While we’re on the topic of public education, a different angle caught my attention in the ongoing matter of East Greenwich budgeting. Readers may have heard something about the fiscal changes and personnel turnover under a largely Republican town council, actually reducing spending and holding the school side of the budget flat.
What jumped out at me as worthy of commentary (beyond “rah, rah, go Team Reform”) is this reaction from National Education Association of Rhode Island union poobah Bob Walsh:
“They level funded the schools, with Corrigan saying her firm would do administrative functions,” said Walsh. “The Chair stopped taking testimony and approved the budget — and now the school committee has to figure out how to implement some of the cuts. This is after it took us a year to get the contract.”
“I’m really surprised by the whole thing — our best performing communities are Barrington and East Greenwich,” said Walsh. “And East Greenwich has not been as generous in funding, whereas the Barrington parents usually step up.”
That’s a strange statement to make, considering that East Greenwich spends almost $1,000 more per student than Barrington.
More to the point, though, what is this “our best performing communities” stuff? When it comes to arguments about higher per-student costs and lower performance in other cities or towns, the Bob Walshes will run to the microphone to argue that the biggest contributor to success is demographic, the teachers or districts, thus denying the link between spending and results. They make the same argument with charter schools.
And yet, when one of those towns with supposedly high-performing demographics reins in its budget growth, suddenly the union organizers want us to believe they deserve the credit for results?
It has never made sense for one part of town government to have the authority to allow the teachers union to “get the contract” while only the other part of town government is authorized to raise the money to pay for it. Maybe it’s time to start removing some of the layers that confuse the question of who can say “our communities.”