April 4, 2008

Out of the Din

Justin Katz

Throughout my adult years, I'd never so much as considered sending my children to private school (parochial or otherwise) until very recently. Even my particular tincture of religious faith leads me strongly to feel that spending one's formative years among a cross-section of the local society — an opportunity that my own experience led me to take as an apt description of the public school environment — is a valuable component of education. Yet, yesterday our attempts to move our children outside of Tiverton's school district met with success.

After receiving my wife's call, in the morning, the rest of the day brought a noticeable increase in my stress level, involving anxiety about the now-certain new monthly bill. But what is one to do? The headline at the top of this week's Sakonnet Times is "Teachers reject two-year offer":

Tiverton teachers Monday afternoon "clearly expressed disapproval" of a two-year contract proposal put forward by the School Committee Friday, March 14, according to Amy Mullen, the union's president and Pocasset School teacher.

The school committee's contract offer was not proposed for ratification, and no vote was taken, said Ms. Mullen. Rather, it was discussed with "roughly 192 members present" at what union leadership characterized as an "emergency union meeting" at Green Valley Country Club in Portsmouth that began at 4 p.m. Monday and lasted nearly an hour and a half.

"The membership let us know it was not acceptable," Ms. Mullen said.

The complaint is that, when increasing healthcare costs are factored in, step 10 teachers will see minimal increases. Me, I can't keep my head from shaking: These teachers know the problems facing our state and our town. They know that money is extremely tight — so much so that their unreasonable demands will require the district to send out up to three dozen pink slips. Yet they persist.

And they persist in this (from an anonymous letter in the print edition's "Web Words" section):

Teachers, at this point why start anything to benefit the students. As parents of seniors, we know first hand you have disappointed the students all year. Some of the teachers were unprofessional, discussing the contract situation in the classroom, threatening to cancel events such as homecoming, dances and prom. You claim to be fulfilling your contract responsibilities, but as far as the students and parents are concerned, you failed! The seniors worked hard on their senior projects and, at this point, knowing they will not be graded by the teachers for their presentation portion of the project, their enthusiasm has diminished. This just adds to the list of disappointments such as mock trial, math team, class advisers, yearly art gallery shows, class trips, National Honor Society attendance, College Fair, limited letters of recommendation and limited after school help.Fortunately for the students, replacements were found and many of the above activities continued due to the principal and his office staff and concerned parents. Yet again you try to use the seniors as pawns! So you're not going to show up at graduation, who cares, it's too late. You lost the respect of most students and parents.

What responsible parent wouldn't reconsider the value of a public school education when faced with such an environment? I can't be alone in veritably itching for a concrete opportunity to fight for a school choice/voucher system.

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Justin, you are not alone. When you get to know your fellow parents at your children's new school; don't be suprised to find that quite a few among them will be public school teachers.

In an irritating, but sad way, it reinforces and validates what we already know: that public school teachers are not in it for the public school kids.

Posted by: George at April 4, 2008 1:38 PM

what hubris.
How in hell can you speak for all public school teachers. You might just as well say that all __________________(fill in the blank) are _______________ (fill in the blank). A stupid and meaningless assertion.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 4, 2008 2:52 PM

what hubris.
How in hell can you speak for all public school teachers. You might just as well say that all __________________(fill in the blank) are _______________ (fill in the blank). A stupid and meaningless assertion.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at April 4, 2008 2:52 PM

I was recently told by a private school principle that the private schools have been lobbying the federal government to allow tax deductions for private school. I know it's a long shot but wouldn't that be a terrific way to achieve a de facto school voucher program. If this ever happened we would finally see true education reform that could no longer be contained by the teacher unions. Most of this crap that the public school teachers pull would largely become a thing of the past.

Posted by: Frank at April 4, 2008 6:57 PM

Lefty, did I say all? No. But the evidence overwhelmingly shows that it's most

...and it is another shameful byproduct of the union-teacher cartel that a few good teachers are subject to guilt by association.

Posted by: George at April 4, 2008 10:51 PM

School choice works well in Mass. Why not here? It gives public schools a nudge to improve and helps render the whole tuition for religious schools question moot.

Posted by: rhody at April 5, 2008 1:03 AM


Tax deductions would be nice, but the incentive seems too indirect to result in school improvements: the loss of revenue associated with a student isn't direct, and the government money lost would/could be taken from something other than education (or even a school other than the failing one - think Barrington-Providence).



That'd be a start, but the small state/big union problem would seem likely to dampen the effects. I'd suggest that there are also considerations of freedom and morality with respect to locking private schools out of the choice roster.

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 5, 2008 5:33 AM

True Justin, but there would be an acceleration of children into private schools as many parents realize that they can now afford to send their children to them. Public school enrollments and the need for public school teachers would decline at an even faster rate than we are seeing now, diminishing teacher union clout, and every step of the way pressure would increase on the public school system to improve and reform itself. I don't think this would have to go that far from where we are now before the whole dynamic by which these teachers can hold a town hostage and make the outrageous demands they do now will no longer be tolerated by the public.

Posted by: Frank at April 5, 2008 7:52 AM

Unless Catholic school can get you a full four-year ride at a college, is it worthwhile?
Entering my last year of high school (1979-80), tuition was $675. My college tuition the next year was about $8,000 (fortunately, I got decent financial aid and work-study - I was very lucky because my father was out of work for two significant periods due to corporate mergers eating his employers).
You're looking at about $8,000 at least for Catholic high school tuition now (and I'm assuming grade school is pretty stiff).
Vouchers are nice if you're Catholic, I guess. If you're not...

Posted by: rhody at April 5, 2008 6:36 PM
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