September 4, 2007

More on the Issues in the East Greenwich Teachers' Union Strike

Donald B. Hawthorne

A lot of words are being said as the East Greenwich teachers go out on strike. Many of the public comments by union officials and some teachers have nothing to do with the facts.

These contract negotiations and strikes are not about doing right by our children or about education. They are about maximizing adult entitlements where the NEA is willing to use our children as pawns to get more money.

Along the way, they complain about unacceptable "working conditions." Let's spend some time on the facts underlying that claim.


From the outset, be clear about the context for this part of the discussion: The debate has nothing to do with a lack of desire to treat teachers well. Out of the 50 states, Rhode Island is already in the top 10 in how much it spends per pupil and in teacher salaries. We are generous and willingly so, in spite of being in the bottom one-third among the 50 states for educational outcomes. The resistance is to continuing an expensive gravy train entitlement ride which the state and individual communities can no longer afford. The resistance is also to giving the same 9-12% annual salary increases to the worst teachers when we would gladly give high salary increases to the great teachers. But the NEA won't give school administrators the freedom to make those judgment calls.

Furthermore, school commmittees and teachers' union officials are all guilty of misleading the public about the real salary increases going to teachers under contracts around the state. I wrote about the hidden nature of these extreme salary increases in this 2004 ProJo editorial.

To further elaborate on this point and make it specific to East Greenwich, here is a 2004 analysis done when my term on the East Greenwich School Committee was ending. It is an Excel spreadsheet analysis based on data taken from union contracts over a 6-year period: 1998-99 to 2003-04 East Greenwich teacher salary data.

Here, again in an Excel spreadsheet, is an updated version of that salary increase data: 2003-4 to 2006-7 East Greenwich teacher salary data.

Handing out 9-12%/year salary increases for 9 of the 10 job steps is the norm. And we can't afford it anymore.

There are some nuances:

Roughly 60% of the East Greenwich teachers have now reached the top step 10 and that means their increases have been 3.25%, 3.6%, and 3.8% over the last 3 years. In other words, roughly what taxpayers working in the private sector have been receiving. But these teachers are unhappy about their recent "low" increases. After years of getting 9-12%/year increases, their expectations are skewed and out of line with the real world. But the pragmatic issue the NEA won't address is that if they want increases above 3.8% for step 10 teachers, then some other non-step 10 teachers are going to have to give up their 9-12%/year increases. And I repeat: Why should good and bad teachers get identical salary increases?

What part of 3.8-12%/year salary increases creates unacceptable working conditions?

On the John DePetro radio show this morning, one East Greenwich teacher called in to complain that there were 22 students in her class, 1 above the "approximately 21" contractual limit. What she didn't tell anyone is that her salary is increased pro-rata (22/21) based on that extra student. In other words, she is compensated under the contract for the difference. How many taxpayers working in the private sector get roughly 5% salary increases when their workload goes up 5%? [NOTE: Subsequent discussions have clarified that this extra pay is not the standard practice, although the idea had been thrown around recently.]

She also complained that recess had been "taken away" by the Superintendent. What she didn't disclose is that the Superintendent's original response to the State requirement of 20 extra instructional minutes was to extend their day by that 20 minutes. (9:10 a.m. is the start time at Meadowbrook; they are out around 3:10 p.m.) I understand that the high school did make some schedule changes. However, there was no apparent similar flexibility at this teacher's elementary school and that led to teachers there - and not just teachers' aides - having to spend recess time on the playground with students. So who is obstructing here?


There are 10 salary steps for East Greenwich teachers. Teachers at steps 1-4 only pay 5% co-pays. Teachers at steps 5-10 only pay 10%.

In my last company, the co-pays for employees were 25-35%. I don't know a single person in the private sector who pays less than 20%.

I am told the East Greenwich town employees under an NEA contract pay 20%. What should teachers be treated differently?

Why is it a matter of debate that a 20% co-pay creates unacceptable working conditions?


