February 26, 2010

Yeah, We Have No Idea

Justin Katz

Here's another instance of the disconnect of the labor unions:

"We think it’s an outrage," Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers Union, said, as hundreds of union supporters from across the state began flowing into Jenks Park. "Our members are feeling awful, devastated. How would you feel, being terminated?"

One gets the impression that, on some level, they don't believe that anybody ever gets laid off anywhere. Some construction companies in the Newport area have laid off almost as many employees as work in Central Falls. The worst part is that the teachers could have avoided the whole thing if the unions weren't so intent on standing their ground in hopes of averting a statewide conflagration of concessions and reform.

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What's really starting to get me is the trickle of anonymous CF teachers who are saying that they disagree with their union, are angry with union membership, were willing to accept the terms of the first proposal and just want to get back to teaching, but were never asked.

How in the world does someone, or a group of people, allow someone else to negotiate on your behalf, and agree to let you get laid off, without you making any kind of noise about it ahead of time? If you disagree with what your representation is doing, tell them, do something about it. Don't just complain after the fact.

Posted by: Patrick at February 26, 2010 3:03 PM


During an earlier post on this subject by Marc it was pointed out by Dirk that over 15 years (1995 to 2010) there have been 27 administrators at Central Falls High School.

If I were running a business that was constantly failing to produce and had to make that many changes to my management team something is wrong with my business model.

Do I fire all my workers and have no production output and go through the process of trying to hire and train new workers or do I change management team again or fire everyone or change my business model because it is not as comprehensive as it should be in order to run a successful business.

In any one given complex problem there are only 3 answers depending on objectives, alternatives and constraints; you can make things better, you can make things worst or you leave them alone and things will self correct.

This is the problem I am assuming (we all understand what happens when we assume) RIDOE, CF Administration and CF teachers are facing.

15 years is a long time for a problem of this nature to perpetuate itself in a school system without being fixed.

Posted by: Ken at February 26, 2010 4:11 PM

Well one good thing is going to come out of the school funding formula.

Central Falls will be responsible for almost $12 million a year of their own school costs.

A break for state taxpayers although the money will just go to Providence or Woonsocket at least CF will contribute.

Posted by: doughboys at February 26, 2010 4:37 PM

Ken sure is right about the failed business model. The socialist idea of government-controlled public education, originated in imperial Germany and imported by that infamous Progressive John Dewey, has to be discarded. Replace it with a competitive system of privately-owned schools with no legally compulsory unionization.

Economic freedom works in every other sector of society. Nobody has provided evidence that it would not work in K-12 education. In fact, it worked great for over a century before the Progressives got their collectivist mitts on it.

There is no amount of tinkering with the present system that will produce good results.

Posted by: BobN at February 26, 2010 4:48 PM

If an attorney represented his client in a negotiation the way the union represented its teachers in Central Falls, he would be sanctioned by the bar, if not disbarred.

Posted by: Dan at February 26, 2010 5:26 PM

Justin- Tiverton will lose $1.5 million a year in state funding for the school system under the new formula.

No where near as bad as the $9.1 million to be lost by the Bristol/Warren schools but given where the budget in Tiverton is headed maybe just as bad right now.

Posted by: doughboys at February 26, 2010 5:27 PM

BobN. I can think of ways to improve the situation without eliminating public education...

1. Unions limited to staff of a single school each. They get their voice heard, and they can stick up for each other, but they can't glob-up and overwhelm the general assembly with giant wads of cash or influence.

2. Change the steps, force them to be three years apart instead of annual. First two (six years) should be -low-.

3. Go back to neighborhood schools. The only buses I want to see are buses taking the talented kids to the schools with programs for them, and the not-so-talented kids to schools where they can get better educations without slowing the rest of the class down. People do better when they are invested in their communities, and going to school within walking distance is a great way to foster a love of learning and sense of community.

4. Make kids more responsible for cleaning and other light-tasks around the school. I remember doing this stuff, it was definitely good for us.

5. Bring back the goodies. Sports, shop class, art, music, and especially home economics. Not everyone goes to college, but everyone -does- eventually get a credit card or a car that needs an oil change. Lets show people how to live better, and make it fun. We're graduating too many kids who don't know how credit cards work, who don't understand how to budget, and who would have rather learned a skill in high school than been prepared for a liberal arts degree they can't afford or have no interest in.

Posted by: mangeek at February 26, 2010 5:35 PM

Thanks, Mangeek. Your points raise these reactions - I'm not debating or denying you, just here are reactions:

1. It seems to me that putting such abitrary restrictions on unions violates freedom of assembly. How do you feel about allowing unions the same scope of freedom that any other voluntary association gets, in a right-to-work/right-to-hire regime that provides no political favor to either side? I've written here before that if a union were to act as a professional guild and offer, on a competitive basis, higher quality because of their standards for their members, it would be a good thing.

2. That seems like the kind of tinkering with the details that won't work. We in the private sector understand that our pay is a direct function of the value we create, without time-based "steps". Can we do something like that in a government-owned school system?

