Promises Bought and Futures Sold

Julia Steiny is must-reading today:

After collecting my thoughts and temper, I wrote back. It seemed to me that teaching a child to read was the principal mission of any school and was, therefore, funded. Rhode Island has one of the highest per-pupil expenditures in the nation. If not to teach reading, what is it going to the schools for? The Regents were only trying to get children actual help, instead of letting them be subjected to Jurassic practices like being put in the dumb-kids’ reading group or passed on for the next teacher to deal with. That help seemed well funded already, at least to me. …
Too many people in Rhode Island are in the habit of thinking that the schools have the right to do whatever it is they’re already doing, effective or not, and expect that anything better has to be paid for as an extra. When research and experience in other states identify an educational best practice — for example, tailoring strategies to each struggling reader — our state’s taxpayers have to pay extra to implement it.

The problem is that reform-minded diktats from the state never touch on the core problem, which Steiny rightly identifies as unlimited collective bargaining rights, leading to such outcomes as this:

… the existing resources continue to shift away from kids to support benefits for adults. The Educational Intelligence Agency, a national watchdog, reports that Rhode Island’s public school population has dropped 4.6 percent since 2000-’01, while compensation to teachers went up 37 percent. Nationally, the average state enrollment has increased 2.5 percent since 2000-’01 while compensation went up 24.5 percent.

Frankly, I have a negative emotional reaction to unfunded mandates: If the educational bureaucracy of the state — with which the unions have made it their business to exert influence — wishes to send down requirements, then it seems only fair that the money to support them oughtn’t be derived from sources with which they are not connected (i.e., local and property taxes). But perhaps a case-by-case assessment is necessary. Really, how much funding is needed for the development of reading plans for individual students? That sounds like something that schools and teachers ought to do as a matter of course.
It may be that the very quality of unfunded mandates to which I have an adverse reaction speaks in their favor. They put pressure on an artificially constrained system, and the central and most costly constraint is the unionization of the teachers. In a system in which every new task or idea requires additional money, stuffing more of them into the bag will increase the awareness of those who ultimately have to carry it — taxpayers — and eventually enough of them will come to realize that our public servants have become our masters, foisting what ought to be their responsibilities onto our shoulders.
If we want to see this detrimental pressure removed from our educational system, we need take only one step: end the unionization of public school teachers. Taking that step, we could just watch how quickly the system would learn to right itself.

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Tom W
Tom W
16 years ago

>>If we want to see this detrimental pressure removed from our educational system, we need take only one step: end the unionization of public school teachers. Taking that step, we could just watch how quickly the system would learn to right itself.
Even that right-wing zealot FDR (who was responsible for the National Labor Relations Act) opposed public sector unionization.
The Democrats who claim to be “for the children” cannot reconcile those statements with their unconscionable support for the teachers unions and the untold harm those unions are causing entire generations of children, and to the future of this country.
Teachers unions are diametrically opposed to the best interests of children – always have been, always will be.
Teachers unions should be abolished, and teaching elevated to being a true profession.
That would just be the beginning of the benefits.
For instance, we’d also get the pleasure of seeing Pat Crowley restored back to an environment which better suits him – the Teamsters union. Unlike most teachers (I hope), rank and file Teamsters seem to appreciate their representatives threatening thuggish behavior (such as picketing hospitals where a school committee member happens to be employed).

George Elbow
George Elbow
16 years ago

You have no idea how right you are …ending UNIONIZATION of public school teachers.
Unfortunately, we have people (e.g. Bob Walsh) who’s sole job is to maintain the status quo of mediocrity in the name of maintaining no longer needed unions (and, as such, his pathetic, non-productive livelyhood).
How can anyone argue against letting the fee markets determine an employees worth? How insecure and dependent upon the public tit must one be to argue against the free market?
People need to wake up and take back our schools from the clutch of the Unions. The schools are ours, not Bob Walsh’s, not Pat Crowley’s, not the NEA’s …but ours.
We need to reassert ourselves and hold accountable in a very public way those local school committees (and their members)that buckle & pander to the Unions.
It is time to say “NO MORE” to the Unions. As the Union would say, “Do It For the CHILDREN.”

16 years ago

Justin, You forgot to include the part where Julia Steiny indicated in her article she received complaint letter/emails from school principals which are administration/management and non-union members. However that is not real reason why I write. As I mentioned before some months back, because I no longer live in RI, I am still required to pay RI personal income tax RI-1040NR because my retirement is administered and paid out RI. Because of that fact, I am returning to RI to move all of my financial accounts out of RI. 1. I have to fly in/out of Boston, MA because of longer runways which results in lower cost airline flights with better timing. 2. RI still has not worked out an agreement to extend MTA trains to Quonset Point. 3. RI RIPTA boats to/from Providence and Newport run on a tourist schedule not a commuter schedule. 4. The prices quoted to me in RI at various hotels average over $300 more for the week than my staying in MA. It was reported by CNN money capitol city Providence, RI was the 3rd most expensive city to vacation in but, it’s cheaper to stay in MA plus I get a better deal on a rental car! I experienced this over pricing mentality to survive winter months last time I visited Newport where lunch (1 appetizer, 2 sandwiches, 2 drinks cost $70 not including tip plus I had to pay $20 because the restaurant did not own the parking lot in front of it). I also had same experienced on Federal Hill in Providence. RI is just becoming too over priced! Unfortunately, as a former Rhode Islander, I can’t attribute these actions to unions but a wider sickness of greed that has enveloped RI. Don’t forget, Hawaii is the 2nd most unionized state… Read more »

Justin Katz
16 years ago

Yeah, well, even I am not ready to blame the NEA for short runways and inconvenient bus schedules. On the other hand, it appears that you’re trying to excuse the NEA on the grounds that RI has problems for which it isn’t directly culpable.
Frankly, I’ve become so weary of your Hawaii-as-paradise commentary that I hardly pay any attention, anymore. (That may be why I haven’t noticed a response from you to somebody who pointed out the significant differences between what teachers unions are allowed to do between here and there.)

George Elbow
George Elbow
16 years ago

I don’t expect a response from you, as you have nothing intelligent or logical to say. You ignore facts when they don’t go your way.
One of the main reasons prices are so high in RI is because the taxes are so high, so business have to charge high prices in order to recoup what they pay in exorbident taxes.
One of the main reasons taxes are so high is due to the Public Employee Unions in RI (e.g. NEA) that result in RI paying some of the highest rates for Teachers, Firefighters, etc.
RI teachers are paid significantly more the HI teachers, the have few children per teacher, they earn a much higher rate versus state’s median household income …on and on it goes.
Please don’t bore us with all of your silly rationalizations as to why the differences exist.
Face it Ken, the NEA adds NO value but for the value taken from the taxpayers and put into Union members pockets.

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