros just proposed — and the council approved unanimously — a statement of support for the school committee’s “efforts to contain costs” within the boundaries set by the property tax cap with respect to the teachers’ union contract. Although the movement is largely symbolic, it’s very encouraging to see the council express trust in a school committee that has been standing firm.
It was also notable that School Committee Member Sally Black took the podium to add to the record a recognition that all of the town’s spending derives from a single “pie,” and that as public officials deal with each item, they should (paraphrasing: “at home under their comforters with a glass of wine”) consider the police officers and public works employees out there performing their necessary duties for the town.

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Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Ah, here we go. Senate 3050 caps property tax increases. It’s now being used as a justification for capping education funding. I wonder whether Senator Paiva-Weed, 3050’s author, thinks of this result.
Now, education funding either should or should not be limited at its present level, but that’s not the question. The question is whether 3050 should be the reason. Donald Hawthorne thinks (Quantifying the Trend Which Led to the 3050 Tax Cap Law) that 3050 was enacted because education spending is out of control. I think property taxes are out of control because our state contributes less than 46 other states to education, leaving the burden to localities (and property taxes). I don’t think our total education spending is out of control.
By the way, Proposition 13 was enacted in California in 1978, and did essentially what 3050 does. As a consequence, California went from being the nation’s education leader to one of its worst laggards. (this is according to the conservative Rand Corporation).

Andrew
Editor
13 years ago

If you increased state aid in Rhode Island, all you are doing is raising the total tax burden on the smaller cities and the towns, to pay for either increased subsidies or tax cuts for the urban core (unless you are willing to reduce the share of state aid that the urban core receives, which I doubt is politically tenable). Good deal for the urban core. Not so good for everyone else.
Take one of the districts in turmoil this year as an example, East Greenwich. The residents of EG would have to pay increased sales and income taxes to fund the new state aid, but would get very little back in return. In the end EG, and cities like Cranston and Warwick, most likely will end up with higher total sum of property, income, and sales taxes.
The “funding formula” debate is a sham, whose main purpose to give political cover to the Rhode Island pols looking to increase urban subsidies at the expense of other communities. Details on how this works, with numbers, are available here.

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Thomas, here we go again with another argument for throwing even more money at education. Apparently you haven’t noticed the multiple entries on AR clarifying that more money does not equal better education and that there is no correlation between teacher pay and student performance, thanks in large part to the teacher union mentality. An idiot has been defined as someone who keeps hitting their head against the wall expecting a different result, and well, sorry to point out the obvious but …
Does it really matter which pocket the government takes our taxes out of? Whether it’s the state income tax pocket or the local property tax pocket we are still paying more than enough to fund education. And you’re continued lobbying for higher education spending on this blog, in spite of decades of “little to show for it”, has become very transparent.
Never mind California’s prop 13 (and their phenomenal illegal immigration problem which certainly has a downward pull on public education), how about Massachusetts and prop 2 ½. Proposition 2 ½ was much more restrictive than S3050 is, and yet Massachusetts is one of the highest performing states in the nation, which just goes to show (again) that how much is spent on education does not determine student outcomes.

Donald B. Hawthorne
Donald B. Hawthorne
13 years ago

To clarify: I have indeed said 3050 was the result of rapid increases in property taxes which exceeded the rate of growth of taxpayers’ incomes.
When you look at the data in East Greenwich, I also showed that it was the 87% increase in school spending over the last 10 years – compared to 36% increase in town spending – which drove the excessive property tax increases.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Frank, Contrary to what you think, I have carefully read many entries (many of them yours, I believe) claiming that money does not affect performance, and there is “no correlation between teacher pay and student performance”. I believe you think the same about spending per student, independent of salaries. Stated this broadly, I think the statement is clearly false. Reduce salaries or spending to $5/year and you’ll see it matters a great deal. However, I accept that, above some level (unknown to me), it matters a great deal more HOW money is spent than how much is available. I agree with you far more than you believe that we could be spending our money more wisely. There is something wrong when our spending is close to MA’s and we lag so far behind them in performance. (Still, there are other factors to consider, such as challenges posed by special populations (learning disabilities, poverty, non-native English-speakers, etc. that do make education more expensive). If you’ll return the favor and read my comment carefully, you will find I have made no argument for “throwing more money at education”. At most, I said that I don’t think our current spending level is out of control. Nothing in my comment precludes reducing property taxes while increasing state aid, leaving the size of the pie the same. So your remarks on this question are entirely beside the point. The “idiot” comment is, in addition, rather unnecessarily offensive. As to the point I was actually raising, yes, it matters what pocket the money comes from. Andrew’s comment raises exactly this issue. My view is that basing education funding on property taxes makes the amount of funding available depend on the property values in the community. I don’t think the funding for my child’s education (or yours)… Read more »

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

“RI is much too small to think parochially about this. The future of our cities is the future of the state.”
Agreed. Let’s dump the multiple school districts and go to one centrally-controlled school board, one administration and one contract.