East Greenwich teachers receive a cash payment of $5,000/year when they do not use the health insurance plan provided by the district. I am told that 68 of the 235 teachers in the district receive this additional cash payment. I am also told that the $5,000 payment is among the highest of any school district in the state.

Why do modest changes to that payment level create unacceptable working conditions?

Separately, I also understand the East Greenwich town employees under an NEA contract receive only a $1,000 cash payment. Why should teachers be treated differently?

I don't know a single person in the private sector who receives any cash buyback payments.


We will save the pension debate for another day. Suffice it to say that Rhode Island public sector employees have some of the richest pension benefits of any state employees anywhere.

And private sector pension programs don't hold a candle to public sector programs in either dollar payouts or the age when such payouts can begin. The fact that nearly every public sector pension plan is underfunded doesn't seem to deter the unions from resisting reforms and demanding more.


At some point, the strike will pass and teachers will return to the classroom. There is a good chance they will return to the classroom under work-to-rule conditions, where they only do the minimum legally required under the contract. In other words, they will continue to use our children as pawns while they demand retroactive pay and other financial benefits. They insist on being made whole financially but their actions do not allow our children's educational experiences to be made whole. Why do we tolerate them treating our children like that?

This is where contractual issues move from financial considerations to non-financial considerations. Here are excerpts of what a friend wrote me about work-to-rule:

The "rules and conditions" maintained in the contracts do not reflect the practices that have become expected of and provided by the school system. The unions always state that teachers typically work beyond the obligated work hours stipulated in the contract, including helping students after school, writing letters-of-recommendation for college apps, etc. Therefore, you would think these items and others should be written into the contracts. But, as much as unions like to point to these activities, they resist putting them into contracts because the more "best practices" or "past practices" are stipulated in the contract, the less leverage work-to-rule provides. This is why the unions are hesitant to write in either best practices or past practices - because the work-to-rule status quo allows them to extract more financial concessions. How is this good for the students?

The obviously fair thing for our children would be for all teacher practices not stipulated in the contract but which are, in fact, done must be continued because they represent past practices precedent under which school districts operated during prior contracts. But the union won't agree to that either.

So here we are, dealing with a union which doesn't negotiate in good faith, is all about adult entitlements, will use our children as pawns in the negotiations, funds its operations through coerced dues, and doesn't have the courage to allow its members to take a strike vote by secret ballot.


The challenge for our society is to realize that many teachers not only don't want to be union hacks but they are classy professionals who want to be rewarded differentially for delivering excellence in the classroom.

But these teachers will never have the freedom to operate accordingly as long as we live in a world where unions have monopoly control over the public schools.

There is no way to tweak the status quo and improve public education as long as schools are controlled by unions whose mission is to maximize financial benefits to members, not produce excellence in education.

The more you learn about public education, the more compelling school choice becomes - for the great teachers and for all of our children. As Milton Friedman wrote: a system that should be bottoms-up and converts it into a system that is top-down. Education is a simple case. It isn't the public purpose to build brick schools and have students taught there. The public purpose is to provide education. Think of it this way: If you want to subsidize the production of a product, there are two ways you can do it. You can subsidize the producer or you can subsidize the consumer. In education, we subsidize the producer - the school. If you subsidize the student instead - the consumer - you will have competition. The student will choose the school he attends and that would force schools to improve and to meet the demands of their students.

Nothing will change until these great teachers and enough parents have the courage to say enough already and exert sufficient political pressure. It will be an uphill battle because we are not an organized big business like the NEA - which has monopoly control and over $295 million/year of cash from coerced dues money to buy political power through lobbying. But we all know history is full of examples where the rich and powerful fell - and fell hard. With all the failures of public schools and looming public sector financial implosions, the time is coming soon. The only question is how many children will be hurt along the way.

Only with such change will we then move toward a world of freedom where our children - especially the poor inner city kids - can break free from the enslavement of underperforming public school monopolies and get the education they so richly deserve.

For the good of our children, let's take up this fight and not give up until the battle is won!

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.

