The Union Does School Administration
It was hard not to give some credit to the union-run New England Laborers/Cranston Public Schools Construction Career Academy when it gave some of its money back to the town to maintain sports programs. Of course, one wondered why it would have extra money — charter schools aren’t fully private schools — but the sentiment wasn’t without its noble tinge. Well, Cranston School Committee member Stephen Stycos says there’s more to the story, and as usual, it begins with an apparent conflict of interest:
I questioned the change and argued that if the Laborers charter school had $193,840 for the union, it should also give $193,840 to the Cranston public schools. [Michael] Traficante, who chairs the charter-school board of directors and the Cranston School Committee, and is an employee of the Laborers union, countered that the former superintendent promised the union would only have to pay for the “construction craft laborers instructors” for the school’s first five years.
And here are some of the results:
Mr. Traficante, however, said the Laborers charter school wanted to help with Cranston’s financial woes and came forward with a transfer of $187,218. In response to questioning from several School Committee members, we discovered that this “gift” was the state’s reimbursement for special-education services already paid by the Cranston public schools. Had the charter school kept the money, it would have been paid twice for the same special-education services — once by its partner, the Cranston Public Schools, and once by the State of Rhode Island. Since Cranston pays for the special-education services, Cranston should automatically receive the money. …
(The construction craft laborers instructors, however, who are hired by the union, receive a school-year wage and benefit package equal to $97,751, while a comparable technical assistant at Cranston’s vocational school earns $45,870 in wages and benefits.)