Words of Wisdom About Teacher Pay and the Perils of Binding Arbitration: Guess the Speaker

This column by Steve Frias in the Cranston Herald contains, among other things, some fascinating history about the evolution and implementation of public pensions and collective bargaining in RI.
Some quotes highlighted by Frias from the early 1990’s in particular stand out, not so much because of their substance, though they are absolutely correct, but because of who uttered them. (I have omitted the town and the candidate from the original text.)

What few may recall is that ….. during a time when XXXXX teachers were striking, candidate _____ spoke of the possibility of “a voucher system or privatization” for education because teachers were “going to price themselves out of the business.” He even lobbied state legislators against approving binding arbitration for teachers because the “unions own the arbitrators.”

Can you guess who said this? (Hint: “Speaker” in the title of this post is not “Mr. Speakah” of the RI House but simply “s/he who spoke the words”.)
That’s right, it was Lincoln Chafee, then running for mayor of Warwick.
If you’re also thinking that now-Governor Chafee’s views on such matters have … er, evolved (or possibly devolved, from the perspective of those who pay the bills), you are correct again. That is one of the main points of Frias’ column – possibly as much a reminder to the public unions as to anybody.
Below is the text unedited, including more of the original paragraph that contained it. Let the record show, though, that, surprising as it may be, it turns out that there is a moment in time when I agree wholeheartedly with something that (then-candidate) Lincoln Chafee said!

Governor Lincoln Chafee’s call for negotiation over pension reform is consistent with Chafee’s predilection for fickle political maneuvering regarding unions over the course of two decades. Many recall that before signing pension reform legislation in 2011, Governor Lincoln Chafee was supported by public employee unions when he ran for Governor in 2010. What few may recall is that in 1992, when he was running for mayor of Warwick, during a time when Warwick teachers were striking, candidate Chafee spoke of the possibility of “a voucher system or privatization” for education because teachers were “going to price themselves out of the business.” He even lobbied state legislators against approving binding arbitration for teachers because the “unions own the arbitrators.” After he was elected mayor by a very small margin in a three-way race, Mayor Lincoln Chafee changed his approach regarding the teacher unions. He circumvented the Warwick School Committee to give Warwick teachers a 19.4 percent pay raise with no health insurance premium co-share. …

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Dan
Dan
8 years ago

Politicians have a way of forgetting their principles and obvious truths when confronted with the tidal wave of cash and votes that big labor offers in Rhode Island. Unions gave RI politicians more money last election cycle than all businesses combined – but progressives “know” that the real threat is corporate America. I’ve yet to hear a coherent explanation from progressives of why unions would throw away so much money on politicians if it has little impact, as their narrative claims.

David S
David S
8 years ago

So you think right now that teachers are overpaid? What is your idea of what pay should be?

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

David – My SO and both my parents are teachers, so no hate here, but ~50k is a very good starting salary for a liberal arts college graduate. That’s even a good starting salary for graduating attorneys in this recession. Lots of open jobs, great benefits, a pension, ample sick/personal days, and money towards a masters degree is extremely generous – plus the summers off, so you are effectively making 20-30% more annually. Then you get automatic pay raises until you’re sitting pretty at around $80k. The job isn’t easy, but there are definitely worse and harder jobs out there. My SO says all the time she can’t believe her coworkers complain with the deal they are getting. As a side note, we’re happy to live in a right to work state so we can tell her union to shove it. We put the money we saved in union dues toward a downpayment on our house.

Mike
Mike
8 years ago

Yes, RI teachers are overpaid–if you add in their benefits and pensions. More so if you compare pay to performance–but I fear that is only done in the private sector.

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