Management-Union Friendship and Money Seeking
Linda Borg’s Sunday Projo article, “In Providence, more collaboration than conflict,” weaves a tale of cooperation between the the city’s schools superintendent and its teachers’ union leadership:
Call it a tale of two cities.
While the superintendent and union president have been going at it in Central Falls, Brady and Smith have worked together on a plan to radically reshape five of the state’s lowest-performing schools.
Her Saturday article, “Providence teachers face job uncertainty,” gives some indication as to why. First of all, Providence has already effectively experienced the “turnaround model” that has Central Falls roiling:
Teachers, however, had to reapply for their jobs, and only 50 percent of the existing staff chose to do so. What made Hope High School successful was that, in the end, the teachers who stayed were committed to making radical changes, from moving to longer class periods to spending more time planning instruction.
Union President Steve Smith credits “the faculty” with initiating that idea, but whatever behind-the-scenes maneuvering there may have been, it was ultimately a difference in the union’s behavior, not the district’s plan. Further along in the same article, we find a clue that might explain the two sides’ inclination to cooperate (emphasis added):
But for teachers to embrace dramatic change, they want the district — and the state — to give them the resources they need to get the job done, Smith said. He is bringing those concerns to School Supt. Tom Brady so that the School Department can push for federal monies to pay for additional support, whether it’s creating alternative classrooms for disruptive students or remedial classes for students who are performing below grade level.
Let’s take as given that the cooperation in Providence is desirable, whatever its motivation. We still should consider such evidence as the newly proposed funding formula. Providence has been underfunded, and no doubt stands to drink deeply from any pool of Race to the Top federal money that comes to the state. The Department of Education has determined that Central Falls, by contrast, is already receiving much more state money than is “fair.”
In summary, the Providence union has already acquiesced to the sorts of changes that the Central Falls union is fighting, and education leaders on both sides of the negotiating table in Providence have reason to expect their good behavior to be rewarded mightily.