Government School Enrollment Over Time

Somebody asked me, recently, whether there’s any way to know how many students leave Tiverton High School for private schools. It’s an interesting question, and the short answer is “yes,” but in a sense, “no.”

The RI Dept. of Education (RIDE) keeps records of the students from each district who attend private schools, including the schools that they attend. The problem is that the way the state keeps the numbers makes it time consuming to pare them down to a usable form.  Even when that work is done, though, I don’t think such records go back for a very long time.  Since what we really need are cohorts (tracing grade levels from year to year), and because factors like the economy can affect the data, all of the work cleaning data might produce useless results if they only cover the last few years.

Nonetheless, I thought the question interesting enough to kick off a new feature on Tiverton Fact Check, for which readers can email us questions about Tiverton (about statistics, about process, about the law, or about whatever) and we’ll do our best to answer them.  In this case, I looked to RIDE’s October enrollment data, which goes back to the 1998-1999 school year.

Specifically, I compared Tiverton to North Smithfield (because similar) and Barrington (because dissimilar in a way that Tiverton should work to change), and found:

To answer the reader’s question as directly as this data allows, for the twelve years that we can compare the number of students starting eighth grade in Tiverton with the number starting twelfth grade, the average number of students lost is 30.  That’s an average of a 17% drop in high school seniors from the start of eighth grade.

For comparison, North Smithfield lost an average of 20 students, or 13%, while Barrington actually gained an average of 8 students, or 3%.

August 2014 Unemployment: Turning Down from the Clouds

The employment figures for Rhode Island are on a downswing, although a shrinking labor force keeps the unemployment rate steady or “improving.” Meanwhile, a likely revision in January may darken the picture further.

Coalition Radio Introduces Three Fiscal Topics into the 2014 Campaign

Issue 1: Do any candidates for Rhode Island Governor or Rhode Island General Assembly support modifying or repealing Governor Chafee’s Wall-Street-first law regarding municipal priorities?

Issue 2: Will any of the candidates for Governor of Rhode Island have their fiscal staffs look immediately into the possibility of a Providence receivership. Will they tell us if they do?

Issue 3: Buddy Cianci, according to some research done by Michael Riley, once advocated for pension obligation bonds to help finance Providence’s pension system. Might he do so again?

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 43 (Third Parties and Runoffs)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss third parties and runoffs. (And Justin adds a bit of text in “what-if” elaboration.)

UPDATED: Assessing Credibility and Intention in Political Fights

Over the course of my education, teachers and professors reinforced multiple times the need to assess the credibility of sources of information.  There are external cues — like the people and organizations that testify to the source’s credibility — and there are internal cues.  Is the author constructing his or her argument so as to mislead or to inform?  For example, are the sources cited and comprehensive, thereby showing an interest in the author in having readers check his or her claims?

The gang of anonymous activists in Tiverton who serve as the plants in the crowd for those who support the status quo and oppose my friends and I locally illustrate the point very well, having set up yet another anonymous Web site with the same URL as my group’s TivertonFactCheck.org, except with dot-com.  Call it “Tiverton FakeCheck.”

Over time, we will undergo the tedious work of reviewing their factual claims, which range from debatable to misleading to plainly wrong.  In the meantime, I’ve put up a post reviewing some of the cues that show the different intentions of the two sites:

The bottom line is that FakeCheck is not how people act when they’re trying to clarify the public debate.  It’s how they act when they want to create fog and get people to vote based on hatred, fear, and some of our other more-base emotions. …

For now just keep an eye on how they argue.  It’s the same old Tiverton 1st tactic of insult and manipulation for political benefit.  Judge both sides for how we act, and use every resource available to you to make up your own mind about what the truth is.

Campaign Technology the Root of Division and Extremism

George Will had an interesting column, the other day, decrying Senate Democrats’ extremism in opposition to the First Amendment:

Forty-eight members of the Democratic caucus attempted to do something never previously done: Amend the Bill of Rights. They tried to radically shrink First Amendment protection of political speech. They evidently think extremism in defense of the political class’s convenience is no vice.

