November 23, 2008

Clearly Not "For the Children"

Justin Katz

Tiverton Citizens for Change is moving forward from its electoral successes:

The School Committee should reject a tentative two-year teachers' contract at its meeting Tuesday in light of possible unanticipated cuts in state aid to local schools during the current fiscal year, according to the anti-tax group Tiverton Citizens for Change.

The committee and the union representing about 190 teachers were at an impasse for about 14 months before reaching a tentative settlement in nonbinding arbitration Nov. 5, a day after the general election, which turned out the longtime committee chairwoman and put two new members on the five-person panel. ...

In calling for the committee to oppose the pact, Tiverton Citizens for Change cited Governor Carcieri’s recent announcement of a projected deficit of $233.6 million in revenue before the end of the fiscal year. ...

"Some will suggest this additional funding request is for the children. It is not. It is for the teachers," said TCC president Dave Nelson in a statement.

Schools Supt. William F. Rearick has recommended passage of the agreement, which he estimated would give each teacher an annual net raise ranging from about $1,100 to $2,500.

I've suggested to the governor that he (or a representative) should attend Tuesday night's school committee meeting as a statement of, essentially, "This is the sort of thing I'm talking about." He won't likely be there, but I'd encourage anybody else with an interest in stopping Rhode Island's hole-digging to make an appearance.

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He won't be there because in all honesty, he simply doesn't care. He's rich. He's got his. He's got scant time remaining and he's outta here to warmer climes and retirement pay.

Posted by: Greg at November 23, 2008 5:03 PM

Not only should they not be getting pay increases in this economic environment, but if school funding may not even be level funded for the next fiscal year (and from what I'm hearing, you should be thankful if it comes close to level funding), why shouldn't they be in a position to take a small pay cut?

In private enterprise, when a business is about to go under, they last thing they do, if they want to be successful, is to give out pay increases.

This whole culture of "me first, kids last," has got to stop.

Posted by: Will at November 23, 2008 6:59 PM

Time to step up Gov...send along someone in your place.

On another note: Obama might "delay" tax hikes for the "rich" because of the economy....

Weren't the Bush tax cuts the REASON for our current malaise? He said so. Flip flop?

And will the Democrat left wait patiently until 2011 while the rich get richer and the poor and middle class muddle through the economic downturn?

Posted by: anonymous at November 23, 2008 7:50 PM

"Schools Supt. William F. Rearick has recommended passage of the agreement, which he estimated would give each teacher an annual net raise ranging from about $1,100 to $2,500."

Didn't Tiverton taxpayers already get a double digit tax raise before this proposed raise? Has the Superintendent indicated how this raise would be paid for? Does he understand that there are some basic realities and that it may well not get paid for at all?

Is he not doing everyone, especially the teachers, a real disservice by recommending such an unrealistic term in the new contract?

Posted by: Monique at November 24, 2008 6:34 AM

Lets see....our teachers are the lowest paid in the state. Now all you BMW, Lexus driving TCC members want to reject a contract that keeps them in the bottom 20%! Your worried about the town! I think your worried that your tax bill will go up and you'll only be able to afford a 45 foot boat instead of a 50 foot boat.

Posted by: ths parent at November 24, 2008 11:09 AM

Lets see....our teachers are the lowest paid in the state. Now all you BMW, Lexus driving TCC members want to reject a contract that keeps them in the bottom 20%! Your worried about the town! I think your worried that your tax bill will go up and you'll only be able to afford a 45 foot boat instead of a 50 foot boat.

Posted by: ths parent at November 24, 2008 11:09 AM

That is utter nonsense, ths parent. I'm a carpenter. I drive a white work van and stand a realistic chance of losing my home if my taxes go up by the same amount next year.

As for the relative comparison with other towns: that's been the union's game for years. As a statewide organization, they focus on leapfrogging their locals. (One year, one town is in the bottom 20%; next year, another town will be; the next year, another.) However "little" Tiverton teachers make by comparison with their peers, their individual salaries are still more, on average, than the median household income for the state.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 24, 2008 11:16 AM

It's not nonsense. I'm not a teacher, I am a plumber. Maybe you should go to school and become a teacher since they have such a racket. Yes, it has been the game, but the Tiverton Teacher's are not trying to leapfrog the other unions. They will still be in the bottom sector. Where would industry be with out a public education system that provides them millions of young people ready to work? How much income would families have if schools did not take our kids so both parents can work!I want my grandchildren to have qualified people teaching them. Communities in the western part of RI are paying $12,000 more per year.
So lets throw Tiverton's kids under the bus.

Posted by: parent2 at November 24, 2008 11:38 AM

Actually, part of our problem is that RI teachers' racket has prompted too many people to seek such jobs, and too many to hold onto them for all they're worth.

