"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Rhode Island "Reformers" Out to Axe Teacher Pay and Benefits

From the Providence Journal:
. . . . Under the proposal –– nestled in Governor Carcieri’s budget plan for the coming year –– charter schools would not be bound by prevailing wage, tenure and retirement-system clauses that govern other public schools.

Removing those requirements, supporters including the governor say, would eliminate the red tape that can hamper classroom innovation. Such freedoms give charter schools greater control over budgets and personnel and allow them to attract and pay for top teaching talent.

But teachers union representatives vehemently object, contending it amounts to an end run around collective bargaining units, giving management an excuse to pay lower wages and do away with seniority protections.

“It’s wrong, it’s unfair, it’s unconscionable, it’s absolutely unnecessary and it wasn’t the deal that was struck when the original charter law was put into place,” James Parisi, a lobbyist for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, told the House Finance Committee in a hearing Tuesday.

The original charter law, drafted more than a decade ago as Rhode Island looked for new ways to foster innovation in its public education system, called for the new class of schools to be tied to local districts. It was later amended to liberate such schools from district oversight, making it easier for independent groups to start new institutions.

A year ago, the legislature approved yet another new class of schools, known as mayoral academies, which unlike the state’s existing 11 charter schools did not require specific salary or tenure structures, or obligations that teachers contribute to the state retirement system.

The governor’s budget proposal, if approved by lawmakers, would extend that flexibility to all charter schools. (It would also add $2.8 million for existing schools and $1.5 million for new or expanding schools, including the first proposed mayoral academy, in Cumberland.)
. . . .
The House Finance Committee made no decisions on the proposal, though members including Chairman Steven M. Costantino raised questions about how the state Board of Regents selects which charter schools to approve and fund. Union leadership has accused the mayoral academies of trying to leapfrog other charter applications now pending.

Abbott conceded that while the process was not always competitive, a moratorium that temporarily banned the creation of new charter schools until last year generated a backlog of applications. It is now up to the Regents to decide which new schools to approve and how to divvy up the funding, he said.

The unions say now is not the time to thinking about funding new schools.

“What I don’t understand,” Parisi said, “is how the governor could propose expanding charter schools when the public school districts are hurting as much as they are hurting.”

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