The Powers and the Victims

I note something telling and pervasive in the latest anti-TCC assault by Tiverton Democrat stone-thrower Richard Joslin (currently online only; we’ll see tonight whether it gets into the Sakonnet Times):

I know TCC supporters who are elderly, on fixed income and live mostly in North Tiverton. I am not upset about these people. I know they struggle with paying taxes. I think the TCC leadership uses these people and incites them with economic fear. I think these taxpayers deserve assistance.
I believe that the TCC in part is fighting for a large number of older wealthy adults without kids who bought very expensive retirement property here during the real estate boom of 2002-2007. Stuck now with houses whose value has plummeted, they are just looking out for their pocketbooks. Holding onto their wallets trumps any care for the future of education here.

Isn’t that always the storyline from the Left? The ideas are presumed to be in the service of affluent greed, and those without the bank accounts who sympathize are mere pawns. Couldn’t it be that the “root cause” of that right-wing evil can’t be so simply drawn? One hesitates to point out something as obvious as the fact that those on fixed incomes have, if anything, more reason to “hold onto their wallets,” but, well.
In his ideological determination, Mr. Joslin misses a blindspot that leaves him vulnerable to the charge of allowing union benefits to trump local education:

TCC says it wants budget cuts. Tiverton schools have already cut programs in sports, advanced placement, language, music, art and more. So, TCC, cut what else? Oust the teachers’ union? As a 12-year resident and taxpayer I demand that we all make the TCC more transparent. They are arrogant; as newcomers they tell us that we have been incompetent and they know best. They point fingers at respected officials.

I haven’t polled my peers, but I suspect that there’d be a softening of their wallet-grips if the argument weren’t that programs have been cut and teachers need more money, but that teachers’ compensation had been cut and the programs required more funding. Be that as it may, it’s a curiosity, indeed, that those who argue so vehemently for the future of education seem incapable of articulating the thought that, in tight financial times, all increases ought to go to programs, rather than teachers (who make more individually, by the by, than whole households up here in the North).
Count me among those inclined to withhold further contributions from the obligatory charity of public education if the dollars are to be snatched from the table for the enrichment of adults, rather than for the restoration of programs that might allow me to return my children to public education without feeling irresponsible as a parent.

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Ed Davis
Ed Davis
12 years ago

The problem with the “don’t cut programs, just give the teachers less!” argument is that you are, as usual, missing one key point. The most important element in implementing successful programs is hiring good staff. As they say in industry, If you pay peanuts, you get………! Pay low wages, you will not have, great staff, necessary for great programs. Just last week you made reference to Tiverton’s per pupil expenditure. You explained that while the overall expenditure is low, we pay a disproportional amount for staff. If you combine this ratio with the fact that 5 out of 6 schools are high performing, some of your neutral bloggers might realize that these funds, spent on staff, are monies well spent! Without a teacher,, there are no programs. Trying to look at this objectively……….. There has been a bit of mud slinging in this whole argument that is similar. The same accusation (the other side is greedy) is being put forth by both the left and the right. Meanwhile, both sides claim that they are the righteous ones looking out for the welfare of the town, children etc. Are both sides greedy or is this just a bi-product of a bad economy? The TCC wants to pay out less, to take care of their family. The members of the teachers union, likewise, want to increase their income to also take of their family. Neither side has made a steady appearance at the local soup kitchens. From the perspective of defending my stance as an educator…. This is not the old days where schools were staffed by the “old school mom’s.” School staffs, like other professions, are made up of a broad spectrum people with varying degrees of financial success. Some teachers are single mothers that are struggling to pay their bills… Read more »

Mike
Mike
12 years ago

The head of the CAlifornia Teacher’s Union famously labeled as “cheapskates” those who supported Prop. 13 to stop their families from being forced out of tomes by spiraling property taxes.
Yes to vouchers
No to Walsh, Crowley and Reback

thinkaboutit
thinkaboutit
12 years ago

1) I’m still waiting to see the data that shows teacher pay translating into achievement.
2) Also, where does it show 5/6 high achieving? I thought THS had 29% math proficiency?
3) Still don’t believe you’re the lowest paid when looking at all teachers, not just union.
4) More than anything else, I have a fundamental disagreement that teachers have a moral right, as professionals in government service, to exploit every tactic – legal and illegal – to improve their take-home pay when they are already so well compensated. Is there any sense of civic duty here? Taxpayers, on the other hand, are forced by the power of government to turn over the fruits of their labor. Teachers are not.
5) Remind me, again, why someone who has lived in a town for a longer period of time has greater rights than a newcomer? That line of thinking has to be the weakest of them all. Even the bond vote was over four years ago – it’s not like it just happened yesterday.
6) I would offer that renters do pay property taxes indirectly through the rent that you set according to market forces. The high taxes here is a major factor as to why there is a shortage of affordable housing. A fundamental misunderstanding of economics is a major reason why RI is so underperforming. It is also why your defense of high pay by quasi-referencing labor markets is inaccurate, because the labor markets are not truly free, but are skewed by unfair advantage (much like a monopoly, cartel, etc.).

thinkaboutit
thinkaboutit
12 years ago

I don’t normally go for the double-post, but I’m so aggravated by the “No one forced you to move here” line, that shouldn’t we then say to the poor teacher making only $50 an hour: “No one is forcing you to keep working here. If you don’t like it, just leave.”
Again, it doesn’t sound good when that’s the best you can come up with. It’s like the brat crying “I didn’t ask to be born…”