They’ve been a curious bunch, the current collection of Democrats in the Senate.  Moderation does not seem to be their thing.  When Majority Leader Harry Reid (D, NV) gutted the Senate’s long-standing filibuster rules, it struck me as the kind of thing a politician does only when he thinks he’s go no reason to fear losing power.

J. Christian Adams may have found the explanation for this odd behavior:

No longer are Democrats anchored to the preferences of Americans in the middle. Bill Clinton’s triangulation is as obsolete as color film and bag phones. Obama has pushed policies far outside the mainstream, and even far outside popular will, but succeeded in wringing out an Electoral College majority in 2012 because of Catalist.

What Catalist does is to aggregate all available information about everybody in the United States and allow progressives to target their immoderate base to maximize turnout.  Adams notes that, if you can reach them, the fringes are less expensive to motivate than the folks in the middle.

Thus, the president who promised a new political harmony and allowed credulous voters to think he was a centrist uses divisive rhetoric at every opportunity and pushes radical policies on party-line votes, and the Senate majority leader takes to the floor of the people’s legislature to attack a pair of wealthy donors on the other side.  We get “war on women” nonsense, and we get climate change hysteria.

We get, ultimately, a very unhealthy political environment that will never function except to reach the objectives of extremists.

And it’s difficult not to wonder how much data from government agencies, like the IRS and NSA, has made its way into Catalyst… at least some top-secret version operated by only the most partisan radicals in their dark back rooms.

What They Do, Not What They Say

I’ve long argued that the liberal elites of today would have been the reactionaries seeking to perpetuate social structures that helped them keep their place in prior eras.  Views on particular issues are highly related to a person’s immediate context.  In contrast, the prioritization of self-interest and the degree of concern about and respect for others seems like it speaks more to the essence of a person.

So, it isn’t surprising to come across an post like one in The American Interest titled “Puritanical Elites Limit Their Kids’ Use of Tech They Create“:

These parents are, of course, more successful in protecting their children from the harmful side-effects of technology overuse than lower class parents working two jobs are. This is a classically American phenomenon in some ways: We don’t really hide the important stuff, we just don’t make it easy to find. In this way, the successful upper middle class just quietly teaches their kids not to listen to all the hedonistic crap pumped out into the culture. Ross Douthat has chronicled this phenomenon well: the well-off preach social libertinism but are conservative in their private lives. Whether they are exporters of technology or ideology, the elites are able to profit by encouraging one set of behaviors while they teach their children another.

The elite — or, if you prefer, the people who have benefited from advantages in life — should help the disadvantaged to improve their own lots.  That doesn’t mean passing laws to forbid things that the upper-crust types don’t like.  It does mean encouraging behavior that they know to be beneficial.  It also means making sure that public policy doesn’t favor self-destructive behaviors over healthy ones (welfare and marriage being two examples).

In the not-too-distant past, the more-primitive state of transportation, among other technologies, helped minimize this effect.  The upper crust still lived within walking distance from everybody else; they attended the same churches; they shopped at many of the same stores for necessities.

It’s definitely one of the great unsolved (because ignored) puzzles of recent history how a society can benefit from the mobility and cornucopia of choices that technology and prosperity have produced while maintaining a sense of community that encourages healthy behavior.  A good start would be to discard the harmful ethos that conflates permissiveness with compassion and a lack of guidance with freedom.

Board of Elections Rules for Healey 7-0, 4-3, 4-0

Sam Wroblewski and Andrew Augustus of WPRO (630AM) have a quick breakdown of the results of the individual challenges made by the Rhode Island GOP to Robert Healey’s placement on the ballot as the Moderate Party candidate for governor…

The first related to if Spooner properly withdrew is candidacy for Governor….the board unanimously decided that Spooner had properly withdrew his candidacy.

Next the board needed to determine if Gilbert was recognized by the state as the Chairman of the Moderate Party and could appoint Healey as the gubernatorial candidate for the Moderate Party. After a lengthy debate and by a vote of 4-3 the board determined that Gilbert was officially recognized by the state as Chairman.

Finally, the longest debate came if Healey was eligible to run as a member of the Moderate Party….Bell argued that Healey needed to be a member of the party for 90 days before he could become eligible. By a vote of 4 in favor and 3 abstentions, the board determined that since Healey was an unaffiliated voter, he was eligible to run as a member of the moderate party.

