June 23, 2008

Education Partnership Ceases Operation

Carroll Andrew Morse

This will come as a surprise to those (non-insiders) who follow Rhode Island's public policy debates; from Jennifer D. Jordan of the Projo...

The Education Partnership, a nonprofit advocacy organization that produced reports and consulted with local school districts, has closed its doors and filed for receivership in Superior Court, unable to pay its bills....

“The Board decided that it is necessary for the protection of the business and assets of the Corporation and for the protection of the Corporation’s creditors, that the Corporation seek from the Superior Court the appointment of a receiver … The Board has taken this action due to the overwhelming financial difficulties recently experienced by the Corporation which have made it impossible for the Corporation to continue to carry out its purpose,” the directors wrote.

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A real shame. The EP did good work - a ray of hope for the children of Rhode Island, helping to offset the harm to children caused by the teachers unions.

I hope that their problems haven't been the result of teachers unions (and their sycophants in the legislature) pressuring the corporate sponsors to starve the EP. But I wouldn't dismiss the possibility.

The teachers unions are monopolists, and like any unrestrained monopoly will seek to stifle reform and/or competitors.

Posted by: Tom W at June 23, 2008 12:14 PM

Corporate sponsors don't listen to unions. They're not exactly an omnipotent force these days, if ever.

Posted by: rhody at June 23, 2008 2:54 PM

It's a loss for the state and for the children.

It's just another nail in RI's coffin.

Posted by: Citizen Critic at June 23, 2008 5:02 PM

This is a big, bitter, and long fought for victory for Bob Walsh, Marcia Reback, and their progressive allies. The EP has been a thorn in the side of the RI public education establishment for years. Moreover, their recent emphasis on bringing the terms and conditions of teachers contracts into the cold harsh light of day was apparently taken as a declaration of war by the teachers' union leadership. Well, that war is over now.

The more effectively the EP made its points and the more widely they were understood, the stronger the pressure that was brought to bear on those RI based organizations that provided much of their funding. And the recent attempts by the EP to expand its contract work to other states only encouraged those who opposed this initiative to redouble their efforts to attack the organization's funding base. Yet another example of the old adage that "politics ain't beanbag."

Unfortunately, when you look at education reform efforts and organizations around the country, the experience of the Ed Partnership in RI is just part of a larger trend, involving broad and deep mobilization by multiple organizations to oppose changes that threaten the teachers' unions' status quo (e.g. their defeat of ballot initiatives in California and Utah in the past election cycle).

The real question, though, is who wins and who loses from such efforts. Clearly, in RI, the teachers unions and ther allies are the big winner in the short term. There is no coherent Republican opposition to speak of in RI, and now there is one less organization making coherent arguments in favor of changing the way the system works in RI. Clearly, the people who benefit from the current system still have some zip on their fastballs.

But from a slightly longer perspective, our children will be the losers if killing the EP reduces pressure for real education reform that will give those kids a fighting chance to earn a decent living in the face of global competition. Moreover, their parents and even people without children will also lose, in so far as poor education translates into weak U.S. productivity growth, which will make it much more difficult to meet the fiscal challenge of improving health care and retirement income security.

More narrowly, killing off organizations like the EP certainly will further reduce the attractiveness of RI to potential employers thinking of moving or expanding here, in so far as it reduces or appears to reduce the chances that our currently underperforming public schools will ever improve (a situation made only worse by having the national leader right next door). So the real question, I guess, to pose to teachers unions is, now what? Unfortunately, everybody who reads A.R., and many who don't, cynically already knows the answer.

At the end of the day, however, I think we should reserve our deepest spite and bitterness for the moral cowardice and cynical, narrowly defined self-interest of the RI "business leaders" who caved into the pressure that was put on them over the past few years when it came to funding the EP. More evidence, as if that was needed, of just how deeply uncompetitive they have become in a globalized economy, and consequently how dependent they are on the continuation of the current "RI game."

And when the pie stops growing, and the game shifts to fights over how its slices will be divided, then that game gets very tough indeed.

The EP's example is one more cautionary warning about what happens to those who raise questions and offer arguments that are so on target that they threaten the system in a fundamental way. One more reason to keep your head down and your mouth shut if you plan on staying in RI. Or one more reason to leave.

And above all, one more reason why RI has yet to approach the nadir of the deeply painful process that is the only way the state will ever get on a path that can deliver a rising standard of living to all its citizens, and not just the chosen few who benefit from today's cynical game.

