What Rhode Islanders Don’t Seem to Get
East Providence School Committee member Anthony Carcieri makes an interesting observation to the Providence Journal:
Along with the skirmishes over ground rules, the negotiators also have disclosed their ultimate goal. The committee wants $3 million in annual concessions from the teachers, Carcieri says, adding that they aren’t bluffing or backing down. “The NEA has experienced hard-ballers who go around from city and town stepping on the retired librarians and school moms who join the School Committee to help and have little experience with contract negotiations,” Carcieri said. “They’re shaking down municipalities and taking them for more than they are worth.”
The National Education Association Rhode Island representative for the town, Jeannette Woolley objects the accusation, but selects her words carefully to deny that the NEARI “dictate[s] the East Providence teachers’ actions.” That may or may not be true, but it wasn’t what Carcieri was saying.
The problem is actually much bigger than unions’ bringing in major leaguers to whack around townies: The unions devote massive resources to shaping state law in the their favor — from the fact of the union monopoly on public education to the possibility for school committees to sue their towns. Oh, the unionists will point to this or that agenda item that has yet to find its way into law as evidence that state legislators are not in their pockets, but the fact that they haven’t gotten everything they wanted all at once is only mildly mitigatory.
Underlying the battle, of course, is the very thing that Rhode Islanders just don’t seem to understand: The system is constructed such that our representatives have to stand for our interests only as the third or fourth consideration, and such that there’s an elaborate set of policy and political mirrors at which to point to diffuse responsibility. The number one priority for us who see the funhouse for what it is must be to start breaking some glass.