December 2, 2009

Re: The Projo’s Unintentionally Informative Juxtaposition of the Day

Carroll Andrew Morse

Responding to a post from earlier this week, National Education Association Rhode Island Chapter Executive Director Robert Walsh comments that Jennifer D. Jordan's recent Projo story on charter schools, where it was reported in the voice of the omniscient journalistic narrator that the NEA "disagrees" that charters have certain benefits, failed to capture the full breadth of the position he had offered. Mr. Walsh's more complete position is that…

The problem with proposing additional funding for charter schools during the current budget crisis is that it further diverts those dollars from state aid to education and the approximately 150,000 students in traditional public schools, and the further diversion of these funds hurts the existing schools and directly impacts property taxes.

Further funding for charters at this time also goes against two public policy imperatives. First, since charter schools are stand-alone entities, often with a higher percentage of costs allocated to administration, more charters mitigate against the policy interest of regionalization and consolidation of services. Second, despite an impetus towards performance measurements, the record of the existing charter schools is decidedly mixed. Perhaps existing charters that are not making the grade should be defunded and those resources should be allocated to new charters with a better chance of success. Another alternative is to follow the original idea behind charter schools - identify successful educational ideas and move those into the public schools so that all children can benefit from them. The idea that some children need additional time on task or more personal attention is not a new concept, and the funds should be made available to the traditional public schools so that all students can benefit from them.

Based on reaction that Mr. Walsh has engendered in the past, I am compelled to issue an early warning regarding comments in this thread. To start by accentuating the positive, an example of an acceptable comment would be pointing out that making a priority of whether the bureaucracy that manages a school is municipally-based or regionally-based does nothing to mitigate the main point of the original post, that the union is more focused on creating particular bureaucratic structures than on educating students. (And, by the way, isn't a charter school like the Blackstone Valley Democracy Prep, which accepts students from multiple towns an example of a regionalized school -- albeit one that's been regionalized from the ground-up, instead of the top-down?)

Likewise, asking "fiscally conservative" readers if they are going to continue to believe that top-down regionalization is the panacea they've been told it is, when it is being offered as a reason why the state shouldn't more fully innovate in the delivery of public services, would also be an example of an acceptable comment. (And just so there's no confusion, these are comments that I actually am making).

Personal attacks, name-calling and other comments unrelated to the substance of what's being discussed are not acceptable, and will be quickly removed from this thread.

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.

I believe that North Carolina prohibits unionization by public employees.

Just imagine the possibilities for education reform in RI if NEARI / AFT were banished! It is within the General Assembly's power.

Teachers could treated as professionals -- in compensation but also in requirements for competency and performance -- and so could hold their heads high instead of making union-scripted excuses.

The future possibilities for every child in RI would be immeasurably brighter.

Companies / employers would now have at least one good reason to consider locating a facility in RI.

Even if education taxes remained on the high side, at least RI's taxpayers would be getting value for their educational dollar.

Just imagine.

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at December 2, 2009 11:31 AM

The first thing wrong in Mr. Walsh's statement is his assertion that funding charter schools deprives the majority of children of their education. When a business (and education is a business) lays off non-productive personnel or sells off moribund product lines, but continues to invest in research and development of new products, it is not hurting its future. Rather it is ensuring its future by changing itself to meet new challenges. Without those new products, the business is doomed to extinction.

Our educational system is in exactly that predicament, and investing in innovative solutions is exactly what a good manager should do.

Posted by: BobN at December 2, 2009 11:44 AM

Top-down regionalization worked really well for the Chariho School District right? I mean, they have really low administrative costs and such! NOT!

Posted by: Robespierre at December 2, 2009 12:23 PM

And we should put stock into Bob Walsh’s two cents on charter schools because he has worked hard to foster one of the worst public education states in the country? Is there a single innovation that Bob Walsh has introduced into public education that has resulted in any measurable improvement in student achievement in all the years that he has been head of the NEA?

I agree with Ragin, repeal the Michaelson Act, get rid of the teacher unions once and for all in RI and let public education finally strive for excellence. Let’s do it for the children!

Posted by: Frank at December 2, 2009 12:23 PM

The notion that we would give Bob Walsh a platform for an honest, intellectual discussion about appropriate expenditures of taxpayer dollars is simply laughable.

{The commenters position is clear enough, without the crude comparisons that followed. And they certainly didn't meet the standard of an "intellectual discussion" referenced above.}

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at December 2, 2009 12:43 PM

Mr Walsh can protest as much as he wants - the proof is in the practical application - my daughter is flourishing in a High School Charter School - gettting simple accomdations in the school has been a breeze. In the past, we had to endure hearing up hearing with various administrators, only to have the agreed accomodations ignored. By the way, the school ended last year with a $180k SURPLUS which has been airmarked for future capital improvements. You should feel threatened, Mr Walsh. The Emporer has no clothes.

Posted by: JTR 1971 at December 2, 2009 1:04 PM

I would like to thank the author for deleting the nasty comments by a poster above. I am a union teacher and come here to attempt to learn and maybe even discuss issues with intelligent people. agree or disagree, most on here usually write and act with class and dignity. some however continue to act child like. They should realize that they alienate people with such language, people who could be useful in creating a two sided discussion that both sides may learn from. I wish some of the other writers on this blog would learn from the example. Perhaps they should practice what they preach.

