June 17, 2008

Mayoral Academies Jump Another Hurdle

Marc Comtois

Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee's plan to start up a mayoral academy in Blackstone Valley received the endorsement of the House Finance Committee last week. After initial opposition, the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools has come on board, the ProJo reports. And support for the plan is growing amongst Democratic politicians:

“It’s time to think outside the box,” said House Majority Leader Gordon D. Fox through a spokesman. “As Franklin Roosevelt once said, ‘it is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something!’ I think it’s worth trying this mayoral academy....Based on their desire to recruit the best teachers, engage parents as partners and put student achievement first, I believe it is important to give them the opportunity to develop their plan for ultimate approval by the Board of Regents,” Fox said.
Some of the progressive grassroots are arguing for the idea, including Progreso Latino chief executive officer Ramon Martinez, according to the ProJo. But not everyone is happy, especially the leaders of the teacher's unions.
Robert A. Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, said he was “blindsided” by the proposal.

“We’re kind of in shock,” he said “This is one of those last-minute surprises that you dread in the [budget] process.” Since then, Walsh, a usually powerful voice on Smith Hill, says he’s been unable to get Fox to return his phone calls.

Walsh and the American Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals have blasted what they call McKee’s plan to “experiment with kids,” while “ignoring decades of progress in setting standards for public education,” and sacrificing vital teacher protections that could lead to lower-paying jobs with greater turnover.

“Mayor McKee seems to be motivated by a myth that there’s some magic way to do it better,” Walsh said, “… but a group of mayors that have no background in education,” being given “carte blanche” to build a school is not the answer, he said.

Despite the rhetoric about how these schools could hurt the kids, the real issue for the union leaders is protecting the pay and benefits of their members. That's fine, that's what the leadership is paid to do. (As the ProJo story explains, Mayor McKee has called upon some education experts to help him with his plan. Besides, McKee's idea still has to pass muster with the Board of Regents). However, instead of this apparent knee-jerk opposition, perhaps the unions could join their traditional allies and try to be part of the process going forward. But to join the team, they would have to be willing to make some concessions, especially in the areas of hiring and firing flexibility (management rights) and pay. And if we allow history to be our guide, we know that the teacher unions have a hard time with compromise if it means "losing" anything.

The bill goes to the House for debate tomorrow. Today there will be a rally in support of the measure at the State House.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

Considering the current quality of education in Rhode Island I would argue that a group of mayors with no education experience can't screw it up any worse that the NEA and AFT have.

Once again the NEA shows that it really doesn't care about the children. It cares that the TEACHERS get a good deal. If the kids get an education they can use, well that's good too.

Posted by: Greg at June 17, 2008 10:03 AM

This new model is encouraging because it focuses on doing right by the kids while the status quo only focuses on providing ever-increasing adult entitlements with no connection to actual educational performance.

This proposal has the potential to Bring a New Strategic Focus to the Education Debate. That would be progress.

Isn't it ironic how people who call themselves Progressives - like the NEA - oppose real change and progress?

I remain convinced that educational freedom is THE issue with the potential to radically alter the domestic policy and political landscape in America. It has that potential to alter major policies because it is directly connected to how we can best help all kids have a clean shot at living the American Dream. It has the potential to alter the political landscape because it is an issue which unites people of good will across all the different segments of our society.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at June 17, 2008 10:28 AM

Make this job attractive for the teachers, and they'll buy it. Unfortunately, the more talk about how this brings down those evil unionized teachers, the less chance that qualified teachers will want to staff this school.
If it's about improving education, I'm all for it. But I smell other agendas in play.

Posted by: rhody at June 17, 2008 10:53 AM

Rally is scheduled for three o'clock, I believe - In case anyone is interested in going.


Posted by: Jon Scott at June 17, 2008 11:02 AM

Rhody, I just want the kids leaving school and joining the workforce to have more skills than nosepicking and internet surfing. Looking at the morons coming out of the schools (URI ESPECIALLY) right now I can tell you that they are DOOMED. If this plan gets kids a better education I'm all for it. If it also destroys the teacher unions and puts Duck Boy out of work I'll just be that much happier.

Posted by: Greg at June 17, 2008 11:19 AM

Jon, Thanks. That is the exact bit of information I was looking for. I think this will be very interesting to see.

Rhody, wrong again. Teachers (most of them) are not the problem. Unions are. Status quo needs to change.