3. Agree on the neighborhood schools. I don't see a huge amount of efficiency or quality due to scale in this business. Still, it seems to me that government is ill-equipped to make this kind of allocation decision - it is too much like socialist central planning. If we free the schools from government control, won't natural economic forces do a better job of determining where schools are located?

4. Agreed. Can we get parents and the ACLU to raise their own standards for kids' behavior and responsibilities? Again, in a privatized regime, the style of schooling including these items would be a differentiator among competing schools.

5. Agreed. Same comment as item 4.

But I do not believe that schools under standardized government control will be able to deliver any such useful innovations. The public sector just doesn't work that way.

Posted by: BobN at February 26, 2010 6:02 PM

Mangeek, any product or service for which there is no real competition is going to start sucking in very short order. Why shouldn't it? Unless you can think of a way to work competition into the public school system, and to make it so that bad or unpopular schools risk losing students and funding, the problems will continue to worsen. Thus sayeth the great gods of market economics.

Posted by: Dan at February 26, 2010 6:06 PM

If you're,let's say, an NEA member and you disagree with the socialist leadership represented by Pat Crowley,and you voice that opinion,maybe you'll be needing new tires.Or worse.Union leadership is no stranger to terrorism directed at independent thinking rank and file.
This doesn't just apply to NEA.Ever hear of labor racketeering?
Too bad,because unions can be constructive.

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 26, 2010 7:18 PM

I'm a four year Portsmouth resident, formerly of Westboro, MA. In 32 years there, the school committee never had a problem negotiating teacher salaries. The state NEA and Mass Teachers Association do not get involved in town school negotiating matters. How did the state teacher unions get so strong here?

Posted by: Bob W at February 26, 2010 9:15 PM

Couple questions and comments:

1. How would all-private schools work? What about the poorer than dirt kids? I'm guessing in your system, property taxes would be A LOT lower, but people who rent don't directly pay property taxes, the landlord does. Do we really think that landlords would lower their rent based on cheaper property taxes? I'm guessing that would just roll into extra income for the landlord.

2. Doughboy, I'm not sure where you're getting this info already. I'm not questioning its authenticity, but I can tell you that Woonsocket will not get "more". They already get the second most in the state, 75% of their school budget is state aid. How much could it really go up with a funding formula?

3. As Ken pointed out about Dirk's comment and the 27 prior administrators, so much for the union's argument that the problem is with the administration and Gallo should be removed. Let's see, 15 years and the administrator has been changed many times but the teachers have not. And the school is still failing. There are only 3 parts of a school system, administration, teachers and students. The administration has been changed many times, we can't swap out the students, so that leaves one other option. Now it's being tried.

Posted by: Patrick at February 26, 2010 9:25 PM

Patrick, how do poor people buy clothes, food, computers, or cell phones? The answer is that the market provides inferior but adequate services for very low prices that pretty much any family can afford. And not all schools would be "for profit," obviously, so there would be charity schools, scholarships, financial aid, various programs.

I can already hear the "well what about that 1% that have literally no money and no scholastic talent" objection. But guess what, those kids fall through the cracks in our current crappy public school system anyway, and might as well not even attend school because they are just marking time and being babysat as it is, along with around 50% of the other kids who would actually have a chance at a good education in a private system. We graduate 20% of our kids functionally illiterate now anyway, so I don't know why people make a big fuss about the very few people who couldn't afford school even if it cost $100/month. We are sacrificing so many kids for so few, who are basically screwed in either system anyway. What we are doing now makes no sense.

Posted by: Dan at February 26, 2010 9:59 PM

"The socialist idea of government-controlled public education, originated in imperial Germany and imported by that infamous Progressive John Dewey, has to be discarded."

I was aware that we had imported the German model, but didn't know the personality involved. In some cases, John Hopkins, it has worked fairly well.

For all of that, I am not opposed to private schools. The question then becomes funding. The "voucher system" sounds like a good beginning. I went to private schools where many of the teachers probably could not have been "certified". I learned a lot, and remember many of them rather distinctly. I particularly remember an English master who walked into class and announced "Hooray, Hooray, it's the first of May". He then asked if any of us could complete the couplet, when none could, he offered "Hooray, Hooray it's the first of May; outside scr-wing begins today". Can that be imagined in a public school? For all of that, I did learn a bit of Shakespeare and Robert Browning from him. He loved the job, we suspected he drank.

I respect the CF school committee as courageous. They did what they had to as they were given the light to see it. As to the teacher's union and the GA, we have had enough of "he who pays the fiddler gets to call the tune". That doesn't mean that you don't have to dance.

As to the union members who feel they are not properly represented by the union, I think that is hindsight. They enjoyed the ride while it lasted.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 26, 2010 10:21 PM

Unions may have or may have not been a part of Imperial Germany's structure, but they were a large thorn in the side of Nazi Germany. So let's get the story straight. Here's Hitler on the Union situation. The quote is from Mein Kampf.