This should be required reading for every state senator and representative (I would throw in all of Tom W.'s recent comments as well).

The only ones benefitting from the existance of teachers unions in RI are political hacks, union hacks, and the teachers that are unfit to teach. The kids are suffering, there is tremendous strain on the towns, and the taxpayers are being crushed. Enough is enough!

Posted by: Frank at September 4, 2007 1:52 PM

Absolutely right, Frank. Old myths and an absence of information are the only things the NEARI et al have on their side.

Posted by: Susan at September 4, 2007 2:36 PM

As you well know untill 2004 there was no co-pay in EG and buybacks were reduced to the $5000.EG was the first district that didn't compensate the union somewhere else in the contract for the co-pay.But we were not able to get significant reform for health care.In fact the Union leadership refused to let the teachers cross the hallway to listen to a United Heathcare proposal.
I posted the folowing last month.

The health care premiums are based on usage just like your car insurance. If you use it your premiums go up. With the teacher's plan two groups receive benefits the tax payers are funding. Those two groups are the current workers and the retired workers.In some disrticts the retired group has a sub group that are allowed to "BUY IN". The bulk of the claims as far as expenses are concerned are from the retired group which are of an advanced age and suffer from more frequent problems associated with the aging process. The "Unions" have refused to do the following things that would reduce the costs significantly.
1 Segregate the 2 groups and charge the buy-ins and retirees a premium.
2 Consider competing companies for the same coverage.
3 Revisit the procedure and qulifiaction process for buy-ins.
4 Incease deductibles so that the people that use it pay for it.
There are people all over the country receiving benifts from RI based policies that haven't lived here for decades and yet we are paying the bill.
Does this make sense when they can retire in their mid-40s collect a pention and get another job?

Posted by: Steve Gregson at September 4, 2007 2:55 PM

It's amazing that a teacher would call into a radio talk show complaining she has one student more than her contract allows.

Make no mistake, teachers play a vital role in educating our youth, but I'm tired of public sector unionized teachers trying to have it both ways.

On the one hand, they say that they want to be treated as "white collar" professionals like doctors and lawyers. But they are unwilling to let the market determine their salaries or regulate themselves like doctors and lawyers.

On the other hand, they want the employee benefits and salary protections given to "blue collar" cops and firefighters. But they aren't in a job that endangers their life or could lead to a disability.

Why not just treat public school teachers in the same way that private schools treat their teachers--give them them the same pay and the same benefits?

Posted by: Anthony at September 4, 2007 4:34 PM


how come you have more information and data than the providence journal???

Posted by: johnpaycheck at September 4, 2007 7:15 PM


How do you respond to the information being handed out by teachers picketing various schools in E.G.?

"Key Points of Information :
-Teachers initiated negotiations in Sept 2006
-Negotiating Team met for over 30 hours during school year between Dec. and June
-Mediator requested and appointed in late June
-School Committee unavailable for scheduled mediation until mind Aug. 2007
-Teachers have met for over 100 hours of unproductive negotiations

An Open Letter to East Greenwich Residents:

East Greenwich Teachers returned to school on August 30, participating fully and enthusiastically on our jobs. On Friday, August 31, we were scheduled to receive a paycheck according to the town payroll schedule. We did not. Why? We don’t know. Our representatives were negotiating a contract as state law permits us to do. But apparently the school committee and the school department who represent the town of East Greenwich do not believe in the right to collective bargaining, as granted by state law. In a blatant act of coercion, the school department simply decided not to pay us. Citizens of East Greenwich, is this the way you want your elected officials to treat the educators who care for your children?

We were there when your children forgot their lunch money and we made sure they ate. We were there when your children didn’t have a ride home, and we made certain they were safe. We were there when your child called us at 10pm because they didn’t know where else to turn for help. We have been here from their first day jitters through their post graduate plans.