Healey’s Oh-So-Knowing Campaign Material

MoMo gubernatorial candidate Robert Healey’s campaign-as-performance-art casts a knowing tone. The problem is, he’s wrong, and to the benefit of the wrong people.

Thanks, Catherine, for the Perfect Image of Unionization

Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Catherine Taylor is apparently making the rounds to make the case for Republicans in the state not to vote for her.  Of course, it’s the lieutenant governor’s race, so whatever.

We all should be grateful to her, though, for offering a personal anecdote that illustrates very well one of the problems with unionized work forces.  Explaining why she opposes right-to-work laws (that allow people to take jobs without being forced to join a union):

“Employees in union shops receive union-negotiated wages and benefits whether they join the union or not. This resonates deeply with me since as a college student [at Yale University] I chose to apply for and take only union campus jobs as a dining hall and custodial worker because of the higher wages,” she said. “It seems only fair for all employees to contribute toward the representation they receive by choosing to take the job.”

So, the union drove up the pay rate for low-end jobs on the campus so it was enough not to offend the sensibilities of a discriminating Yale student.  ”It seems only fair,” she said.

One wonders whether her sense of fairness is shared by women and men who could have gone through her Ivy League door to a better future if only the price tag weren’t so high (with one aspect being her inflated pay).  Or how about some striving New Haven resident who would have been able to afford community college (or even just the rent) if the union hadn’t priced them out of a job by driving the salary high enough to satisfy Miss Taylor?

Progressives Coming Around to the Obvious

Thanks to Providence Journal political columnist Edward Fitzpatrick for noticing that (some) progressives are stealing my Gina Raimondo tune:

Mark Gray, president of the Young Democrats of Rhode Island, and Justin Katz, managing editor of the conservative blog Anchor Rising & The Ocean State Current, don’t agree on much. But they do agree that General Treasurer Gina M. Raimondo, the Democratic nominee for governor, is a progressive. …

In an interview, Katz said, “I find it frightening because it shows a misplaced conclusion that you ought to have faith in government.” While giving her credit for acknowledging when government isn’t working, he said “technocrats” such as Raimondo believe government can work, if redesigned by smart-enough people.

The Incentive to Rend Communities

Data from Tiverton Fact Check shows the high school principal and his teacher wife making two-and-a-half times the town’s median household income, which is a lot of incentive to attack people who complain that a few more hundred dollars in taxes actually has to come from somewhere.

Republican Party Challenges Healey

Dan Yorke (630 WPRO-AM) just reported on-air that the Republican Party will challenge Robert Healey’s placement on the Rhode Island general election ballot as the gubernatorial candidate of the Moderate Party.

Paraphrasing what Dan Yorke relayed, the challenge will be based on James Spooner’s withdrawal from the race being conditional upon Healey agreeing to run, and on questions about whether William Gilbert, who officially made the appointment to replace Spooner, is properly the Moderate Party chairman.

A hearing at the Board of Elections has been scheduled for Wednesday morning.


According to Katherine Gregg of the Projo, the hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 3:30 pm.

A Public-Sector Sense of Unfairness

A retired teacher and Providence Journal contributor thinks pension reform gave her a raw deal. Looking at the numbers, it’s difficult to see her deal as a public employee as anything short of spectacular.

The Unintended Consequence of the Scottish Independence Vote

If the world is prepared to respect a Scottish vote for independence this Thursday, then reason that Iraqi Kurdistan must forever remain a part of a single “Iraq”, at all costs, is that…???

Final Word (Maybe) on the Bob Healey Thing

Wrapping up some threads from my Matt Allen appearance concerning Bob Healey’s surprise run for governor.

What Came First, the Apathy or the Corruption?

Which is the dominant characteristic of the Rhode Island electorate: apathy or corruption?

As I’ve pondered Urbanophile Aaron Renn’s suggestion that the Ocean State’s problem is that its people are corrupted, this shade of a difference has calcified as my main agreement.  Writes Renn:

The fact that Cianci is considered a viable candidate for mayor despite being notoriously corrupt shows something that tends to happen in communities where corruption is the norm. Namely that the people themselves become corrupted in the process.