Posted by: Red at June 17, 2008 11:36 AM

From the article:

"But Robert A. Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, said he was “blindsided” by the proposal.

“We’re kind of in shock,” he said “This is one of those last-minute surprises that you dread in the [budget] process."

lol. Kind of like what taxpayers have gone through around this time for the prior 20+ years.

Hold a sign for me, Red.

Posted by: Monique at June 17, 2008 12:24 PM

If the unions are against it, it has to be good.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at June 17, 2008 2:02 PM

This program was designed by educational experts at Brown, so I don't buy the "a group of mayors have no background in education."

Strangely, I get more worried any time I hear the phrase "educational expert".

This seems like a worthy endeavor--awarding merit bonuses, having flexibility, etc. All of these sound like positive changes.

What the teacher's unions need to understand is that there are some fundamental shifts underway in three issues areas: energy, healthcare and education.

Consumers are unwilling to pay high prices for oil products and are only going to be willing to pay oil-level prices for products that must absolutely be made with oil--asphalt for example. If energy for cars can be obtained through electricity or hydrogen, they'll go that route.

In healthcare, patients are tired of the insurance-provider cycle, the inflation associated with healthcare, etc. It remains to be seen what direction will be taken: whether there will be more responsibility placed on the individual through products such as HSA's or whether a single payer healthcare system gets introduced. But people are exploring both options.

On the educational front, we've already seen some of the backlash in higher education with Ivy League school finally tapping into endowments after years of inflation. There will be more changes to come, as there will be in the secondary education system.

If the unions try to stop the experiment in innovation, they will go the way of the dinosaur, because change is coming. They would do far better adapting to changing realities and adopt some of the successful strategies working outside of the current unionized public school systems. Adaptation will be the key to their survival.

Posted by: Anthony at June 17, 2008 2:03 PM

--Adaptation will be the key to their survival.

I don't think that Ducky Crowley (and his ilk) are capable of adapting.

Unfortunately, rather than becoming extinct, Ducky will probably go back to the Teamsters, from which he can practice physical thuggery against workers and their employers.

As bad as that is, it is still better than his current occupation: exploiting children for financial gain.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at June 17, 2008 3:20 PM

Rep Singleton (?-Cumberland) just said on Matt Allen's show that he expect this bill to be hotly debated at the General Assembly tomorrow.

[Ragin, as hardcore unionists, the Teamsters presumably welcome all union brethren. But even they are going to look quizzically at a guy who goes around publicly in a duck suit.]

Posted by: Monique at June 17, 2008 8:40 PM

who voted for and against on house finance?

Posted by: johnpaycheck at June 17, 2008 9:45 PM

who voted for and against on house finance?

Posted by: johnpaycheck at June 17, 2008 9:46 PM

who voted for and against on house finance?

Posted by: johnpaycheck at June 17, 2008 9:46 PM

Bob Walsh said "a group of mayors that have no background in education being given carte blanche to build a school is not the answer".

Perhaps the next time Bobby graces us with his non-substantive, pithy, issue-dodging commentary, he'd be so kind as to impress the hell out of us by providing his "background in education".

It is truly a wonder why people in this state give this fool and his #2, Pat "I struggle with basic math" Crowley, the time of day, never mind pretend he has anything positive or meaningful to add to the improvement of the state or it's education establishment.

Posted by: George Elbow at June 17, 2008 10:09 PM

If this thing gets voted down, it may be because smart legislators don;t want to vote for something they haven't had time to read, not on the merits of the proposal.
Lou Pulner may be right. Some of the stuff that passes at deadline without getting due diligence is more dangerous than anything unions or lobbyists submit in January.

Posted by: rhody at June 17, 2008 11:54 PM

Rhody, why would this be the ONE thing they vote down because they haven't read it. Those retarded chimps up there vote all day every day for stuff they haven't read, have no intention of reading, and don't give a shit about. How they vote is COMPLETELY dictated by how far their head is up the ass of Fox and Monty.

Posted by: Greg at June 18, 2008 7:59 AM

johnnypaycheck, It's not easy to determine who voted for/against the Mayoral Academy idea because I don't think it was ever debated separately. It was included as part of the overall FY 2009 budget, which passed House Finance unanimously. However, I know that the ProJo reported that 5 members voted against it. I'll keep looking.

Posted by: Marc at June 18, 2008 9:10 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.