Yesterday, I noted that legislation in the budget currently under consideration in the Rhode Island House would not, in fact, provide more money to support all-day kindergarten. Rather, it would give districts the portion of extra state aid that they would have received if their kindergarteners counted as full students in the funding formula even if they don’t have all-day kindergarten in the upcoming school year.
The original version of that legislation would have accelerated the funding formula phase-in to give switching districts the full state aid for all-day kindergarten. If the General Assembly were to put that language back in, it would come at a cost of about $2.8 million.
Put that on the scale next to the fact that the General Assembly’s budget provides an extra $2.15 million for an increase in payments to state-subsidized childcare workers whom the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) successfully (and controversially) unionized after the General Assembly opened the door for it. So, rather than helping to provide full-day classes for over 2,000 Rhode Island children, the General Assembly has chosen to give a boost to the cost of a service already being provided by 540 adults.
That’s not really the trade-off, though.
Because this would be the first contract that includes union dues, the actual providers (many low-income, themselves) won’t see all of that extra money. We don’t know how much the SEIU’s dues will be, because as the Providence Journal article on the budget provision points out, the budget itself is the first indication anybody in the public has that a contract agreement has been reached, but we can put together some rough estimates.
In similar contracts across the country, dues tend to be flat fees of $25 to $35 per month or percentages ranging from 1.3% to 2%. By the flat fee method, figuring 540 providers, the union dues would cost $162,000 to $226,800. Going with percentages, the annual dues would be $719,550 to $1,107,000.
In other words, half or more increased cost of providing this service could be going directly to a labor union.
That, of course, depends on providers’ deciding to stay with the union. Based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision last year, it appears that childcare providers cannot be forced to join the union. No doubt, the SEIU will tell providers that the big increase was entirely its doing, and cutting the union out of the loop would mean no future increases. In that light, the portion of the $2.15 million that does not go to dues could be seen as some extra sweetener to make the union medicine go down.