On Sticking to Business, One: Edward Mazze

Sometimes the wisdom of allowing the Providence Journal Business section to indulge in “commentary” isn’t at all apparent. Edward Mazze, for example, did just fine, yesterday, until he transitioned from business and economic statistics to education with the following paragraph:

Based on the number of elementary and secondary schools in a state with a little over 1 million population, Rhode Island should be well-positioned to prepare the worker of the future. Rhode Island currently has 304 public schools.

The “should be” isn’t the case, however, as Mazze proceeds to illustrate, although his prescription misses the mark in its poor assessment of political realities in our state:

We need more accountability for dollars spent and on future investments. We are too small a state in population and geography to spend the amount of money for the management of education in over 30 school districts with numerous union contracts when a state our size should have no more than five school districts and a statewide union contract. The savings in dollars on administration and labor negotiations if placed back into the education of students should result in more progress in achieving targets.

Yes, you read that right: Mazze asserts that increased accountability can be achieved by pushing education even more into the General Assembly’s purview. Where, in the legislative body that runs the state, does Mazze hear a strong opposing voice to unions? Where the inclination to spend and invest prudently? A statewide union contract would mean that the unions would no longer have to spread their resources out fighting small skirmishes around the state (small skirmishes for which groups such as Tiverton Citizens for Change can crop up when a lack of accountability appears as a line item on mortgage bills)?
A consolidated school system would fit in very nicely with Rhode Island’s governmental practice of ensuring that no one group (much less individual) is every decisively accountable for failures of policy. Note Mazze’s crucial “if”:

The savings in dollars on administration and labor negotiations if placed back into the education of students should result in more progress in achieving targets.

Watchers of Rhode Island politics may suspect that “if” to be akin to the Black Spot in Treasure Island, although rather than being indicative of a pronouncement of guilt, it’s a pronouncement of vulnerability. “Savings” from school consolidation would be quite an attractive supplement to the now-state-employed union members’ contracts and a lucrative source of revenue for our spendthrift representatives.
Much as the Western Left has learned to use the language of diversity and compassion to promote its totalitarian policies, the Rhode Island corruptocrats are beginning to rehearse the language of business and economics. One needn’t possess a degree in either to recognize that the actual benefits to the customer of consolidation are typically a secondary motive, at best. In a polity with such contempt for taxpayers, we would hardly register.

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Bob W
Bob W
15 years ago

Agree completely with you. I moved to RI in 2005 from MA, with 351 cities and towns, and where each town negotiates with the Local NEA chapter. Another MA transplant and former MA school principal was STUNNED when I told her how powerful NEARI is. In MA, the state NEA is an “advisory body”.
Mazze is just another member of the state beauroracracy.
Bob W

George Elbow
George Elbow
15 years ago

Justin, You are 100% correct. Consolidation is just a chicken-crap excuse and a crutch for not dealing with the real issue, which is an unwillingness to say “NO” to the Unions. It is precisely as you suggest …just another way to create unaccountability and to take any chance of control away from the citizenry & taxpayers. RI, with 4,479 students per school district, is far more efficient than the Nation (3,161 students per school district) and neighboring states (e.g. Mass has 2,492 students per school district; Conn 3,036; NH 1,246). Where we are blowing it is in Union salaries & benefits. No suprise there, given that we are amongst the top 10 nationally in Avg Teacher pay and we lead the Nation with a $5B Pension shortfall due to unfair, unrealistic and unsustainable Benefits. Consider the following (from “NEA Research 2007”): 161,237 – Total # of Students in Rhode Island 36 – Total # of Districts in RI 4,479 – Avg # of Students per District in RI 48,727,536 – Total # of Students in the US 15,416 – Total # of Districts in the US 3,161 – Avg # of Students per District in the US 971,909 – Total # of Students in Mass 390 – Total # of Districts in MA – 390 2,492 – Avg # of Students per District in MA 576,772 – Total # of Students in Connecticut – 576,772 190 – Total # of Districts in CT 3,036 – Avg # of Students per District in CT 205,567 – Total # of Students in New Hampshire 165 – Total # of Districts in NH 1,246 – Avg # of Students per District in NH Now let’s take a look at the low number of students per teacher ratio coupled with the Salaries: Students per… Read more »

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