Jon Devolve
Jon Devolve
12 years ago

thinkaboutit,
think about this for a second. Your $50/hour figure is awesome. That must be for a top-step teacher. What about the rest of us? I know I do not make $50 an hour so where does that figure come from.
I did some research about Tiverton students being 29% math proficient. According to the State of Rhode Island, a place you are so concerned about, Tiverton students scored the following on their math tests for 2006-2007:
For Mathematics, categories are broken down into the following: skills, concepts, and problem-solving. Our scores were as follows:
Skills: 4% no score, 2% little evidence of achievement, 16% below the standard, 9% nealry achieved the standard, 31% achieved the standard, and 38% achieved the standard with honors!
If you want more, here is the English Language Arts Scores:
Categories were broken down into the following: Reading/Basic Understanding, Reading Analysis and Interpretation, Writing Effectiveness, and Writing Conventions.
The scores were:
5% below the standard, 30% nearly achieved the standard, 61% achieved the standard, and 2% achieved the standard with honors. For reading and interpretation the scores were 10% below the standard, 32% nearly achieved the standard, 57% achieved the standard, and 2% achieved the standard with honors.
I could go on and on about the job Tiverton’s teachers and students do, but I think you get the point. If you do not believe me, just go the rhode island department of education website, click on the link called inforworks, and then click on districts. Located Tiverton and the results are there.
Good Night

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Jon:
Yes, the $50 per hour is for step 10 (which covers, as I recall, about half of Tiverton’s teachers). The point is valid because every other step receives a raise simply for hanging in there another year.
The 29% comes from last year’s NECAP (PDF), taken in Fall ’07. The report you cite comes from the previous measure, taken in Spring ’07 (PDF). One can’t compare these as trends, because the students taking the NECAP were beginning 11th grade, not finishing it, as had previously been the case. Still, 29% is 29%.
It also bears noting that, the year before (PDF), skills proficiency was at a total of 78%, so the recent results were significantly lower. Moreover, the last time the students took the tests with comparable (although a little less) months of education under their belts, back in ’03, 56% were proficient in “skills” and 43% if we average the three subsets.
The proposition that teachers deserve more money based on math results is dubious at best. And we haven’t even brought up science, yet!

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Ed:
Well, that’s the union strategy, isn’t it? Force the community to negotiate with the teachers as a body, but then raise up whichever subset is convenient for a given purpose. Teachers are too wealthy by comparison (e.g., you and two other teachers with whom I’ve spoken in the past week who don’t seem to realize the light that well-paid spouses and family businesses shine on their efforts for more public money)? Hey, look at the single moms! Teachers are underperforming? Hey, look at Mr. Davis and the wonderful work he’s done with technology!
It shouldn’t work like that for creative professionals, which is what teachers ought to be.

Tom W
Tom W
12 years ago

>we are the Ocean States lowest paid teachers. This is not an opinion, or a rumor, or one’s interpretation of the facts: it is a FACT!
Yet still highly paid against NATIONAL averages.
Also, you are not factoring in total compensation:
1) salaries (for a PART-TIME job);
2) gold-plated health care benefits (for a PART-TIME job);
3) gold-plated pension (for a PART-TIME job).
All this for Rhode Island schools that perform below average in comparison to the nation, which in turn scores low compared to international comparisons.
World-class compensation in return for third-world performance. You should be kissing the ground that you have it so good.

Ed Davis
Ed Davis
12 years ago

thinkaboutit Relax, the apartment line was a joke! Your right, no one is forcing us to work here. Unfortunately, I saw this philosophy take hold in the school system my son attended. Many of the good young teachers, in the critical areas of math and science, left for better paying jobs. This is beginning to happen in Tiverton. Justin……… I know I have little chance of changing your stance. If you had read a little deeper into my comments on the TCC you would see I was stating what I have heard people say. I do not think anyone’s right to speak their voice depends on how long they have lived here. I was simply stating that you should know you will encounter resentment. If I were in the TCC, I would expect it. It’s like me posting on this site. I know I need thick skin to posts my comments in this blog with the likes of you, Monique and thinkaboutit. As far as your test score arguments…. It is the way schools are evaluated. We have to live with it. However, there is one big flaw in the way RI tests, Unlike Massachusetts, which offers the child scholarship money for high achievement, RI offers the students, nothing. We often forget the key component in testing: the nature of the students. I have worked for 31 years. If we offered our students, some immediate gratification, for test score performance, they would perform better. Students today have SAT’s, senior project, varsity sports, clubs, activities, social lives, and part time jobs. Many could care less about NECAP. I have supervised these tests. Students will state, “I don’t care about this test, I don’t get anything for doing well.” I would like to see more data on how we arrive at the… Read more »

Justin Katz
12 years ago

I have supervised these tests. Students will state, “I don’t care about this test, I don’t get anything for doing well.”

Could the hammered message from supporters of the current system that standardized tests mean nothing have anything to do with that?

I’d like to see other areas evaluated. Dropout rate, SAT’s, NEASC results, percentage of students going on to post graduate studies are all better indicators of a school systems ability to educate!

I can’t quickly find the numbers, just now, on dropouts, but my recollection is that Rhode Island doesn’t do very well. I also can’t speak to NEASC and post-grad data. I have, however, recently spent some time with SAT data and found the following (limiting inquiry to the 16 states that have a greater than 60% participation rate in the SATs:

We’ve got an average median income, but the fifth highest public school teacher pay, the second highest private school student percentage, and the third lowest public school cumulative SAT score (despite the sixth highest private school cumulative SAT score).

It’s interesting to note that, among these states, public teacher compensation correlates more closely with private school test scores than public school test scores. I’d note that experience tells me that y’all are much better paid than the private-sector teachers.

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