Sunday, November 11, 2007

Local Lege Speaks on Funding Education

The annual Newport Co. breakfast for Lege members where the public is encouraged to ask questions was held recently. Generally, mostly non-profits attend (it is co-sponsored by the Newport Fund of the R.I. Foundation & the "Daily News"). The major topic seems to have been education funding.

When Sen. Paiva-Weed speaks, everyone listens. "There are ways we are going to do it," Weed said of an increased state responsibility for education funding. "But it's not going to be the way everybody's used to. We need to give additional money but we're not going to be giving out a blank check." Ah, there NEVER has been a blank check.

The topic of regionalization was discussed with none of the lege in attendance very excited (Loughlin, Levesque, P-W, Gibbs, & Jackson). Two notable quotes were right on the money: "My biggest concern is being complacent that regionalization is going to be the answer," Middletown Town Administrator Gerald S. Kempen said. "I can guarantee you absolutely it is not," and "we need to be careful not to operate on the assumption that bigger is better," said Rep. J. Russell Jackson, D-Newport."

Sen. Levesque also hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that it is time we all decided exactly what we want our schools to accomplish & what we are willing to pay for it: "We have to determine what we want our schools to be doing," he said. "We have to honestly appraise where we are and what we want government to be doing."

Senator Gibbs spouted the Guv's line of merit-pay (reminds me of a stuck record if you remember what that sounds like). Where it has been instituted (can you name where?), the earth hasn't exactly moved. June, have you actually got any new ideas? And how exactly would this help education? How would you do it? Would it save money or cost? In my career I've seen so many avaluation instruments that I've lost count. And each of them was lousy. That's because ONE SIZE DOES NOT FILL ALL. Kids do NOT at learn in the same way at the same time. This ain't the old assembly line.

"One fundamental change could be changing the way teachers contracts are structured," Sen. June N. Gibbs, R-Middletown, said. Teachers now get automatic longevity raises simply for staying on the job" (yes, just like your daughter does in Newport). The raises have nothing to do with how well teachers teach," -it does to a certain extent - they could be fired instead. "'There has to be a better way of rewarding good teachers,' Gibbs said."

And, June, that would be ---? And you would determine this ---? Your suggestion is...

How about: funding teacher training which, by the way, the School Committee wants to eliminate in Tiverton; giving teachers time of to visit other schools; encouraging further education; have plans in place for mentoring of new staff, etc., etc. (I've got a million of them) These things actually work to make better teachers.

I can't ignore the editorial title of the article: "Who will pay for education in the future? State aid not the answer, legislators say." Yet the article did not cover the latter and I doubt if most lege members, let alone school committee & council members, would agree (except for June, I guess).

State aid IS the answer. Ah, but the devil is in the details. Perhaps you can come up with statewide contracts or regionalized school systems. But there is no guarantee that this will lower costs; they may, in fact raise costs. State aid AND Federal aid IS the answer to school funding. They came up with the mandates which schools revolve around; therefore, they need to cough up the money. Isn't that their job? Promoting the general welfare? If they can't support education, what the heck is their purpose?

Thanks to "News" reporter Joe Baker.
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