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Thomas, I see there is some common ground here after all. I agree that if you pay teachers nothing at all (on a sliding scale between $0 and $65,000 I am going to round off $5/year to zero) it WILL likely reduce the quality of education, though in some instances I would expect the quality of education to improve. I called you an idiot because (correct me it I’m wrong) you seem to be favoring the status quo. And with all that has been written on this blog on this topic, I am simply amazed that someone who is following this issue could do that – unless of course you have an agenda similar to that of the greediest teachers and their union handlers. You clearly advocated higher levels of education spending by expressing concern about limiting the growth of the present level of school funding. You made no qualifying statement about redistributing education monies, therefore it was fair to judge that you are continuing to advocate for the lopsided current situation we have now in which a disproportionate amount of school funds end up as adult entitlements rather than as supplies, materials, programs, and initiatives that would have a more direct benefit for our children. With respect to your statement that it shouldn’t matter what town you live in when it comes to how the public education system performs – do you think if you just keep saying this it will come true? At some point you will just have to accept this fact, for unless there is some major upheaval in public education it will likely always be true. It’s not surprising that being from Providence you’re all for a policy that calls for most of the state to subsidize your town’s education. Maybe I’d feel that way… Read more »

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Frank say: “I called you an idiot because ….” You called me an idiot because you are ill-tempered, ill-mannered, or both. In my professional interactions, I frequently disagree with people on fundamental issues, and they disagree with me. Almost all us are capable of refraining from personal insults and name-calling. If we lapse, we apologize. I’m glad I work with them, rather than you. Frank: “(correct me it I’m wrong) you seem to be favoring the status quo. ” You are wrong. I am very unhappy with the status quo on education in Rhode Island. Frank: “You clearly advocated higher levels of education spending by expressing concern about limiting the growth of the present level of school funding. ” Expressing concern about artificial limits on growth is not the same as advocating growth. I think S3050 is going to wind up sending some districts to the state for help, like it or not. Frank: “You made no qualifying statement about redistributing education monies, therefore it was fair to judge that you are continuing to advocate for the lopsided current situation we have now in which a disproportionate amount of school funds end up as adult entitlements rather than as supplies, materials, programs, and initiatives that would have a more direct benefit for our children.” Eh., First, the phrase “adult entitlements” is a rhetorical trick, and it’s wearing thin. You mean “salary and benefits”. As for “lopsided”, let me ask you this: what percentage of a school dept. budget SHOULD be salary and benefits? I’ve never seen any of the anti-education funding advocates here answer that. My sense is that teaching is a very labor-intensive activity, and the percentage should be very high. 70-80% doesn’t seem unreasonable. Is it? Frank: “With respect to your statement that it shouldn’t matter what town… Read more »

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Thomas, Using nice sounding words doesn’t change the cruelness of intent and insensitivity of your comments. But if you gain a clean conscience from using only polite words then good for you, but I don’t think you’re fooling anybody here. It spite of overwhelming evidence that the present public education system is underperforming you continue to argue against changing it which I find cruel both to our children and to our taxpaying citizens. Though even you claim to agree that RIs schools are “unsatisfactory”, you continue to push for higher pay for teachers and a continuation of the status quo. Your agenda semms self centered and self interested, nothing more. >> Expressing concern about artificial limits on growth is not the same as advocating growth. Yes Thomas, it is. And it’s only artificial if you don’t respect the taxpayers. >> I think S3050 is going to wind up sending some districts to the state for help, like it or not. The districts already go to the state for help, it’s called state aid to education, and it makes up a substantial portion of each districts school funding source. In Central Falls the state entirely funds the schools. >> Eh., First, the phrase “adult entitlements” is a rhetorical trick, and it’s wearing thin. You mean “salary and benefits”. Yes, exactly, and it would only “wear thin” or be offensive to someone who would wish to advocate for even higher adult entitlements, no? >> As for “lopsided”, let me ask you this: what percentage of a school dept. budget SHOULD be salary and benefits? I’ve never seen any of the anti-education funding advocates here answer that. My sense is that teaching is a very labor-intensive activity, and the percentage should be very high. 70-80% doesn’t seem unreasonable. Is it? With the funding… Read more »

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Frank: Using nice sounding words doesn’t change the cruelness of intent and insensitivity of your comments.” “Cruel?” I’ll confess that I was pretty ticked off and testy at you. I promise I’m nicer to people who don’t call me an idiot. Frank: It spite of overwhelming evidence that the present public education system is underperforming you continue to argue against changing it….. Are you sure? If so, go ahead and show me where I’ve said we should not change the education system. I probably don’t want the same changes you do, though. By the way, you have no idea what work I have done to actually change public education, but it doesn’t involve increasing teacher pay or union power. Frank: Though even you claim to agree that RIs schools are “unsatisfactory”, you continue to push for higher pay for teachers Please show me the threads in which I have “continued to push” this point. You will find that I have taken issue with those who argue our teachers are significantly overpaid or used evidence that I find unreliable. That’s not the same. Frank: “Your agenda semms self centered and self interested, nothing more.” Huh? How would the higher salaries for school teachers that you think I’m advocating benefit me? If that’s not your point, what is? That I think the entire state has an interest in making education in our cities work? Am I entitled to say you’re completely self-interested because you’re from Coventry and you disagree? Frank: “The districts already go to the state for help, it’s called state aid to education, and it makes up a substantial portion of each districts school funding source. In Central Falls the state entirely funds the schools.” State aid makes up a smaller percentage of school spending than in 47 states. Central… Read more »