“Considered from all these points of view it was not then advisable, nor is it yet advisable, to think of founding our own Trades Union. That seemed clear to me, at least until somebody appeared who was obviously called by fate to solve this particular problem.

Therefore there remained only two possible ways. Either to recommend our own party members to leave the trades unions in which they were enrolled or to remain in them for the moment, with the idea of causing as much destruction in them as possible.

In general, I recommended the latter alternative.”

Obviously Hitler sets out to destroy unions from within. A major step in his master plan.

Digging a bit further I find Hitler’s aims as taken from the book, “Hitler Over Europe”, 1934
1. To save the Steel Trust for his own group;
2. To save the great coal and steel syndicates, the basis of the entire capitalist system of monopolies in Germany ;
3. To eliminate the Catholic-Jewish rival groups and to capture the whole industrial machine for the extreme reactionary fraction of heavy industry in Germany ;
4. To crush the Socialist workers and to abolish the trade unions, so as to strengthen German competition on the world market against the great rivals England and the U.S.A. by means of further wage-reductions, intensification of physical exploitation, etc. ;
5. To increase the chances of inflation, in order to devalue the debts of big industry.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 26, 2010 11:01 PM

Although OTL makes some interesting points, he overlooks a salient fact. The Nazi's were "far left" not "Far right", NAZI is an acronym for "National Socialist", although they did allow private ownership of "the means of production", what was produced was a political decision. Can you imagine any socialist regime tolerating unions? Any "strike" would be a strike against "the people".

There can be little doubt that we adopted the German Model. Look at the names we adpted "gymnasium", "kindergarten", "class", "high school".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 27, 2010 1:07 PM

Warrington-the largest single caucasian ehtnic group in the US is germanic in origin,not English.If you were to group Scotch/Irish with English,maybe not.But the Scotch/Irish wouldn't much care for that.
So the vocabulary reflects the origins of the nation.

Posted by: joe bernstein at February 27, 2010 2:21 PM


You disappoint me.

The term National socialism has been used in self-description by a number of unrelated political movements. It may refer to:

Nazism, the political ideology of the German Nazi Party of the 1930s to 1940s. Since World War II, the term "National Socialism" (capitalized) is almost always used to refer to German Nazism in the context of Western political or historical discussions. It has also been adopted or applied to the ideology of descendant groups, generally called Neo-Nazism. Its application to any groups that are not related to the Nazis - including most socialists and most nationalists - is considered inaccurate and pejorative.

Hitler was never a socialist. He gave up all pretenses of being a socialist once gaining power, since the name "National Socialist" was simply a ruse to lure the German working class. The National Socialist party was always right wing fascist and never left wing socialist. Hitler nationalized no industries.

So Warrenton, be careful and mindful of Shakespeare's question, "What's in a name. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." I would add that calling garbage a rose does not alter its odor.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 27, 2010 2:53 PM

Joe Bernstein:
"Warrington-the largest single caucasian ehtnic group in the US is germanic in origin,not English.If you were to group Scotch/Irish with English,maybe not.But the Scotch/Irish wouldn't much care for that.
So the vocabulary reflects the origins of the nation."

Joe, I think all of us of German extraction know that we are a large group and have heard the fable that German was considered as the "American Language" by the founders. I thought we were the second largest ethnic group. If you were raised in the South, you would think everyone was Scotch/Irish. It is not for nothing that Scarlett's last name is O'Hara.

I think the original poster above may know more than I, but I have always understood that we modeled our public education on the German system. Particularly in the area of compulsary education. Compulsary education presented a problem for Americans, it seemed to interfere with parents rights. When Germans study world history, they are taught that the U.S. is the only country formed on an idea; democracy. They recognize that their own democracy was evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. Consequently, some ideas lingered. When the idea of compulsary education arose in Germany, there was still some belief that children "belonged to the state". Compulsary education went down easier there, it was a fight in the U.S. We copied the German idea, but made it more democratic.

OTL your comments re: nazism/far left, sent me on an exploration. I noted that Wikipedia reported that "Most scholars regard it as far right" (my experience in education is that most "Government" scholars are left of center). However, when you read the description of "collectivism" and government control, it begins to sound very far left. Since your screen name indicvates a political philosophy, it may be that we aproach it from different perspectives.

Posted by: warrington Faust at February 28, 2010 11:32 AM

You say hello. I say good bye. You say yes. I say no. The proof is what's done, and the fact that Hitler nationalised no industries and snuggled very closely with the German industrialists speaks much louder than your words or mine. If we examine what was done there is no doubt about the Nazi's being a rightist regime. That Hitler invaded the Soviet Union is further proof of his rightist bent. If the Nazis were true socialists why would they have risked so much in an attempt to destroy a communist country? A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Please cut the nonsense and quit trying to skew history to conform to your prejudices. Stick with the facts. Surely you know better. I defy you to cite one bona fide historian who calls the Nazi party "leftist". Not A.J.P. Taylor or James Beard or anyone with true historical credentials postulates such a preposterous idea.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at February 28, 2010 3:18 PM
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