A larger problem is that Rhode Island's schools are almost universally failing to educate students adequately. Pouring more money into the teachers' bank accounts is the opposite of the answer. There are supremely qualified teachers who would work for less than the greedy unionists — check any private school.

In the broader picture, there are no jobs in Rhode Island, and there were too few before the recession. At best, we're educating students so that they can take their talents elsewhere.

Tiverton, specifically, and Rhode Island, generally, have to shift attention from trying to throw money at public-sector problems in the hopes that something worthwhile will stick and toward trying to make Rhode Island a more attractive, more affordable, place to live and do business.

Our teachers are merely a local manifestation of the problem that is driving this state into utter bankruptcy. It has to stop, and it has to stop locally.

Teachers' unions have to be told that our public school system is not primarily a stage for their contract negotiations. They took the risk that the economy would turn sour when they refused to sign previous iterations of the contract. It is frankly absurd that unions expect to hold out in negotiations for years and then receive retroactive pay, no matter how bad their intervening behavior.

Combine the above considerations, and I'd hazard to predict that not a single Tiverton teacher would abandon his or her job if this contract fails. Their deals are already too attractive, and nobody else is hiring.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 24, 2008 11:55 AM

"I want my grandchildren to have qualified people teaching them."

So you're sending them to private school? Good decision.

Posted by: Greg at November 24, 2008 12:39 PM

Greg...don't be shortsighted! Private schools are considered better? They can kick underachieving/disruptive students out. Not comparing oranges to oranges. Public schools do not have that luxury. Also, you gut the public school system in RI Mr Katz, and you'll get no industry into this state. When was the last time you ever hired people? NEVER? RI schools do a great job as do all the schools in the Northeast! I know...Test scores...give me a break. They mean nothing! Do they show if someone will be a better Carpenter? Nurse? Salesman? Your a bright man Justin but you are really missing the big picture. I want my taxes to go bringing in alternative revenue..not by gutting the school system.

Posted by: Personel Exec at November 24, 2008 12:55 PM

I'm not talking about "gutting the school system." The law prevents us from doing so, anyway.

But piling wealth upon wealth for teachers is not synonymous with adequately funding the schools. Indeed, the former is inimical to the latter.

I want more programs, more opportunities, and a better learning environment for our students. The point that you're eliding is that there's a limited budgetary pie. Taxes are already reaching the point at which families (like mine) are watching our ostensibly flat-rate housing bills drift beyond our reach. Officials at the state level are telling us that we'd be lucky to be flat-funded into the future.

So you tell me: When the school district's fiscal hard times get even worse in the next few months, how in the world will it serve Tiverton or its students to have assented to pay increases for teachers, and having handed them thousands of dollars in retroactive pay?

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 24, 2008 1:06 PM

Public teachers and their advocates love to look at other towns and massage the numbers so they can make their case for even more money.

What would that data look like if we included all schools (private, religious, etc.), not just public unionized ones?

Also, saying to the teachers that $50 plus benefits is a fair wage is hardly "gutting" the school system.

Posted by: thinkaboutit at November 24, 2008 1:07 PM

parent2 (more likely than not "teacher too!"),

You are not making much sense. You claim that Tiverton teachers are not trying to leapfrog the teachers in other districts and immediately launch into a salary comparison to other districts?!!

You claim that two income families would be hurt if they did not have the babysitting responsibilities of the teachers to depend on. Babysitters? Come on, show a little respect.

And since when would teachers suddenly become unqualified because their pay did not increase one particular year (or even more radically if it dipped ever so slightly)? They are still the same exact teachers, how could they be qualified one and unqualified the next? And as Justin aptly stated, where else are they gonna go?

Posted by: Frank at November 24, 2008 1:17 PM

This is fun to people wonder why Tiverton is full of old people and no young people stay here. The teachers in this town are the only ones who care about us. WHy don't you ship us all out. Mr. Katz, don't you have a job? If you work so hard how come you can write this blog all day!

Posted by: student at November 24, 2008 1:32 PM

Yeah..........the most important part of a school is it staff. We have a great staff! They don't deserve to be last! Listen to the blogger above. I'll graduate from college with about 60K in debt. To go work here for the lowest pay...NO THANKS

Posted by: thsstudent at November 24, 2008 1:40 PM

There are two reasons that young folks might stay in Tiverton (or, more broadly, Rhode Island): if there were a great deal of opportunities here, or if there were no opportunities elsewhere. The kindness of teachers does not transform students into local taxpayers. I'd suggest that what you need is a vibrant economy so that there would be businesses to care about you when your teachers' job is done.

As for your personal inquiry, well, I happened to take this week off. I may not have teachers' 180-day work year, but at least I get five days of vacation from from my 250 of work. The rest of the time, I stay up late and get up early so that I can write and schedule posts to appear during the day.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 24, 2008 1:42 PM

Dear Student-

I know you mean well, so I hope you'll really think about this, as I am relatively young and was once in your shoes:

- There are not a lot of young people in Tiverton because (1) there are very few jobs, and (2) because it costs so much to live here. Both of those are in large part due to not just how high the taxes are, but how poorly the town spends the taxes they have.

