The Labor Model Must Change with the Education Model
Both sides in the debate over educational reform at Hope High School in Providence have made reasonable points. Those associated with the school note improved scores and a vitalized environment when reforms were under way. Those associated with the district cite the need to educate all of Providence’s students and a need for consistency across the city. One suspects, though, that the final sticking point was money:
… Supt. Tom Brady persuaded the state Department of Education that the Hope academic model was too costly to maintain. While acknowledging that the school had made dramatic gains, he said that the reforms called for an additional 20 to 30 teachers at a cost of approximately $2.5 million annually — an expense he said the district could no longer afford.
Although governing bodies in Rhode Island have long behaved as if it were not true, the tax base is simply not a bottomless well. Even if a particular reform can be proven to improve results dramatically, the cost is not a negligible factor.
And that, to me, illustrates an underlying problem in the way we handle the education system. Insiders like to pretend otherwise, but there’s no point of separation between the education model and the labor model, and the latter allows very little room for maneuvering. Even if the employees of Hope decided that the better work environment and the chance to be part of something revolutionary justified financial sacrifice, they could not have offered it, because labor contracts are district-wide documents negotiated through a statewide union that has its eye on trends and power all the way up to the national level.
If the faculty and staff who so believed in the steps that Hope had been taking had offered to meet former Supt. Brady halfway on the increased total cost, perhaps he’d have gone for it. Those employees would have certainly been doubly invested in making the changes pay off