… is that they don’t have a union:
Rhode Island’s 276 public schools are aging rapidly, and, at the current rate, it would cost $1.8 billion to bring them up to good condition, according to a state study.
The General Assembly in July extended a three-year moratorium on new construction until May 2015, to give leaders time to devise a way of paying for major school renovations. But superintendents say that every year the moratorium is in place, crucial maintenance and repairs go undone, driving up the cost and making bond referendums less palatable to voters.
In any given organization, the people who implement the budget will look at the revenue that they expect to bring in versus the needs of the organization (the expenses). That includes long-term planning, estimating the life of buildings and planning for improvements.
When it comes to government schools, though, the law requires that some money be siphoned off in order to pay a labor union to be constantly advocating to increase the cost of personnel. Because they are public-sector unions, their advocacy extends to getting people who are sympathetic to their cause in office — both on the school committee that is supposed to negotiate on behalf of taxpayers and in the state legislator and executive roles that set the larger framework in which the government schools operate.
This practice corrupts the ability of school departments and the public to prioritize anything other than higher pay for employees. Things like ensuring that a century-old building isn’t going to fall apart around the students must be accomplished in addition to the unions’ demands. Either the extra costs for buildings must be hidden within state-level taxes, or the dollars must be borrowed.
Inevitability is difficult to prove, but it seems likely that Rhode Island’s current predicament — falling into a downward spiral when it comes to building maintenance while also failing to get satisfactory results despite high spending on employees — is inevitable when employees are required to organize to control all sides of every negotiation.