Gutting the District in Woonsocket
- All sports except track & field: $155,903
- Athletic supplies: $12,750
- Athletic uniforms: $9,350
- Choral, class advisors 8 through 12, RI Honor Society, band, drama senior high publication, VICA: $49,461
- Saturday detention: $2,000
- 40 teacher furlough days: $6,084,033
- Total: $6,548,134
Pondering what students are going to do with no teachers for 40 of the school year’s 180 days brings to light a general principle that seems to have been baked into the Rhode Island education paradigm: Everything must be cut, rather than reduced. Salaries never go down; staff are laid off. Extra activities are never included in teachers’ already high salaries; they are eliminated. An across-the-board cut in the combined salaries/benefit total of about 13-14% for all teachers, staff, and administrators would eliminate the shortfall with no cuts to programs.
Sure, that’s a bitter pill for employees to swallow, but it’s hardly unique among workers in today’s environment. It’s also mitigated with some perspective about salary trends, especially (as ever) among teachers:
Over the three years of the most recent teachers’ contract (PDF), the average pay scale step has increased 7.64%. In any given year, the average salary increase from one step to another is 6.5%. The result is that an actual teacher has seen nearly a 10% increase each year and a 21.5% increase in salary since the contract went into effect. (Higher education bonuses are not included.)
Of course, teachers at step 10 have had to make do with the 7.64% increase to their step and longevity (as well as whatever seniority-based perks are worked into the contract), but sometimes an organization has to do what it must do in order to maintain its purpose. And besides, those teachers hired before 1994 (about 70 of them, I’m told) have never paid a penny for their healthcare.
It remains a possibility — another principle baked into the public sector paradigm — that the objective, here, was to put forward cuts that the unions, government, and public wouldn’t permit to happen rather than adjustments that might actually solve the problem. Eventually, everybody involved is going to have to cease petulant demands that money just be found… somewhere… and accept that the old way is not sustainable.