Breaking the Cycle of Expensive Education and Poor Economic Development

The news hook was local, so I posted it over on the Tiverton Citizens for change Web site, but the topic applies to the whole state, so here’s the upshot:

… if our investment in education — and let’s put aside Rhode Island’s and Tiverton’s questionable results — leads to policies that drive up the cost of living in the state and the difficulty of doing business, here, it can only be self-defeating. In the first stages of pulling Rhode Island out of the dry well into which it’s fallen, our attitude about businesses’ importing workers has to be, “so what,” followed by, “let’s do better from here forward. An active economy will provide the revenue to invest in education without making a disincentive of our town and state cost structures. Moreover, an influx of success-oriented (non-public-sector) residents, many of whom will bring families with them, can only improve voter input to better shape our school system.

Claiming that our inflated costs for education — secondary and above — is a matter of economic development is a union-approved cop-out, and it will remain so until Rhode Island has excess jobs looking for workers… or at least until it’s clear that business want to set up shop here but note the lack of skilled employees to be a lone hindrance.

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Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

Last sentence:
set up shot
should be
set up shop
I understand the point, but these things are neither black nor white, rather some shade in between. In a general sense, states and communities that spend more for education have better jobs and also other benefits.
However, there is a point where throwing money at something does not change it for the better. It’s all a matter of value – bang for the buck.
Oh, in your quoted material:
“let’s to better from here forward”
Should be
Let’s DO better…….
I know how it is when we type quickly!

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Thank you for the corrections. I’m inclined to quip that it’s the businesses already established in Rhode Island that have to set up shots.

michael
michael
11 years ago

With the enormous amount of material I try to get to daily I usually quickly read something and move on. I quickly read this and decided to comment because 1. the statement “success-oriented (non-public-sector)” is extremely obnoxious to a success oriented public sector employee, and 2. the contradictory wording of “businesses wanting to set up shop here but note the lack of skilled employees.” prompted me to wonder about all of our college educated youth that supposedly leave Rhode Island because of the lack of opportunity here.
Is the cost of education as a matter of economic development a “union cop out?” Do businesses actually consider this a place of unskilled employees?
Talk about talking in circles.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Michael,
I’m not the one claiming that businesses see Rhode Island as a place with unskilled employees. People who want us to pour more money into public education often claim that it must be done by way of making our state more attractive to businesses. If you question their assertion, you and I are agreeing.
As for the statement that you find “obnoxious,” I probably could have been clearer that the “non-public-sector” parenthetical was not meant to be a restatement of “success oriented,” but rather a refinement of what sort of “success oriented” residents I meant. (If I’d wanted to convey the first meaning, I’d have included “i.e.”) At any rate, though, public sector employees contribute at best indirectly to economic growth.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Michael,
It occurs to me, further, to note that when you wished to take an economic risk for some potential return on investment of money and labor — which is to say when you turned your success orientation toward growing the Rhode Island economy — you acted in the private sector.
In your public-sector capacity, you hand your voice over to a union that supports candidates, pushes policies, and engages in negotiations so as to redirect increased tax dollars (whether directly or through lost productivity) toward your union. More: public officials elected by public sector unions typically prove harmful in more ways than just giving unions a stronger hand; they also support the sorts of policies that have dragged Rhode Island into the gutter.

michael
michael
11 years ago

Justin, here we go again: Public sector employees are not supposed to contribute to economic growth. It isn’t our function. That is where the private sector comes in. If public sector employees did half the complaining about the private sector and the money we spend for goods and services there that the private sector does about public employees the internet would be full, no more room for growth. In the public sector union job I voice my opinions, listen to other opinions, enter into a logical discussion and vote on what is the best course of action for the members of that union. I don’t hand my voice to anybody. Things don’t always go the way I like but that is life. I try. This is a concept that has eluded you for the years I’ve been participating here and I honestly cannot believe how thick you are when it comes to this subject, especially in light of the difficulties you encounter with your own employer. And incidentally, “public sector unions” have never elected anybody into office. As far as I know our election process is open to everybody. “a union that supports candidates, pushes policies, and engages in negotiations so as to redirect increased tax dollars (whether directly or through lost productivity) toward your union” My union is vigilant concerning legislation at the state house for one reason and one reason only; to protect the wages, benefits and working conditions of the members of our union. You can word it any way you like, spin it however it suits your needs, but the truth remains solid. Our pay and benefits are equal compensation for the work we do and the risks we take. Argue that point all day long if you like. All I know is that if Lt.… Read more »

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Michael,
So we agree:
* Public sector employees do not contribute to economic growth
To which I’d add that it therefore stretches the truth to pretend that investments in public sector employees represent investments in economic development.
* Public sector unions are a very powerful voice in Rhode Island
To which I’d add that they are therefore partially culpable for the woeful state of the state.
On both counts, my initial argument stands: For the purposes of economic development, Rhode Island should lower the cost of government services, even if it means decreasing or eliminating some, in order to remove burdens from those who do contribute to economic growth. Furthermore, an additional benefit on top of the economic growth will be an increase in voters with what I believe to be a more healthy civic perspective.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