- Many teachers do care about you. Residents care too. But the sad truth is when the teachers are too greedy and they take all of the money, there is less available for more positions, more sports, AP classes, special needs programming, nicer buildings, technology and other resources. Nobody wants to ship you out. We want you to have the education you (and all of us) deserve but we can't do it when the teachers take all of the money. If the teachers, as a group because of course there are wonderful exceptions, really cared - I mean really cared - they would not hold your education hostage because they "only" get paid $50 an hour.

Please think hard about this. The biggest disservice anyone can do in debate in a free society is to be intellectually dishonest. It is morally repugnant for anyone to use students as pawns in efforts to make more money for themselves.

Posted by: thinkaboutit at November 24, 2008 1:44 PM

Well, here is the rub for me knowing many of the families and kiddies in the district....

I might agree, at least in part, that the NEA is not "for the children." And all the comments here are interesting on a political level, but I certainly don't in ANY WAY believe that the TCC cares one hoot about them either. Given that, the TCC is going to continue to find strong resistance.

(BTW, finally got my own email acct so don't need to use the wife's)

Posted by: WillP at November 24, 2008 1:45 PM


You're missing the point: You'll never get a job teaching in Tiverton because the deal is so remunerative that there's a surplus of hopeful teachers in Rhode Island just dying to get public school jobs. If you come back here your options are (1) private schools for less money, or (2) a decade of substitute teaching. I speak from experience.

But the odds are that you won't come back here, because Rhode Island's economy is anemic and entrenched interests (like your teachers' union) refuse to loosen their grip on its throat.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 24, 2008 1:45 PM

For the record, thsstudent, student, Personel Exec, parent2, and ths parent are all posting from the same IP address — which, incidentally, has previously been used by a named teacher, whom I won't call out, here.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 24, 2008 1:52 PM

Wrong JK.there is a surplus of elementary teachers, not MS and HS teachers. You can not get science, math, technology teachers etc. I speak from experience too!
You can not pay the teachers the bottom salary and get GOOD people into the profession. In industry "If you pay peanuts you get....." But that does not apply to education! Get Real!
My kids are getting a great education in the Tiverton Schools. I pay my taxes and they are a little high but not unreasonable. If we got to pay a little more for good people, it is worth it. Face it, most people in this forum have NO kids!

Posted by: business owner at November 24, 2008 1:54 PM

Lots of new names. I wonder how many are from the same IP address.

It's good to see that part of "It's for the children" is still brainwashing them to believe that the existing way is the only way.

Posted by: Greg at November 24, 2008 1:54 PM

Add "business owner" to that list.


What's needed at the higher levels is more flexibility in attracting and hiring teachers than the union system allows. Unions are good for replaceable cogs; not for professionals, which is what teachers are supposed to be.

And I don't know where you get the "most people" garbage. I've got three children, and unless there are broad changes, I'm not going to send any of them to our public schools only to watch programs disappear and fear a work-to-rule environment every time a contract is due.

Posted by: Justin Katz at November 24, 2008 2:00 PM

I am so tired of hearing these trite attacks on people as not having kids, being rich, etc. All of it false generalizations, and to the point where hyperbole starts to become dishonesty.

Just because we think we can do better than the current regime, does not mean that we don't care about children or we don't have any. Making such unbecoming conclusions weakens your own assertions and emboldens others.

Posted by: thinkaboutit at November 24, 2008 2:04 PM

The whole state is failing fast, and the union insists on these raises. This is something that prevails throughout the state, the sense of entitlement, taxpayer be damned. A friend of mine introduced me to an elderly man who recently had his foot amputated because he couldn't afford to pay for diabetic footcare. He had given up his supplemental health insurance, so a public employee could recieve their $5100 buyback. Taxpayers are being squeezed too much. I would love to see a school com and a supt have enough guts to say no more. Has anyone noticed that the unions aren't up in arms that their membership work in crumbling buildings? When was the last time the union negotiated smart boards, books, and other technology for their membership to use to teach the students? Isn't it supposed to be about "the children"? Please, spare me the sad story of how bad teachers have it. It is the career they chose. They make incredible money for the amount of hours worked. Before someone gets all bent out of shape about we take classes in the summer, we do planning and correct papers at home. I have to work 8-10 hrs a day, take classes on weekends or after work to keep up with the changes in my job, and I have to pay for half of it. Most teachers that I am friendly with or who are related to me know they have a good thing, and are frankly not against paying or paying more for their healthcare. They are embarrassed by the behavior and tactics used by their union leadership, but are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation.


Posted by: kathy at November 24, 2008 6:57 PM
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