Give Them Time… and Money

Although writing from Michigan, Kyle Olson has it right when it comes to his perspective on education happenings in Central Falls:

Central Falls students deserve a high-quality education. But instead, families are told to be patient as administrators and the teachers union hold meetings and create 45-page reform plans. And now the federal government gives the district a big check, which simply buys the defenders of the status quo more time.

At the School Committee meeting in Tiverton, this Tuesday, the committee and administrators turned part of their budget discussion into a plea that they lack the resources for early interventions that might improve results, particularly standardized test results, for students down the line. They talked about revenue sources that Portsmouth has that Tiverton doesn’t; they speculated as to why Portsmouth’s per-student cost might be lower, including the possibility that the town has fewer special education students. (Some quick research that I did online while they talked showed that a good portion of the difference is specifically in instruction, meaning the cost of teachers.)
As far as I’m concerned, that’s all beside the point. Each town and city has the tax base that it has and the student population that it has. The principle studiously ignored during such discussions is that organizations must be built to do the work that must be done with the resources that they actually have. If that means that a particular district must pay teachers significantly less in order to hire math coaches or whatever else might be needed, then so be it.
The approach to labor and salary that has become part of public school culture begins with the premise that teachers should make roughly the same wherever they work, and the unions manipulate politics and local budget processes in order to prevent any real systemic balance of price, resources, and value. Pouring more money — whether local, state, or federal — into the equation causes the price of educators to go up and when the flow of revenue ebbs, programs and services go on the chopping block so that salaries never have to adjust downward.

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12 years ago

“Each town and city has the tax base that it has and the student population that it has. …If that means that a particular district must pay teachers significantly less in order to hire math coaches or whatever else might be needed, then so be it.”
Who pays for the lost tax base caused by the presence of Federal Public Housing that pays almost nothing in property taxes yet populates our schools with some of the neediest children (language, poverty, dysfunctional familiy, etc.)?
In my city, family public housing contributes over 10% of the student population in our public schools and contributes only $30,000 of PILOT money. Fully taxed, it would represent almost $3 million.
Just pay the teachers less because they work in a city with a needy population living in untaxed housing? So how do you attract teachers to a workplace that has more challenging students, less family suport, and a language barrier to overcome, while at the same time telling them they will make “significantly” less than if they go to work in say, Tiverton because we are poor by design? A design built in the 1930’s and 40’s because cities were where the people lived back then.
An interesting proposition.
Sounds a little simplistic to me.

Justin Katz
Justin Katz
12 years ago

The principle is not simplistic, John, just initial. Its application will be different in every town. It may very well be the case that, in Woonsocket, the teachers are already paid the bare minimum for the absolute maximum of hours of work that would attract qualified candidates, although I doubt it.
Even so, breaking the employment culture in public schools to allow more flexibility would clearly ease the pressures that you describe. Teachers with difficult classes could get bonuses; easier positions could pay less and still attract qualified candidates. And so on.
I can only answer your question with a question: Who pays? Well, who pays now? You worry about not attracting teachers, but perhaps you should also worry about attracting the sorts of residents and businesses that would offset some of the low-end deficit.

12 years ago

The new state ‘fair funding formula’ when focused on Central Falls came to the conclusion that they can afford to pay nearly $12 million a year towards their own education costs. The formula takes into account the tax base and the ability of the community to pay their way. Its the same formula that is stealing millions from the East Bay.
When a single metro area community is shown to have to pay more or in CF’s case ‘something’ (nearly $12 million would still make CF the lowest contributor to its own children per pupil) the GA moves to push the number downward and its no coincidence that Central Falls declared bankruptcy within 2 weeks of the FFF being signed into law.
The taxpayers in the rest of the state have been and are being defrauded – the FFF proves my case.
I’ve been looking to see whether the taxpayers here have a case for a class action against Central Falls and the state for defrauding us. There are few precedence setting cases any where that touch on this.

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