— Cumberland —

August 28, 2010

Some Sacrifice

Justin Katz

Sometimes people have to say what they have to say, I suppose, but this comment out of Cumberland really points to the different world in which some Rhode Islanders live:

School Supt. Donna A. Morelle stated that the committee and the administration "are greatly appreciative of the sacrifice made by the teachers."

So what "sacrifice" are the teachers making? Giving up a vacation week or two? Higher health insurance payments? More realistic retirement expectations? Not quite (emphasis added):

Teachers this year will defer half of a 2.5-percent salary increase, half of an increase that comes with a new salary step and half of the payment teachers with credits or degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree receive, according to Roderick McGarry, president of the Cumberland Teachers Association. ...

Also in the agreement, announced Monday after the Cumberland Teachers Association and School Committee approved it Wednesday, is waiving a 2.5-percent salary raise in the academic year that begins September 2011.

The new accord adds another year to the contract, which the union president stated would give teachers additional security through the 2012-2013. Teachers will get a 1-percent salary increase in the first half of that year and an additional 1.5-percent salary increase in the second half, McGarry said.

So payments expected during the coming school year will be deferred until the future (when, the school committee inexplicably assumes, finances will have improved), raises next year will be eliminated (although the teachers will presumably see an actual increase because the deferral will end), and their guaranteed raise in the subsequent year will be less than expected. In effect, the contract uses accounting gimmicks to downplay the fact that union members will be receiving 1.25% raises (on top of step increases and other remunerative opportunities) during an era of crippling government deficits, high unemployment, and general economic malaise.

That, in the public sector, is called "sacrifice."

March 12, 2009

Mayoral Academies Going Forward

Marc Comtois

Amidst all of the bad news, there are some encouraging things happening in our state. As reported in the ProJo, Cumberland Mayor Dan McKee recently announced that he is going ahead with his Mayoral Academy.

McKee said if his proposal wins approval by the Rhode Island Department of Education and secures $700,000 in state financing, he wants to open an elementary school this September in his town’s Valley Falls section, in a former parochial school building.

The school would serve 80 kindergarten and first-grade students from Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln and Pawtucket. A middle school would open, starting with a sixth-grade class, in fall 2010. Eventually, the schools would cover K-12.

If there is a delay with state funding or approval, McKee said he plans for both schools to open in 2010. He hopes more regional mayoral academies will open, mixing urban and suburban students.

A 12-member board, a mix of mayors, community leaders and education figures chaired by McKee, would oversee the schools. But national charter school operators would run and staff the schools. Democracy Prep, which runs a middle school in Harlem, has already applied to the Department of Education to run the first mayoral academy.

In addition, McKee said his group has received financial support from nonprofit organizations and private donors to help pay start-up costs, including a $2-million commitment from the Raza Development Fund of Arizona to purchase a building.

Several other mayor's were with McKee. For his part, Warwick's Mayor Scott Avedisian told the Warwick Beacon that he thinks a Mayoral Academy may be feasible in his city:
Mayor Scott Avedisian said he supports a proposal to use the former Potowomut School for a Mayoral Academy at a press conference to announce the formation of the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies (RIMA) board yesterday.

“As a mayor, I have a responsibility to ensure our children receive a quality education which will allow them to compete in the global marketplace,” Avedisian said in a press release. “Mayoral Academies represent our firm commitment to providing the best education possible for the students of our cities and towns.”

Mayoral Academies are a form of charter schools created last year. The brainchild of Cumberland Mayor Daniel McKee, the schools won legislative approval last year despite steep opposition from powerful teacher unions.

Yesterday Avedisian saluted McKee for his hard work and effort to make the schools a reality.

“We’ve talked about governance reforms for years and years and they’ve never gone anywhere. This is a real opportunity to see that governance reform takes place,” said Avedisian.

Avedisian talked about how Warwick spends 70 cents of every tax dollar on schools, which the City Council has no control over. A Mayoral Academy, he pointed out, would be controlled completely by the city side of government.

The teachers in the schools wouldn’t be subject to the same mandate as the regular public school system, and wouldn’t be teachers’ union members.

February 2, 2009

Patrick Laverty: Rewriting the Teachers' Contract

Engaged Citizen

First, let me say, as a Cumberland resident and taxpayer, that I greatly respect teachers and the job that they do shaping the minds of our children. I like the profession; I do not hate teachers, nor do I have anything personally against them. This is not intended as an attack.

Having taken the time to review the entire current Cumberland teachers' contract, and understanding that it expires this coming August, I want to give my suggestions for changes and improvements to the existing contract to the Cumberland School Committee to bring to the negotiating table. What follows is an abridged version. The background and full version are available here.

  1. Make all negotiations public. The taxpayers are paying the bill, so let the taxpayers see the full negotiations. What's to hide?
  2. Eliminate salary, steps, and insurance from the contract. Let the teachers' union be their employer. Simply give the money to the union and let them decide on salaries, raises, and negotiate the insurance coverage. Treat the union like a subcontractor. If this is not possible for some reason in negotiations:
  3. Remove the specification of health and dental insurance providers from the contract. Remove the names "Blue Cross" and "Delta Dental" in case something better comes along.
  4. Increase the teachers' contributions to their health insurance from 11% to 25% to make it more in line with the private sector.
  5. Drastically reduce the amount given for health insurance buyouts. The health insurance buyout is currently approximately $5,000. Reduce that to $500.
  6. Eliminate double raises. Currently, teachers get a raise each year for moving up to the next step and because there is a raise for that new step from the previous year. The average raise in the present contract is 11.7%. Make that closer to the cost of living or inflation.
  7. Eliminate degrees for raises. Give merit-based raises.
  8. Monthly payroll, and no paychecks in the summer months. This may be just shaving a few bucks from the overall problem, but even a few dollars will buy a few new books.
  9. No pay for seminars. Teachers going to professional development seminars on their own time are given $30 for attending. Eliminate this.
  10. Change the next contract's expiration date. Change the expiration date to June 30 so there's no more last-minute, or even beyond that, negotiating and wondering if the schools will open with teachers.
  11. Eliminate allotted sick days. Let teachers take what they need. When you give people a number of days, they tend to use them. Professionals will simply take what they need.
  12. Don't allow substitute teachers to become full-time teachers in the same year. Substitutes are substitutes and full time is full time. Remove the clause whereby a substitute teacher can get retroactive pay for substituting for a certain number of days.
  13. Eliminate "preparation time." Lengthen the day by 45 minutes, to 7.5 hours, and have the teachers prep during that time.
  14. Shorten the length of the contract. No one knows the state of the economy in three years, so don't guarantee what you'll be able to pay in three years.

Patrick Laverty is Treasurer of the Cumberland Republican Town Committee