“Education Support Professionals” Block School Opening In North Kingstown
In June, the North Kingstown School Committee voted to privatize the union jobs of 26 custodians. Twenty of the twenty-six were re-hired by the private company–GCA–that was brought in to take over.
The committee voted to award a bid to GCA to privatize the district’s custodial department and will plan to award the contract at its meeting Tuesday night. Though the staff got the axe, GCA has made a verbal agreement to hire all of North Kingstown’s current custodians as long as they pass a BCI check. The custodians will be rehired at the company’s “enhanced wage.”
The committee also moved to reject the ESP (Education Support Professionals) contract and made substantial changes to its support staffing. Though the committee agreed 4-2 (Benson and Dick Welch opposing) to grant the paraprofessionals a one-percent pay increase (up from the superintendent’s recommendation to freeze salaries), it also eliminated life insurance for ESP, cut three sick days and one personal day and established new buyback rates for employees who opted out of health care. (Those new rates are now $2,500 for family and $1,200 for individuals.)
Employees who work fewer than 30 hours per work will no longer be eligible to receive health care through the school department. (Formerly, the cutoff was 20 hours.) The committee also authorized the hiring of 12 part-time employees to replace six full-time positions – a move that will save the district approximately $198,000.
NK School Committe Chair Kimberly Page explained it wasn’t an easy decision to privatize. Now, via Bob Plain, we learn that the NK School Committee is–according to the NK school unions–engaging in “economic violence” (gotta love the hyperbole), which is why the NK school unions united in solidarity to close the schools for the sake of, er, 6 jobs. Or maybe there’s more to it than that.
Education special interest groups, such as the teachers unions, are experiencing a decline in membership. As Stephen Sawchuck reports in Education Week, “by the end of its 2013–14 budget, NEA [the National Education Association] expects it will have lost 308,000 members and experienced a decline in revenue projected at some $65 million in all since 2010. (The figures are expressed in full-time equivalents, which means that the actual number of people affected is probably higher.)”
Look, it’s pretty simple. This is only a little about jobs and mostly about power for unions. They certainly didn’t shut down school for “the children.” Or is shutting down a school district what we’re call “education support” now? (Wait, don’t answer that!).
For those who think handing these support services over to contractors will result in diminished quality, well, guess what? If the people of North Kingstown aren’t happy with the janitorial services, they can go to School Committee meetings and complain. That’s one benefit of hiring a private company to do these services: if NK taxpayers demand better results and they don’t happen, they can fire GCS and find someone new. I know, it’s amazing but true. It happens all the time in the private sector. Really.