Like Plaque, Education Bureaucracies Are Cumulative


It was to be expected that even inadequate, sounds-good education reforms from Rhode Island’s General Assembly would come at a cost, as reported by the Providence Journal’s Linda Borg:

The Senate Finance Committee last month asked Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green what she would need to take on the new responsibilities included in this package of legislation, which, among other things, calls for instituting high-quality civics instruction, expanding world languages statewide, improving instruction for students with dyslexia and giving principals more authority.

“To fully support the requirements of these legislative priorities and to transform the department to focus more on supporting educators, students, and the community, RIDE needs additional expertise and capacity across a wide range of areas, such as implementing high-quality curriculum and supporting school leaders,” said Rhode Island Department of Education spokesman Pete Janhunen. “The request contains a list of proposed positions that align with the priorities of both the commissioner and the General Assembly.”

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The ask is for $1.9 million, mostly to hire new personnel.  One question remains unasked, however.  If this is a “shift” in the nature of the department, are there no roles that no longer need to be filled?

This is another $1.9 million for the state’s education bureaucracy, so it can edge in on the territory of local decision makers.  Actually, it’s fig-leaf spending and reorganizing in order to avoid addressing the actual problem:  Our public schools have insufficient accountability and are structured for the benefit of the adults who work in them, rather than the children who attend them.

Until Rhode Islanders have had enough and are willing to force elected officials to address that problem, every proposed solution will amount to merely more or less wasted money and time.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    “Growth” is a natural component of bureaucracy, it has to be anticipated as soon as an agency is formed. Bureaucrats are “rated” by the size of their budgets. I am reminded of a scene in the “Wannsee Conference”. One Nazi boasts that he us head of the “5 year plan”, another immediately points out that he is the head of the “10 year plan”, both are outdone when a third points out that he is head of the “1000 year plan”.

  • Joe Smith

    I think you could argue RIDE has been understaffed for its existing responsibilities, but if you look at the “new” requirements:

    instituting high-quality civics instruction – Simply add it to the BEP as a graduation requirement and make it zero-sum. That’s pretty dollar cost neutral at RIDE; for some districts already having a civics (and high quality is too subjective but one of those buzzwords you have to throw in) program probably no cost, and for others it should just be cost shifting.

    expanding world languages statewide – again, if you’re not going to put it in the BEP as mandatory (although it kind of is except it’s not a graduation requirement) than this is really a subsidy to the districts that haven’t chosen to fund this well..unless it’s designed to pay for something like a “Rosetta stone” universal license for districts..

    Improving instruction for students with dyslexia – and here’s where the cost really lies..and since it’s a pet item for the speaker, don’t blame the education bureaucracy..but if it’s simply organizing best practices and curricula/instructional material, then it’s not that (relatively) expensive. Plus I suppose one could argue these “low density” issues (relatively small numbers spread across the state) could benefit from economy of scale centralization.

    and giving principals more authority. Should be no cost..more PD for principals? Hardly..most all should know the bumping and seniority rules make this initiative a bit of a joke..and state/local procurement rules having relatively low $ thresholds also ties the hands (for good and bad).

    The real point is RIDE has been allowed to atrophy under this and former Governor; it never really had an operational capacity and it’s regulatory function suffered from weak leadership, lack of either capacity, competency, or both to do real analysis and assessment of the volumes of data it sucked in and turn it into actionable items to improve the ability of local districts to educate, and a weak board of education that acquiesced to letting educational policy (or lack thereof) be run out of the Gov’s office.

    and let’s really address what some of this is about– sucking resources from most of the state (especially the ones in south, west and east north of Newport) to bail out Providence..