August 23, 2011

Compressing the Same Workforce

Justin Katz

What am I missing in this story?

Providence teachers on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly to approve a three-year contract that guarantees that every fired teacher will be returned to the district in exchange for substantial concessions.


The unprecedented decision to fire every teacher and close five schools left teachers and parents angry and demoralized. Although the mayor later recalled three-fourths of the faculty, the remaining teachers had to apply for openings via a job fair this spring that some felt was unfair.

So the city closed five schools but is still going to employ the same number of teachers? The article mentions fewer sick days, longer school days, an end to seniority, and the union's dropping a lawsuit that had sought to prevent the end of seniority-based hiring. No doubt there are significant savings in the deal, and ending seniority is a structural change worth some negotiation. The end of seniority was coming, though, and it's probable that the long-term expenses of a too-large workforce will soon swamp the savings of a dropped lawsuit.

At the least, this is a good example of the inefficiencies of government and the lethargy with which it changes.

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Is everything with you about a buck. The students will gain by having more adults involved in their education either by way of smaller class size or more educators available for resource help outside the traditional classroom. Why is a bad thing? Also I would rather see people retaining or getting jobs rather than seeing people fired. I don't think that it's helpful for our economy to toss people onto the unemployment rolls particularly those that are trained to teach our children.

Posted by: Phil at August 23, 2011 6:37 PM

"Is everything with you about a buck."

Are you kidding? The whole purpose of the firings and school closings was to save money. So you close the schools but you still have to maintain them with heat and electricity. So not much savings there. Then you keep an excess of teachers? Full compliment as matter of fact. In what world are you saving any money? Its not about Justin or a buck, its about the taxpayer that gets saddled with higher taxes in a bad economy.

Posted by: Max Diesel at August 23, 2011 9:05 PM

I've come to the conclusion that you will never be satiated. I understand you want to eat you sandwich whole but your mother told you to eat your food in small bites and chew your food otherwise you might choke. I don't think that is the inefficancies of govt but how the real world is with any type of negotiations, whether govt or private. Ask the NFL or NBA!

Posted by: al at August 23, 2011 11:09 PM

The student:teacher ratio in Providence is 12:1. Those are private school numbers. If there are classes with more than 15 kids in them, then the work is being mis-allocated.

I suspect that in reality, the classes will still have 26 kids in them, and the teachers' lounges and paid substitute pools will be overflowing. That's actually not the teachers' fault, it's administration.

Spending per-pupil in Providence is WAY above national average, something like $15K per student. I'm not saying we should cut school budgets, I'm saying we should get the world-class schools we're paying for.

Somehow, somewhere, the student load isn't being distributed properly, and neither is the funding. The last time I was working in Providence schools, the water wasn't drinkable, the rooms were either way too hot or too cold, and the walls were crumbling. Maybe we should have slightly fewer, busier teachers with classes of 18, functioning buildings and supplies; maybe we should have crumbling buildings and classes of 15. There's no reason we should have idle faculty, overflowing classrooms, AND dilapidated facilities.

Posted by: mangeek at August 23, 2011 11:21 PM

Guys, Phil is just trolling again. Nobody with a brain believes that the quality of education is merely a factor of the number of teachers in the school.

Especially if they are NEA/AFT hacks and drones.

Posted by: BobN at August 24, 2011 8:48 AM

I can't help but think that "class size", "student-teacher ratios" are the work of the unions. They necessarily increase the size of the work force. While small classes have some cognitive appeal, I wonder what the empirical evidence is. For instance, Japan does not have particularly small classes, but their educational system seems to work very well.

I wonder if part of the "small classes" appeal is to a selfish motive. Would parents think "well with a tiny class Johnny will get a lot of attention", and that relieves me of a lot of responsibility.

I can't deny that in minority communities, where English is not spoken at home, small classes may be necessitated. I spent a few years of my youth in a town with a high immigrant population and classes were not particularly small. The kids from non English speaking homes, spoke English perfectly well. While girls tended to finish high school, boys were encouraged to quit as soon as possible and contribute to family income. Of course, this was before manufacturing moved to Asia, and more low skill jobs were available.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at August 25, 2011 1:44 AM

"I wonder if part of the "small classes" appeal is to a selfish motive."

Wonder no more. It's a fact.

Posted by: Max Diesel at August 25, 2011 6:53 AM
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