Content Types

Analysis

School Incentive Matters in Education

Blackstone Valley Prep and Achievement First perform far better than similar public schools, but even among charters, it looks like direct accountability is key.


The Lesson of Charter Schools

The odd position of charter schools should bring us back to fundamental questions about government and our objectives.


Being One of the Demons Leading to Somebody’s Suicide

We need to work out the gray line at which a girlfriend “goading” her boyfriend to suicide can be an act of incitement (with a nod toward the GOP-baseball assassin).


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Research

April 2017 Employment: Pretty Much the Status Quo

The employment picture for Rhode Island remains pretty much what it has long been: some unlikely survey results in employment and a slowing growth trend in jobs based in the state.


March 2017 Employment: Ups and Downs, Welfare and Work

March saw a pretty typical trend in employment data, for Rhode Island, which isn’t really a good thing.


February 2017 Employment: The Annual False Boom Begins?

Positive employment and jobs numbers, for February, are in keeping with the annual phenomenon of mysterious booms that are revised away the following year.


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Opinion

Last Impressions Podcast Episode 21: Comings and Goings in Sinking RI

Will a deceptive budget season put Rhode Island over the edge?

Open post for full audio.


Theodore Vecchio: Charter Schools Are Like Public School Cake

The idea behind charter schools may be sound, but Ted Vecchio argues that their balance between public and private disadvantages the public.


State House Report with John DePetro, No. 14: Making Chafee Look Good

For my weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WADK 1540 AM show, last week, the topics were Lincoln Chafee’s recent commentary, Gina Raimondo’s budget negotiations, and a state employee takes advantage of us all.

Open post for full audio.


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Investigative Report

Tracing the Mayor’s Money

While the Rhode Island media piles up the headlines against Providence City Council President Luis Aponte over misuse of campaign funds, blogger Johanna Harris is using campaign finance data as intended: to research Mayor Elorza’s donors.


Withheld FTE’s? Has State of RI Contributed to Delay of DMV Computer?

Did the State of Rhode Island contribute to the ten year old DMV computer saga by failing to provide adequate manpower for data migration? The Ocean State Current asked some questions – and got answers (of a sort).


The Wexford-Brookings Franchise in Rhode Island

The seemingly separate commercial and non-profit activity of organizations involved with Rhode Island’s centralized economic development plan has markers of a pre-designed package that will make its salespeople rich… rather, make them richer.


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Liveblog

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Longer Twitter

Montanaro Pay-Back Shouldn’t Close the Books

Ted Nesi and Tim White report that General Assembly employee Frank Montanaro, Jr., has decided to reimburse the state for the value of the tuition that his children received through a questionable benefit based on his prior employment with Rhode Island College:

“After consultation with my family and Speaker Mattiello, I believe the best thing to do is return the monetary equivalent of the tuition benefit my children received after I transitioned to my new role at the General Assembly,” Montanaro said. “I will be contacting Rhode Island College tomorrow to make the necessary arrangements.”

The first reaction of workaday Rhode Islanders may be to observe that the state seems to give insider benefits to people who don’t really need them.  If, as Montanaro says a consulting labor attorney told him, everything was on the up-and-up with this benefit, that’s an awful lot of money to give up to end a media “distraction.”  Either he’s even richer than his high salary might suggest or there’s even greater incentive we don’t know about for him to make the issue go away.

In that regard, enough information is already public to suggest that the state should investigate this matter.  Montanaro repeatedly checked a box providing incorrect information to the University of Rhode Island, and the surrounding circumstances make it seem unlikely he did so by accident.  That’s not something that people outside of the political elite in Rhode Island would get away with.


Not Just Spending, but That Upon Which It Is Spent

Reading about Illinois’s budget problems a little earlier today, an association nagged at the corner of my mind, and I remembered something from Table 5 of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) report comparing the states.  Specifically, in fiscal year 2015, Illinois was near the top of the list when it came to the percentage of its budget spent on “other” expenditures — that is, things other than elementary & secondary education, higher education, public assistance, Medicaid, corrections, and transportation.

The states higher than Illinois seem generally to have unique circumstances (Wyoming, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii), and with 43.7% of the budget going to “other” expenditures, Illinois is way up there.  What’s apt to catch a Rhode Islander’s attention is that our state is only two ranks behind Illinois (after Nevada), with 42.1%.

That, if you’re wondering, is the highest in New England.  The percentages across New England are interesting, particularly in the degree to which they scuttle some clichés.

NE-statebudgetsbycategory-fy15

Two conspicuous myth busters are Massachusetts’s relatively low spending on education and Rhode Island’s relatively high spending on higher education.  Also conspicuous is Rhode Island’s low spending on transportation.

Overall, though, notice that, with the exception of higher education, Rhode Island is typically in the bottom tier for all categories, to the benefit of “other.”

What is this “other”?  And why do we need so much of it?

Of course, we need to keep in mind that these percentages might be a little misleading, inasmuch as the amount of total spending will make a big difference.  Nonetheless, the results are interesting.


The Bubble Begets Tone-Deafness on Eternal Contracts

So, the teachers unions’ annual attempt to give themselves even more leverage in negotiations by making their contracts eternal is back in the mix.  The lobbying by union employees and donations to politicians are ultimately taxpayer funded, so this bill probably won’t go away until it passes someday.

What’s notable, this time around, is that the bill accompanies a labor dispute in Warwick, leading to this telling point from Warwick Teachers Union President Darlene Netcoh:

Netcoh said the bill “levels the playing field between employers and employees.”

Referring to [Warwick Schools Supt. Philip] Thornton, she added: “Would he go to work every day if he didn’t have a contract? I don’t think so.”

One wonders how it could have escaped Netcoh’s attention that plenty of Rhode Islanders go to work every day without contracts.  See, it’s called “a mutually beneficial transaction.”  The employer has work that has to be done, and the employee has a need to earn income.  If a contract makes sense in a particular circumstance, then the parties draw one up and abide by it; otherwise, the contract is essentially a casual, even verbal, agreement to do work and to pay for work that’s done.

In government, though, it’s not about that mutually beneficial transaction, in part because nobody’s spending their own money.  Contracts for government employees are fundamentally agreements about how much one party will take from taxpayers and transfer to the other party, and so they’ve become a mechanism for labor unions to get politicians to lock taxpayers into expenses.

This eternal contract legislation is about ensuring that taxpayers are locked in to the promises of elected officials (often elected with the help of the employees) to an even greater degree.


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Interviews & Profiles

Arthur Christopher Schaper: Cicilline’s “Grand Theft Auto” Sanctuary City

Arthur Christopher Schaper asks illegal immigration expert Jessica Vaughn about the consequences of sanctuary city policies under former Providence Mayor David Cicilline.


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 46 (Congressional Debates)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss the candidates for U.S. Congress from Rhode Island (mostly by way of the issues).


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 45 (Secretary of State Debate)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss a debate between candidates for RI Secretary of State and related topics.


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