What a mess.

Posted by: John at June 23, 2008 7:06 PM


You give too much credit to Bob Walsh and too much blame to business.

What we suffer from is an apathetic citizenry.

We don't need the EP to tell us that teacher contracts have nothing to do with Teaching or Students, but rather are all about Teacher compensation and the erosion / elimination of managment rights. We all can read the English language, we don't need the EP to translate for us.

We just need local folks to get off their collective asses and say "NO" to the whiny Teacher Unions and their nutty demands.

Unfortunately, too many people are too lazy & complacent to get off their asses to do anything about it.

The good news is that Bob Walsh & Co. are driving the State into bankruptcy, which in turn will hasten the demise of his life-blood, the Union.

Posted by: George Elbow at June 23, 2008 7:19 PM

Very well said John.

Speaking of the "business community" it has been painfully clear that "Chambers of Commerce" in RI have been as useless as tits on a bull (with the possible exception of John Gregory from the Northern RI Chamber). Like much of the RIGOP, "go along to get along" with the Democrat - union - welfare axis is the order of the day.

It would be nice to point to reasons for optimism concerning Rhode Island's future, but none come to mind. We are uncompetitive in taxes and regulation - consistently ranked as among the worst states for business.

Our public education system is below average even by mediocre U.S. standards.

The pension and OPEB unfunded liabilities are fiscal quicksand, into which we're already chest deep, and sinking.

Our infrastructure is literally collapsing due to inadequate maintenance - with chronic fiscal deficits impeding necessary repair and replacement - meaning further deterioration.

Threads of corruption are woven throughout our political system, an inseparable element of the fabric of the RI Democrat Party.

But hey, we have a Dunkin' Donuts on every corner.

Posted by: Tom W at June 23, 2008 8:41 PM

I am one of the many, many, many service providers who worked for the Education Partnership, teaching in the after school program. I was sick and disgusted to hear this news.

I have not been paid since March, and others even longer. There are dozens of us. Freelance artists, dancers, educators as well as organizations like the Girl Scouts, City Arts, Southside Community Land Trust to name a few.

The EP misled us about many things, and now we are left basically holding the bag.

There always seemed to be some excuse as to why checks were not issued in a timely manner. We all sat back patiently awaiting our checks, eating up the excuses like they were candy. I guess it was WRONG of us to believe the money was coming.

I guess it WAS wrong for us to trust a big organization supposedly committed to EDUCATION.

Taking care of EDUCATORS should be pretty high up on the freaking
TO DO list SHOULDN’T IT? ???

The EP staff continued to draw their salaries and got paid, I am sure.
We abided by our signed contracts and worked for NO PAY mind you, FOR MONTHS, in this economy to boot. Some of us even spent our own money on supplies to keep the program going too.

At the end of May the entire program was terminated abruptly, a week before it was supposed to. The buses were cancelled and we were all immediately told to give them our final invoices. Many of us were still waiting for payment on our LAST invoice.

It was a shock. Rumors circulated but the EP didn’t give a clue as to what was really going on, which is yet another reason I, and others, are so angry.
We all held up our end of the bargain, and we provided much needed child care to low income families as well a learning opportunity to a ton of kids. This is the thanks we get?

The EP misled us all and was not forthright with the situation at hand. We were ignored for months, calls were not returned for weeks and then we surreptitiously find out they filed for bankruptcy.


REMEMBER if you read the ProJo and PBN articles, the staff got paid BEFORE they went into receivership.
Note: The director made $140,000 a year
Wake up all, that's $2692.31 per week.
$67 an HOUR!

...and …we wonder… why the organization failed...?...!...?

The staff and/or board apparently sat in their South Main Street offices observing the decline of their revenue and apparently predicted the demise of their organization some time ago. They neglected to take care of the very people it hired to implement its own directive, one apparently funded by the State of RI mind you.

We now sit and wait MORE while the RI Dept of Education, the courts, lawyers and accountants determine our fate.

Anyone out there willing to work for no pay? Didn't think so.

One thing is for certain; the ones who really lose out are the kids. The EP should be terribly ashamed.

Posted by: Brent Bachelder at June 23, 2008 9:17 PM

Wow, in through reading some of the other comments, I had no idea of the "bigger picture" of the EP and opposition/ attacks.

I am just working artist trying to make ends meet teaching a really cool and rewarding program to kids, for the EP.

If it is in fact an attack by unions or whatever to stop the EP, then perhaps they are indirectly responsible for the demise of an after school program?