I’d argue the specific point.  It hasn’t seemed to me that Rhode Islanders are eager to support somebody who’s “notoriously corrupt,” but rather that we’re so discouraged by the available alternatives that corruption is reduced to just one variable to consider, not a disqualifier.  What’s worse: corruption, complete managerial inexperience, or ideological naiveté?  When one ideal goes up against another, the balance ceases to be a matter of principle, but a practical question.

Buddy Cianci has proven content with personal excesses; is that really worse than a leader who’ll leave the city in ruins and/or one who’ll seek to transform our representative democracy into a socialistic patronage scheme?  (N.B. — The three categories/possibilities aren’t intended to align with particular candidates in this race, but to be general characterizations of the Rhode Island political scene.)

Of course, we can’t argue that some of the electorate is corrupted in Rhode Island, but is it so many as to characterize the whole?  Or is it more the case that a characteristic apathy allows the corrupt to define Rhode Island politics and governance?  On first expression, it might not seem to make all that much of a difference.

But it makes a world of difference for the solution and the ability to hope.

If Rhode Islanders are corrupted, then the only chance for the state is if it exports the corrupt and imports people who’ll go about insisting on clean, straightforward government.  The people who hold the levers of power in the state aren’t about to let that happen.  In fact, stopping such trends may be the reason (or a reason) that we hear so much talk about the importance of jobs and investment in our state, but so little willingness to take anything but fully controlled half steps.

On the other hand, if the apathetic and ignorant are still the majority, then they can be awoken and educated.  It’s still a long shot, but it’s possible.

Reminder: Healey Gets Second Placement on Ballot

As we discuss the impact of Bob Healey’s sneak attack on the Rhode Island electorate, it’s worth remembering that the Moderate Party won the second slot on the November ballot:


- Order in which the parties will appear on the ballot

Party Placement:


UPDATED: Healey Spits on Democracy, Jumps the Shark

I heard that habitual Cool Moose candidate for lieutenant governor Bob Healey had jumped onto the Moderate Party bandwagon pretty early this morning (proposed hashtag: #MoMo, for Moderate Moose).  The day being a whirlwind of reading legislation, seeking donations to assist with African medical facilities dealing with Ebola, and watching after an 11-month-old, it took until an afternoon pause for the news to really hit me.

Let’s just say I’ve lost all respect for Mr. Healey.  As far as I can see, this is pure, destructive vanity on his part.

My reaction isn’t based on the fact that I’d become a tepid Allan Fung supporter by the end of the primary race (so tepid that I voted in the Democrat primary even though I thought the GOP race a toss-up).  In that regard, Healey has merely made the unlikely possibility that Fung could walk the narrow political line to the governor’s seat into an impossibility.

Rather, people made decisions about their primary votes based on the transparent layout of the political landscape.  We all knew what the possibilities were, and we cast our votes based on likelihoods about the campaigns between the primary and the election.  And here comes this supposed good-government reformer exploiting a loophole in the law to announce a surprise candidacy two days after his fellow Rhode Islanders had spent their electoral power in the primary.

That’s as bad or worse than any trick that the insiders use to maintain their power… only they have the excuse of self interest.  Healey and his fellow MoMos have no excuse, although presumably they have the economic security for their own families that they can afford to make local governance into a game of Survivor, where the fun of the game (and the million bucks) is an excuse for deception.

Even after his less-than-graceful exit from lieutenant governor lore, I didn’t expect Bob Healey to become Fonzie jumping the shark.  I definitely didn’t expect him to become Richard Hatch.

ADDENDUM (9/11/14 8:30 p.m.):

Let’s not forget, by the way, that in the 2012 season, Heidi Rogers disenfranchised Republican voters three days after she won the primary in order to clear the path for Healey.  At least that was for the useless position of lieutenant governor.

SNAP Data Sings the Rhode Island Tune

Month-to-month trends of SNAP beneficiaries in Rhode Island and across the country show another way that Rhode Island is unique and reinforces a theory of decline that seems to fit every picture in the Ocean State.