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Thomas
>> If so, go ahead and show me where I’ve said we should not change the education system. I probably don’t want the same changes you do, though. By the way, you have no idea what work I have done to actually change public education, but it doesn’t involve increasing teacher pay or union power.
What changes to the education system are you suggesting? With the enormous power that the teacher unions in RI currently wield over our poorly performing public education system any suggested changes would have to include taking a position on the teacher unions. Leaving them out of the equation makes little sense.
>> Please show me the threads in which I have “continued to push” this point. You will find that I have taken issue with those who argue our teachers are significantly overpaid or used evidence that I find unreliable. That’s not the same.
When you express concern for slowing the uncontrolled growth of school spending, as you did in your original comment, without qualifying where the increased monies that you want to see taxpayers continue to spend would go, one would have to assume that you wish to see school spending continue in it’s present form. And in it’s present form teachers have pushed the education system to the brink with their pay and benefits, eating up so much of the school funding pie that there is not enough left over to operate our schools properly.
>> Frank says: “Since you are defending the teacher unions here …”
Please show us where I have done this.
See above. You’re either with them or against them, where do you stand Thomas?

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Frank,
You said, “In spite of overwhelming evidence that the present public education system is underperforming you continue to argue against changing it….” I denied that I had done this and challenged you to show where I have done it. You haven’t met that challenge, yet you feel free to demand that I explain my positions and activities to you? That’s a conversation I might like to have, but not with someone who starts out by calling me an idiot and remains unapologetic for doing so.
I also deny that I expressed “concern for slowing the uncontrolled growth of school spending,… ” I did express concern over S3050 as a mechanism for doing this, partly based on the experience of California after Prop. 13.
Finally, you say I am defending teachers’ unions, but you still have not been able to justify this statement. You seem to think that if one does not hate unions with the same passion you do, one must be a defender of everything the unions do. It’s not that simple.
You say, “You’re either with them or against them, where do you stand Thomas?” The only possible response to your question is to ask you to look up the “fallacy of the excluded middle”.

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Thomas,
Very telling where you’ve chosen to end this discussion – when you’re asked to show your hand. Up until now you seemed to have no qualms responding, post insult and all. I almost regret calling you an idiot, it wouldn’t have left you any reason to discontinue the dialogue. You don’t really think anyone’s buying that crap about my not meeting your personal threshold for “meeting the challenge” of your line of questioning do you?
I am only left to presume my final questions were starting to get a little too uncomfortable for you. I never expected you to respond, though you did catch me by surprise with your imaginitive excuses. I presumed you would just stop responding like Bob Walsh always does here. I understand that for some reason it is not easy for you to criticize the teacher’s union. However being unwilling or unable to critically evaluate the roll of the teacher’s union should discredit you from being taken seriously when it comes to discussing public education.
I sensed you were a fraud on this issue but you have impressed even me with how much so.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Nice try, Frank, but no cigar. I confess I really would like to end this conversation, because it is so totally unproductive and uninteresting. Moreover, my sense of self-respect tells me to walk away from anyone who calls me and “idiot” and a “fraud” because I am neither. In fact, you’re the first person in my life to call me either. Nonetheless, I feel compelled (perhaps due to some perverse impulse) to respond to your attempt to declare victory.
Here’s the score: You unjustifiably insulted me and then attributed to me positions that I’ve never taken. I asked you to substantiate these claims and you’ve been totally incapable of doing so, yet you don’t back down from them. Nor do you apologize for your rude name-calling. In addition, you think I owe you explanations! When I refuse to provide them, you call me a fraud and accuse me of running away from the argument. If you think that constitutes winning an argument, fine. Please take your trophy and go away.
My sense is that most people here are pretty smart. I think they see through your desperate posturing. Mostly, I imagine they’re just tired of this sad display, and I’m starting to get embarrassed by my participation in it..
By the way, If people stop responding to you, it may just be that talking to you is unproductive and annoying. Sad thing is, I remember having interesting conversations with you earlier in the summer and thinking you were a smart guy. I wonder what happened.

Thomas
Thomas
13 years ago

Frank,
By the way, if you are ever interested in a serious substantive discussion of issues, I would be happy to have it.

Frank
Frank
13 years ago

Thomas,
This became unproductive when you became too timid to respond. It doesn’t say much when someone needs to find excuses for not wanting to take a position on something so relevant to the discussion. Too bad I’m sure your answers would have been enlightening.

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