Now THERE'S a commitment to education for ya!

Posted by: Brent Bachelder at June 23, 2008 9:33 PM

Brent, I assure you it wasn't unions making sure Ed Achorn's wife got her entire $140K.
Somewhere along the line, what started as a way of better servicing Rhode Island's youth was turned into a means to attack teacher unions. Of course, the unions fought back (though the accusations that corporate sponsors knuckled under to them just seem to me like a lot of hooey).
Unfortunately, you and the other people who were doing some valuable work appear to have been caught in the crossfire.

Posted by: rhody at June 24, 2008 1:37 AM

I know not, nor have I really followed the whole teacher contract or union fight or other related topics, I guess because it didn't pertain specifically to me. Well, in hindsight, I guess it DID.

I just get sick to my stomach at the very fact that no one in this state, or country for that matter, is willing to compromise at all, about anything. It all has to be a fight to the death. But I digress.

It is very obvious to me that conscience-less vampires at EP had known they had a funding issue for some time, since most providers to their Olneyville Community School programs did not get paid since February.

I am just trying to picture the recent meeting of the staff and board of the EP, deciding to shut down their operations. They apparently made sure they would get their paychecks, while at the same time CONSCIOUSLY deciding to not honor their contracts with us freelance teachers, the ones out in the "trenches" so to speak. I think we instructors rated a little better treatment than we got.

Now what, the state has to bail THEM out now too? I am NOT optimistic we will ever get paid, despite RI Dept of Ed "promise".

The whole situation seems unethical, immoral and just plain WRONG.


Posted by: Brent Bachelder at June 24, 2008 7:45 AM

This sure doesn't bode well for the new Mayor's Academy, which must recruit teachers for a non-union situation.
In a perfect world, we wouldn't need unions at all, but as we all know...

Posted by: rhody at June 24, 2008 11:01 AM


Don't confuse the issues.

If the EP had the power to TAX, they'd have no problem.

The reason why we needed EP was due to the Unions destroying Public Education with their entire focus on Teacher pay & benefits, rather than teaching and students.

Let's not forget the State's on the verge of bankruptcy too, but for their power to tax. Without that power, our Union teachers would be facing a similar fate as the EP.

Posted by: George Elbow at June 24, 2008 8:41 PM

Quess it's never too late to learn lessons Brent. For all the pretty talk and assurances its better to get it on paper...like a contract.

Posted by: Phil at June 24, 2008 9:01 PM

I'm struck by how some of the above comments show a deep ignorance of the way bankruptcy works in the private sector, where it is a normal part of the birth, growth, decline and death cycle of companies. Sometimes suppliers don't get paid 100% of what they're owed. Ditto for lenders. Shareholders lose their investment. And sometimes employees with unfunded defined benefit plans find their benefits sharply cut when the plan is taken over by the PBGC. That's the way the system works, the constant (and sometimes messy) cycle of Schumpeterian innovation and destruction that lies at the heart of capitalism's ability to deliver the substantial rise in living standards -- at all levels of the income distribution -- we've seen over the last 120 years or so.

The fact that some of you appear to be shocked, just shocked that this is the way life works outside the public sector speaks volumes.

Posted by: John at June 24, 2008 10:57 PM

Actually Phil, we, the freelance instructors for the EP's after school program DID/ DO have signed contracts. Not that that matters anyways apparently.

All we want is to get paid for the work we did and earn the money we were promised. Most of us are out here scraping by and don't really have the luxury of getting truly involved in advocacy for anything, except our own survival and maybe the amazing reward of working with kids and TRULY making a difference in their lives.

We give our time and talents to do something good, and it is very apparent, to some anyways, that this is NOT important.

I refuse to categorize the loss of programming and the EP's intentional screwing, for lack of a better word, the providers as part of how the system works and I sure don't think I am a "supplier". We may have been freelancers, but we were their employees nonetheless.

I don't care about the bigger picture of EP and the baggage it has, I just want what was promised to me. I did my thing, and for them to do this to us is simply not "business as usual".

Oh ya, how about the scholarships the high school kids were awarded? Where's that money? Sigh.

Shame Shame Shame

Posted by: BRENT at June 25, 2008 12:17 AM

John, as a member of the private sector, I agree wity you about the, shall we say, cavalier attitude some corporations take toward their responsibilities.
I wish I could take a similar cavalier attitude about the responsibility for my mortgage.

Posted by: rhody at June 25, 2008 12:29 AM
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