We have been and will continue to be there for your children. We believe you care. Please do not allow your school committee dismantle and destroy one of the best things about this town. They have created an environment of intimidation and demoralization amongst the teachers that will not resolve itself for a very, very long time. Please consider what we have meant to your children. Please pick up the phone and demand that the school committee engage in good faith bargaining – regardless of what you believe the contract should read. Fair and reasonable people understand that contract negotiations in a civilized society cannot take place under coercion. Thank you for supporting the quality of education your children deserve.

Sincerely, the Teachers of East Greenwich”

Personally I’m completely appalled by the whole situation and can’t decide whether I’m more annoyed with the lack of communication to the public of the schools being closed (by the committee) or the manner in which the teachers union continues to push the limits in terms of compensation. Having recently moved here I have begun to question whether or not E.G. is the right city for me to be living in…………

Posted by: MovingOutofEG? at September 4, 2007 8:42 PM

I am the teacher who called in to the talk show. I was not complaining that I have 22 students, I was making a point that it is difficult to meet NCLB requirements and PL 94 - 142 with one teacher and 22 students. There may well be compensation allowed but ask any first grade teacher and they will tell you that all the money in the world is not what WE WANT, we want manageable class sizes so that we can differentiate instruction. Each child in the class gets less instructional time at this grade level when additional students are added. I have taught for 21 years at this level and this is the most students I have ever had. When EG parents pick their child's pre-school they look at teacher-student ratio. Most have no idea of that ratio in the primary classrooms. If they did, they would be disappointed at best. This is not the quality education they imagined in EG.

As far as the extra 20 minutes, the administrators never polled the faculty to get creative ideas on how to incorporate this into the school day. I personally feel that 6 year olds need to learn how to socialize with each other without the direction of adults (being told to play a certain game). The children in EG and elsewhere are programmed into activities by their parents with little opportunity to be children and play freely! Try doing what is really best for children and starting a primary school at 8 am not 9:20 - the issue there is completely driven by bus schedules. The main difficulty with the 20 additional muinutes at our school was that you would have 5 - 9 year olds getting on a bus to go home as late as 4:20.

Please ask the administrators to take the same pay cut I would take if my contribution to health care went up to 15 - 20 % and my salary increased 1- 2%.

Tell me, Mr. Hawthorne, how many of your neighbors in East Greenwich feel that teachers should take a pay cut? How many of them were offerred less in compensation at their jobs?

Posted by: Pam at September 5, 2007 7:30 AM


Welcome to the REAL world. All of us here pay 15-20% of our healthcare coverage and get pittances for raises. AND we pay you [word deleted by Hawthorne] your healthcare and pension.

Yeah, it's really all about the children.

Posted by: Greg at September 5, 2007 11:45 AM

Referring to them as [word deleted by Hawthorne]. I just lost alot of respect for this blog and its supporters.

Posted by: Mike at September 5, 2007 2:56 PM

Frustration... Your teachers are frustrated with the situation at hand. We didn’t create the financial difficulties. Why are you asking us to bear the burden of them?

You speak of healthcare contributions. Did you know that historically the teachers of East Greenwich have under used their coverage and that the district has received money back because of this? Does anyone know where that money went? Why wasn’t it banked to offset future years?

What about the Medicaid funds that the district receives for special education services… How sensibly has that money been spent?

The teachers haven’t been frivolous with the taxpayer’s dollars. We understand the community’s frustration with their property taxes… but we really shouldn’t be the ones blamed for this problem; and our salaries and benefits shouldn’t be considered a solution to fixing this financial dilemma.

Posted by: Olive at September 6, 2007 1:12 AM

For those who are new to Anchor Rising, a word about how the Comments section works:

There are 5 bloggers who post to Anchor Rising. We each post individually; there is no central editing process through which new posts must pass prior to going onto the blog site.

In addition, we have an open Comments section where anyone from the public can post a comment without upfront screening by the 5 of us. It is a statement of our faith in your ability to self-govern!

We only police comments after the fact and, along the way, ask people to act responsibly by using good judgment and good manners so we can keep the debate here focused on the substantive public policy issues.