“Our pay and benefits are equal compensation for the work we do and the risks we take.”
What a coincidence, every other public employee says the same exact thing, even the cops and firefighters making 200k+. They must all be compensated exactly the right amount by your logic.
And yet you have no meaningful way of evaluating whether you “should” objectively be paid $1000 more or $1000 less, because your position is insulated from the very market forces that normally set salary. How much “should” a public EMT be paid? A public teacher? A public librarian? You don’t know, and neither does anybody else since it’s completely arbitrary based on what kind of political power they wield through their unions. So your assertion is bare and groundless i.e. “I deserve this money because I say I do.”

michael
michael
11 years ago

Justin,
Public employees have nothing to do with economic development.
The world does not revolve around economic growth.
Dan,
“And yet you have no meaningful way of evaluating whether you “should” objectively be paid $1000 more or $1000 less, because your position is insulated from the very market forces that normally set salary.”
Actuallu, I do have a meaningful way of evaluating whether I should objectively be paid $1000 more or $1000 less.
If the job of firefighter/EMT were paid theoretically 1000 less, I wouldn’t have applied for the position. Some other guy or gal content to make ten bucks or less an hour would have, and the fire EMS service would be full of people happy to get by on that, probably not motivated to do the job above and beyond what the ten dollars an hour pays for. Based on prior conversations here with you and some others you have little idea of the training and dedication it takes to thrive in this profession, so I’m sure that the ten dollar an hour, or volunteer fire department sounds great. It wouldn’t work for long.
I could pontificate but I’ll wait to see what you have to say before continuing, if it works out that way. If not, happy Fathers Day. I’ve got a few cigars and family waiting at home. Five o’clock can’t come fast enough.

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
11 years ago

“I probably could have been clearer that the “non-public-sector” parenthetical was not meant to be a restatement of “success oriented,” but rather a refinement of what sort of “success oriented” residents I meant.”
While success may be an absolute, more frequently it is a comparison to failures.
When considering “success” in the public sector, it should be noted that the public sector does not ever compare itself to the private sector when determing if any particular endeavor is a success. Public sector projects are only compared to other public sector projects, and judged relatively.
For instance “success” in the speed of completing a naval warship would only be compared to other naval war ships. It would never have been compared to the time to complete the Queen Mary, or the United States.
So, between the “public sector” and the “private sector” success has very different criteria.

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

Governments (public sector) provide the environment in which business (private) can be done. That includes everything from laws (so someone can’t hit you on the head and steal your cash register) to navigable waters, to flood protection, to interstates, to the internet, etc.
The government also has large sectors concerned with health – a private business won’t do too well, if they all get a plaque and die.
While this cannot be counted in the same ways as the cash register at the end of each day, it is never the less as important or more important than much of the private sector. Dan assures us that HIS WORK OUTPUT pays his considerable salary many times over, yet he has difficultly with thinking that perhaps others have similar productivity.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

Michael, do you really think that’s how public agencies operate – paying people the lowest they can to get qualified applicants? You really think that no qualified people would be willing to replace police and firefighters for less than 200k a year? You’re ignoring the fundamental economic differences of government versus the private sector. What you personally are willing to do your public job for is irrelevant, your salary is still arbitrarily set by political expedience. Please do not pretend that you are a market participant, you are anything but.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Please do not pretend that you are a market participant, you are anything but.
Michael
How many applicants were there when you tested for a position in the professional rescue / fire service?

Stuart
Stuart
11 years ago

Having worked in the private sector as an employer and business owner all my life, I can assure Dan and others who have not done so that the LAST thing on my agenda was to hire the person who could “get the job done” at the lowest possible price.
As we have seen with offshoring, illegal immigration, Wal-Mart World, etc….that leads quickly to ruin. If a person cannot make enough money to live a decent life, then we cannot expect to have a peaceful and fulfilled society.
Period.

michael
michael
11 years ago

It was a hypothetical argument, Dan. I thought you might find it impossible to understand that. I quite emphatically stated that I am anything but a “market participant” in the comments section on this very topic, or did you miss that.
“Public employees have nothing to do with economic development.
The world does not revolve around economic growth.”
This doesn’t infer public employees are not a major part of a communities economic well being, we are. However, we are not in a competitive marketplace, we have no product to sell. I suppose somebody could start a fire department and cut costs, and I suppose we could do the same with the police, FBI and CIA as well, maybe even the army. I just don’t see that working very well, and thankfully neither does many other people.
Phil, 3000 applicants for 75 jobs. The first 1000 couldn’t spell their name, the next 1000 couldn’t pass the agility test, 500 of the remaining 1000 failed the psychological exam or background check, leaving 500 qualified candidates.

Dan
Dan
11 years ago

A thinly-veiled appeal to popularity. It always ends there with those who benefit from the status quo.

michael
michael
11 years ago

I’m paid to provide a service. There is no status quo.
“Status quo, you know, that is Latin for the mess we’re in.” – Ronald Reagan

JB
JB
11 years ago

Very short-sighted. One of the main reasons that RI is not attractive to businesses is because middle management doesn’t want to live here. If you feel like you have to send your kids to 30k a year private schools to get a solid education for your children you’re not going to be happy about living in RI.
Bad schools is the equivalent of a high marginal tax rate for high income earners, something I’m sure no one at Anchor Rising has been happy about existing in RI.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

JP,
That’s not the point being made by the people to whom I’m responding. Their objective is to improve our workforce, and they aren’t proposing anything that would resolve the core of our problem — namely the stranglehold of teachers’ unions and an incompetent political system.
In other words, the type of “investment” that the state is likely to make in education will make it more expensive without relieving the pressure on parents to choose private schools.

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