Whether one is discussing the inexplicable wars initiated throughout human history or (conversely) the genius of the American Constitution or the policy declarations of modern constituencies, the concept of incentives should be front and center. Apply that principle to this “ad hoc roundtable”:
The members of the group – convened by the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership – includes the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association, the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, the National Education Association Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Foundation – believe the highest priority must be given to a multifaceted program to curb the loss and accelerate student learning.
“We convened virtually toward the end of 2020 aware that preparations must be initiated as soon as possible in order to create space to address disrupted learning opportunities for Rhode Island’s students,” said Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership Founding Director Gary S. Sasse. “The importance of this moment for Rhode Island requires all hands on deck, from all sectors, to engage in building a comprehensive summer-and-beyond program that will focus on learning loss – primarily on the critical concepts of literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional learning in elementary and transition grades.”
I bolded two key lines in that summary from GoLocalProv because they highlight an important contrast: The call is for “all hands on deck,” meaning (from most) little more than the contribution of additional money to education, yet the participants in the group are all conspicuously self-interested parties in the asserted solution.
They admit their program will come at a cost, yet no mention is made of a willingness to forgo any of the profit they’ve made from services that they were unable (or unwilling) to provide, which amplified the problem they hope to solve. Their demand for additional programs somehow doesn’t extend to creating new opportunities through school choice, whether education savings accounts (ESAs) to help families choose private schools or expansion of charter school options.
To offer translucent window dressing to their cynical efforts, these “groups” have teamed with the supposedly disinterested (but increasingly political) non-profit Rhode Island Foundation and the singularly misnamed Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership. The first brings the illusion of good motives, and the second the impression of objective expertise.
Thus, we see clearly that having Rhode Island so thoroughly under their command, insider special interests have little incentive to perform. No matter how central their role in some failure, they can be assured that they will gain by the supposed solution.
Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?