One comment earlier in this sequence used an inappropriate word and I have now deleted it. A subsequent comment repeated the word in an appropriate protest but then inappropriately suggested that a comment from the general public somehow said something about the 5 of us bloggers. That suggestion I must reject.

Moving forward, I would ask that everyone keep their comments focused on the issues. A responsible use of freedom ensures that we won't have to shut down the Comments section or take other restrictive actions.

Thank you.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at September 6, 2007 9:56 AM

East Greenwich schools are the best... or at least in the top two (Barrington). That is the general public opinion from Rhode Islanders and new people entering our state. They want to live in EG because they hear the school system is one of the best. Why do you think that is? Because the school buildings are state of the art, with all the latest technologies? I think not. Although the High School Gym floor looks sweet.. after how many years and how much money?

It's not the school committee either. Even though some of the present and past members of the committee like to take credit for "turning the EG school system around". I do not wish to belittle the present or past committee, their job is a difficult one. However, They are not the reason our schools are so highly regarded.

The main reason our schools are regarded so highly and the real reason most of the people moved to our town is not the schools, it's the TEACHERS. The teachers that stay at school till 7pm or later. The teachers that correct papers and plan lessons all night and all weekend. The teachers that go to school at night to continue their education. The teachers who pour all their energy and efforts into teaching, trying to create the untimate learning environment for their students. The teachers who go above and beyond. That's the real reason our schools are # 1.

Where is the support for these teachers?
Where is the support from the Parents who's children benefited from these Teachers?
Where is the support for these teachers who continue to go above and beyond?

I'm embarrassed to hear people driving by our Teachers and shouting obsenities.
I'm embarassed by them secretly putting notes on the teachers car's.
I'm embarrassed our teachers are paid below the State average.
I'm embarrassed by private business owners who want to compare what they pay in healthcare to that of what a teacher pays. Ask those people how much they earn and let's see if they would switch salaries with our teachers. Doubt it!

Make no mistake, our teacher want to teach!
They don't want a pay cut and they don't want to be paid below average... because they are far from that!

Support our Teachers! They dererve it!

Posted by: EG Townie at September 6, 2007 2:40 PM

Well, EG Townie is drinking the Kool Aid!

There is no pay cut and I will prove that soon in a new post. Unlike the NEA disinformation campaign data Townie so readily passes along in ignorance, I will put data in the upcoming post and make the counter-point.

The mantra about being paid below the state average is another old NEA lie they used back in 2004-2005, too. And I shot that one down back then based on independent, third-party data:

Comment #4: Teacher pay is lower than what other districts offer.

According to the Rhode Island Association of School Committees' teacher data report for 2003-2004, East Greenwich salaries rank as follows:

  • The top job step 10 salary was the 7th highest out of 36 districts.

  • The job step 5 salary for beginning teachers was 9th highest out of 36 districts.

East Greenwich is fortunate to have many professionally successful parents - who value education, speak English as a first language, and ensure their kids do their homework and come to school with food in their stomachs. We provide a better than average working environment and still pay above average salaries. Bluntly speaking, given our working environment, we should be able to attract good teachers while paying slightly below average salaries.

But we don't. And during the last 3 years East Greenwich has awarded further increases of 3.25-3.80%/year - comparable to statewide averages over the same time period - to each of the 10 job steps since that data was prepared. That clearly suggests the rankings should remain in the same general range. They certainly are not anything close to below average.

Tired, overused lies. Things you use when you don't have any facts on your side.

No one on this blog site has any arguments with individual teachers. We have a massive problem with the economic fictions practiced by their union. And until we rid ourselves of the unions so we can deal directly with the teachers, the conflict will continue.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at September 6, 2007 8:07 PM

EG Townie said:

"I'm embarrassed by private business owners who want to compare what they pay in healthcare to that of what a teacher pays. Ask those people how much they earn and let's see if they would switch salaries with our teachers. Doubt it!"

Um, well, I have two college degrees and work as a help desk administrator for a small Internet company. I am salaried at 35,000 per year to work 38 hours weekly. I actually work 60 hours per week to meet the needs of our company. Performing customer service for frustrated computer users who think they know more than me is very stressful!