Posted by: skippy at December 2, 2009 2:29 PM

It's a real shame that you are emulating that other blog that shuts out dissenting views.
If you really think what I had to say was deserving of deletion, you are really getting soft.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at December 2, 2009 8:05 PM

I challenge Mr. Morse or Anchor Rising to get Mr. Walsh to defend his statement that charters operate with a higher management cost than tradidional schools...that's laugh out loud ridiculous. Charters spend less and get better results when they're high performing replications as part of excellent national CMO's.

Posted by: Rhody at December 2, 2009 8:07 PM

Bob Walsh says "identify successful educational ideas and move those into the public schools so that all children can benefit from them".

Great. Let's do exactly that. Do it "for the children".

One of the key "successful educational ideas" that the Charter Schools have employed is the absence of the anti-children Union and all the roadblocks to a good education that go along with the Union (e.g. tenure, lack of merit increases, inability to replace non- performing employees, the siphoning of limited resources into the pockets of Union members as opposed to into programs and curriculum, etc.).

So what do you say Bob? Shall we "do it for the Children" and follow the Charter school's "successful educational idea" of not having a Union-hack staff?

Bob, try as you might, you can NOT fool people into believing that you and your flock give a rat's behind about a quality education for "the children" over the special interests of your dues paying flock.

If you really cared about "the children" and the taxpayers, you'd demand educational choice, allowing parents / students to vote with their feet.

Of course, that would mean that people would run as fast as they can from your underperforming flock. So, we don't expect you to support such a simple & fair approach anytime soon.

Lastly, Bob's initial point that funding Charter Schools diverts dollars from traditional schools (i.e. Union-hack staffed schools) is a laughable argument.

First, funds are going to educate students, period. That is all Bob should be concerned with. Whether the funds are expended at a "traditional school" or a Charter school should be irrelevent, as the only relevent issue is that the student is be educated with the help of those dollars. But alas, the student is of NO concern to Bob. Rather, his ONLY concern is his dues paying Union member that may not be able to get their grubby hands on some of those dollars.

Second, his silly argument can, and should, be turned around to say that "The problem with proposing additional funding for TRADITIONAL schools during the current budget crisis is that it further diverts those dollars from high performing Charter schools."

Very simply, Bob's comments to the ProJo on this issue are like most things that come out of Bob's mouth ... indefensible non-sense.

Perhaps that is a harsh statement for some, but the fact is that Bob's been at this stuff way too long and people's deference to his nonsense has NOT helped education in RI. Bob leads the fight against every conceivable reform that comes down the pike.

With respect to improving education, Bob has been a dismal failure. But again, improving education is not Bob's objective.

Rather, his objective is to put as much of the limited taxpayer resources into the pockets of his dues-paying members as he possibly can. And in that regard, he has been a smashing success.

Posted by: George Elbow at December 2, 2009 9:24 PM


You note that Bob Walsh's assertion that Charter Schools operate with a higher management cost than tradidional schools is "laugh out loud ridiculous".

Indeed you are correct.

Most everything Bob says is laugh out loud ridiculous.

And that is because only ridiculous ideas can sustain the otherwise unsustainable cost structure that Bob and his flock have foisted upon the backs of the taxpayers of this state, while simultaneously destroying any hope of a good education for "the children".

The question is when are people going to stop kissing this guy's ring, pretending he has anything of value (i.e. other than for dues paying Union-hack members) to offer??

Posted by: George Elbow at December 2, 2009 9:38 PM

"his silly argument can, and should, be turned around to say that "The problem with proposing additional funding for TRADITIONAL schools during the current budget crisis is that it further diverts those dollars from high performing Charter schools.""

Very good. And that's exactly what parents should be saying even more loudly than taxpayers, if not saying it overtly (difficult to do because their children are being held hostage) then quietly, in the voting booth, so they can put into office people who really will put children first and replace the public labor puppets that too often occupy those offices.

Posted by: Monique at December 2, 2009 10:10 PM

My son also attends a charter school. The administration of his school is impressively lean, innovative and effective. The teachers are positive and enthusiastic, a stark contrast to what I've seen in public schools in my community. Many of the teachers come in early and stay late. They love their jobs and spending time with the children. In stead of fighting the Charter School movement, Mr. Walsh ought to be enthusiastically celebrating its effectivness and seeking to learn from what Charters are doing well. But that would be putting children and parents before teachers, God forbid.

Posted by: George at December 2, 2009 10:53 PM

Walsh wouldn't be so worried about charter schools if they weren't actually more cost effective and weren't providing a better education.
He can sound all reasonable and such,because he has Crowley to do the dirty work.
The NEA has never beeen anything but a conduit for left wing ideas being force fed to students on a national level.In RI they are also responsible for teacher contracts that bankrupt the system.They have their members in the GA to enforce this.What a miserable situation they foster!!

Posted by: joe bernstein at December 5, 2009 10:21 AM

Joe, well said.

Perhaps if people start providing the HARSH critique that Bob Walsh and the NEA deserve, things might change.

It appears that Andrew's soft cuddly approach could sorely use an assist from a harsher, more straight-forward approach.

Posted by: George Elbow at December 5, 2009 11:42 AM
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