Selective Standards in Legislation (Uneducated and Unemployed)

Senate bill S0117 is one of those pieces of legislation that disguises its major effect in the description that most people will see (even among the minority of people who actually dig that deeply).  The five initial sponsors of the bill are Senators Harold Metts (D, Providence), Elizabeth Crowley (D, Central Falls, Pawtucket), Paul Jabour (D, Providence), Roger Picard (D, Woonsocket, Cumberland), and Juan Pichardo (D, Providence), and it promises that it:

would provide for certain notifications that would need to be provided to parents or guardians of students identified as performing significantly below proficient on any state assessment

That sounds like such a reasonable “well, duh” requirement that one wonders whether it’s actually necessary.  Not surprisingly, it also isn’t the first objective of the bill.  That comes with this language in the bill itself:

No state assessment conducted pursuant to this chapter, and no other standardized testing program or assessment, shall be used to determine a student’s eligibility to graduate from high school.

In other words, the five urban legislators want to forbid the Department of Education or any public school district from using test scores in any way to determine whether students have achieved the level of knowledge that a diploma is meant to signify.  That’s a controversial subject, and one that has generated significant heat in the past, so one would expect it to be the headline for what the bill actually does.

And what it actually does is to take the pressure off of the folks (including labor unions) who operate our public schools, because it reduces the incentive for parents of slipping students to react to the stark reality of what a lack of substantive education will do to their children’s futures.

Meanwhile, another bit of legislation, S0100/H5046, would add to the burdensome list of credentials that Rhode Islanders need before they can perform work.  The top sponsors on these companion bills are Senators Frank Lombardi (D, Cranston), Paul Jabour (again), Stephen Archambault (D, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston), Louis DiPalma (D, Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton), and Frank Ciccone (D, Providence, North Providence) and Representatives John Lombardi (D, Providence), Arthur Corvese (D, North Providence), Anastasia Williams (D, Providence), Raymond Hull (D, Providence, North Providence), and Peter Palumbo (D, Cranston).

The description of this legislation falls on the cryptic side:

This act would include the maintenance of certain electrical components within the purview of this chapter.

And what is “the purview of this chapter”?  It’s licensing.  It would require people who find work “maintaining wires, conduits, apparatus, fixtures, and other appliances for carrying or using electricity for light, heat or power purposes,” not including low-voltage wires for heat and refrigeration, to acquire electricians’ licenses.

The practical effect of the change gets very confusing very quickly to somebody not already familiar with this area of regulation (which I am not).  Class M licenses (“limited maintenance journeyperson license”) fall under new regulatory scrutiny, apparently for the first time.  Class B licenses (“journeyperson electrician’s license”) won’t allow maintenance work unless the person is employed by somebody who holds a Class A license (“electrical contractor’s license”), and a Class A license would be required of anybody whose business involves maintenance.

All of these licenses rack up hundreds of dollars in fees.  And they all entail testing — yes, a standardized test — costing $75 to take.  They protect the jobs and paychecks of those who’ve already worked the system, and they make innovative self-starters more vulnerable to the entrenched network of tradesmen, union organizers, and government functionaries.

Sadly, the legislation described in this post is all too typical of the thinking that governs Rhode Island.  Having to pass tests to prove that the public schools succeeded in teaching you some baseline amount of knowledge is unthinkable, but not having passed tests to perform maintenance work is a violation.

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