I have NO health insurance! Thankfully, I'm covered under my husband's plan.

My "benefits" include 2 weeks vacation and 1 week sick time, neither of which I can fully enjoy. Because of the nature of my responsibilities, I must be "on call" should issues arise, so I travel with my gadgets...laptop, Blackberry, etc. I can never truly unwind from my job. It's always in the back of my mind. I even dream about it!

I just cannot imagine not showing up for work when my boss and our customers depended on me. It's very difficult to explain to my children why it's okay for teachers to strike, especially since they make more money than their mother who took hardly any days off to enjoy the summer with her kids.

And before you all think I live in a million dollar mansion, I'm in a cramped raised ranch and pay enough taxes as it is! I pay hefty college tuition bills for my son, and private 1st grade tuition for my daughter whom I would have gladly enrolled in public school had there not been an age requirement! It just wasn't fair to hold a bright child back. I did what was best for her, not what was best for my pocketbook!

Ironically, I moved to EG for the school system. I may end up having to move OUT of EG so that my family's quality of life improves. And I'm not talking about more money. I'm talking about getting off this tax treadmill so that I can actually spend time with my children!

EG teachers are great and I respect them highly! But EG teachers also need a reality check.

Sure, I'll switch salaries!

Posted by: Another EG Townie at September 7, 2007 10:37 AM

EG Townie # 1,

You are wrong. The reason that EG schools are so highly regarded is not because of the teachers, it’s because of the students and their families. The biggest determinants of student performance are the educational level of the parents (especially the mother), the socioeconomic status of the family, whether the student is from a single parent household or not, and whether or not the student’s family has moved around a lot – disrupting the education process. This is not a knock on teachers it’s just that they are, as a group, apparently similarly qualified. What separates EG and Barrington from the rest of RI school districts in terms of student performance is their socioeconomic status, stable households, and parents that are reinforcing education. I do not doubt that you could switch all of the teachers from a high performing district such as EG with the teachers from one of the poor performing districts and EG would retain it’s high performing status. Likewise it is improbable that you could place the EG teachers into a low performing district and make that district the highest performing district in the state (though I would love to see them try, it would a terrific assessment tool). And I’ll bet that every teacher in every district in the state would take offense to your suggestion (and, again, you are flat out wrong) that it is only the teachers in EG that stay in school working extra, continue their education, pour themselves into their jobs, try to create a good learning environment, and “go above and beyond”. Many of them may, in fact, say that the EG teachers have the most desirable jobs – more prepared students, less problem students

Posted by: Frank at September 7, 2007 11:47 AM

Dear, another Eg townie, Your not a Private business owner are you?? Obviously not, therefore my comments don't pertain to you. As for having two college degree's and only making $35,00 per year... get another JOB, because yours sucks! You could make more money waiting tables or bartending, so I'm sorry for your situation but you misinterpreted my message. I'm sorry for your bitterness. As far as "holding your child back" thats the rules and you should follow them like everyone else! I'm sure your childs bright, but if she isn't old enough. Too BAD!

As for Mr. Hawthorne, He wrote "EG is fortunate to have many successful parents - who value education, ensure their kids do their homework and come to school with food in their stomachs". And this provides for a better than average working environment?? News flash THAT'S WHAT PARENTS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!

Take off the blinders Mr. Hawthorne, our school funding is terrible, our supplies inferrior to many other states, and our buildings like you are past their prime. Bluntly speaking.

Ignorance is bliss if it means I need to believe what you are shoveling. I've seen the paychecks, and I know friends that teach in other districts. They don't want to come to EG because of the money and because they don't want to deal with the Parents here! So there goes you "better than average working environment" theory. I know these people directly They are friends and family and I don't have to refer to a lame spreadsheet.
As far as getting ride of the Unions, why don't we get rid of all these school committee's and small districts? Rhode Island is the smallest State yet we have so many Politicians. Why is that? States like Texas and Arizona have school districts the size of Kent county. This state should have 3 to 4 school districts most. Unfortunatly that would mean freeing up alot of money, eliminating alot of bogus pension and getting ride of this "TOP HEAVY" problem our state has.... No one wants to talk about that though. Until we deal with that we will continue to be in this situation.

