It can get lonely battling the status quo in Rhode Island, but every now and then, one has reason to believe that many more people share our despairs and hopes than are willing to speak up and give them voice. Kenneth Petitti’s recent letter to the editor of the Providence Journal is one such bit of evidence:
There is one simple reason why Rhode Island and its schools are in such a mess: the corrupt connection between the politicians and all public employee unions.
After wages and pensions, there’s nothing left for infrastructure. The unions continue to feed at the trough, while the taxpayers yearn to move elsewhere.
Yes, we have a responsibility to renew the government’s school buildings’ ability to host a modern education, but we can’t only do that. If we don’t change the incentives that led Rhode Island’s ample education resources (read: “high taxes going to education”) to be directed away from basics like building maintenance, we’re only buying a few more years and creating hundreds of millions of dollars in increased ratchets for our taxes. (That is, payment on our maintenance debt will be built into government budgets and never go away, even as buildings are paid off or even closed.)
We need a new approach. Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s big long-term fix when it came to pension reform was to give an unelected board the power to hand the General Assembly two choices next time the pension system went off the tracks. Her big long-term fix for our neglected bridges and roads was a new tolling system.
Those were the wrong approaches to reform, but the school building plan doesn’t even have that, and we’re not going to get the sort of reforms we need until the people who come forward with them know that they’ve got support.