But you can continue to blame the Unions if you want, it makes for good banter.

And to you Frank, I'm not dead wrong and I didn't mean "only EG teachers" go above and beyond. You make alot of good points and I agree with most of what you wrote. My point is this We should support our Teachers Eg or wherever, because they have to put up with Kids today and Parents today. $$ doesn't make the parents any better, in fact often times it makes them worse to deal with because they think their $%*& doesn't stink! You know this is true!

Posted by: Eg Townie at September 7, 2007 12:35 PM

EG Townie #1:

You continue to evade the substantive issues raised in these blog posts.


Your comment about pay being below average is wrong.

Your comment about pay cuts is wrong. See here.

We are in the top 10 in the 50 states in spending per pupil so how you can argue that our funding is terrible is beyond me.

We are also in the top 10 of the 50 states in teacher compensation - and EG is above average in an above average paying state. So what is the issue there?

I chuckle when you call me past my prime - others might even agree! - but they will also note that I am posting empirically-based arguments which allow rational discussions among people who are willing to ask what the facts are.

Quite a difference from just repeating talking points forwarded by the NEA and devoid of substance - or veracity.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at September 7, 2007 6:35 PM

Dear EG Townie #1:

No, I am not the company owner, but I was trying to make a point about salary and company-funded insurance (which my company cannot afford to provide yet). I was offered a substantial raise by my boss a few months ago: a raise I turned DOWN because I care for the financial health of our small company. My boss has the assurance that when the going gets tough, I will be there to weather the financial storm. My job doesn't "suck" as you said....far from it. I wake up eager to start my workday. I may be COO in a few years if I work hard would not be financially prudent for me to give up a future with a company that may go public (with stock options) to work as a bartender or waitress! I'm trained as a programmer and would make for a lousy drink-mixer, trust me on that one! ;-)

My "bitterness" has more to do with my disgust at the apparent unwillingness on the part of the Teacher's Union to make concessions and work within the financial constraints presented. By your logic, if teachers don't like the benefits offered by the town, TOO BAD! They should get jobs elsewhere. And, last I checked, there was this law (i.e. rule) that said it was illegal for teachers to strike. Too bad it had to take a judge to set them straight.

And, to save bandwidth, I agree with Mr. Hawthorne's reply, except for his comment about being past his prime...I don't know the guy!

Posted by: Another EG Townie at September 7, 2007 8:07 PM

Please consider…

When making comparisons of the per-pupil expenditures across the country; you need to remember that this amount is going to be higher in this area because the cost of living is higher. It costs more to heat and maintain the schools here. The schools need to be heated over a longer period of time. Things are not always as simplistic as they may sound or seem. There are numerous nuances that impact such broad calculations. The same needs to be considered when making comparisons of teachers’ salaries across the country. Salaries in most fields are higher in the northeast because the cost of living is higher here.


When people are hired in the private sector they typically negotiate on their own behalf with their employer. Most people I know advocated for the wages and benefits that they wanted based on their education, their background in the field, and what people in comparable positions made, in the same or similar fields, in the demographic area where they were seeking employment. This is all the EG teachers are attempting to accomplish. The contract they seek is based on the same factors. It is modest and it is reasonable.

On a personal note, as a teacher in EG… I have to say that I find it extremely disheartening that not so long ago this town was will to pay the previous superintendent hundreds of thousands of dollars (as stated in the contract that was approved upon appointing Dr. Jolin), in the event that he didn’t do his job (referring to the severance compensation that was part of his contract); but is so unwilling to compensate the teachers who have done their jobs for years with an average wage increase that at least meets the cost of living increases in our area.

This town (and really the state as a whole), has horribly mismanaged its money in previous years. Now that finances have suddenly become tighter, everyone is attacking the teachers and other public employees as though we have created the problem. We didn’t! Yet more and more it seems to be expected that we bear the burden of it. It isn’t right.

Posted by: Olive at September 7, 2007 10:30 PM


I am known for skewering all sorts of sacred cows - administrators or teachers. The public sector offers many such target-rich environments.

For example, as to former Superintendent Jolin, I was the person who made his "secret" sweetheart deal public in this ProJo editorial.

But, in Finance, there is a fundamental concept that sunk costs are in the past and should not affect the analysis of current financial matters. So as disgusting as Jolin's performance and pay was, it is behind us - different Superintendent today and different School Committee today. The issue today is we have a union contract structure that doesn't work economically - in EG or elsewhere in RI.

As to how the Town is run financially. You don't have any grounds for saying EG is run poorly. It is typically considered the best managed town in RI and, I believe, has the highest credit rating in the state to show for it. And the current Town Council leadership is arguably the strongest we have seen in at least 10 years.

Those points aside, I must suggest that much of your arguments are trying to change the subject and that amounts to another NEA disinformation play. We already pay EG teachers above the state average in a state that already pays its teachers quite a bit above the national average. So EG teachers are well compensated. There is 3rd party data which proves that. So what is your point, then?

BTW, on one particular issue: Many of us would be willing to revisit the Step 10 increase and make it higher - on the condition that there is an offsetting decrease to the 9-12%/year increases in steps 1-9. But that would require restructuring the entire salary schedule. It is your union which refuses to have that conversation.

The NEA is using you as pawns in its effort to blow up the tax cap. The tax cap's goal is to ensure that taxes don't keep going up faster than the taxpaying public's incomes, thereby reducing their standard of living. The latter is what has been going on for years in RI and nobody in the NEA ever seems to care about all the working families and retirees in our towns who experience that decline. They are the silent majority who have said enough already, we have been generous for year and willingly so but we just can't afford the gravy train ride any longer.

Posted by: Donald B. Hawthorne at September 8, 2007 6:10 AM

Dear Olive -

I would like to take point with the idea that EG teachers are being scapegoated here. We have all had good experiences with EG teachers. But come on! We are not all living in mega-homes in the Woods.

You cannot deny that parents in this town are overly concerned with education. That they are involved (probably too much in some cases)and take an active interest in how the schools perform and will do anything to make that lot better. Remember that the parents raised the $$ to provide computer labs in this town. They provide the supplies - just send a notice out and they will come. Parents actively seek out volunteer opportunities in the school system. Parents overflow Open House nights and any in-school events. We are there to help your job easier.

The idea that taxpayers should pony up even more to give your salaries a boost is ridiculous.Have you been at all in the private sector? Have you read the business section of the Projo recently? Business are fleeing this state - in large part because of the labor costs. I have heard that this town only has 30% of its population using the public schools however, the majority of its budget goes to the school department. And please don't tell us that you are upset with Mr. Meyers' or Dr. Jolin's compensation. I never heard a teacher complain when they were hired.

Yeah, it's expensive to live here, but guess what - it's expensive in pretty much all of southern New England. You are being asked bear some of the burden of your health ins. Why should teachers' be allowed the privilige of not paying what is their fair share - particularly in light of what some of the private sector is receiving. Further most of us the private sector are not guranteed raises for just showing up to work. We get them based on our performance. You and I know that there are a few shoddy teachers in the EG system who should have been retired a long time ago - who get a fair amount of parent unsatisfaction.

I don't doubt that this town has been badly managed in the past - but when you look at the amount of our budget that goes to the school system... The fact you had threatened to strike before the school year and whined about not getting paid (for work not done). I never knew that you even get paid in advance for work when most people (99% I would gather) get paid in arrears. I will actively encourage most of my friends to give you nothing. If you feel the need to strike some more - please do so. If you feel so strongly you should stand up for your principles and go to jail.

Posted by: Cheryl at September 8, 2007 9:10 AM
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