Green Room

The Bottom of the Teachers’ Union Barrel?

posted at 9:37 am on February 20, 2011 by

With state budgets collapsing around the nation, an increasingly bright spotlight has been focused on the activities of many public sector unions, perhaps none more so than the teachers unions. Since most of the news is rather alarming to say the least, here at Hot Air we feel obliged to bring you a true feel-good story of union activity to brighten your winter days. With that in mind, I invite you to look over this CNN video journal by reporter Steve Perry. (Video available at the end of this column.)

The story focuses on Central Falls school in Rhode Island, an educational institute in such a sorry state of affairs that their drop-out rates were staggering and many students didn’t even log enough classroom time to receive a grade. Last year, in an apparent sign of throwing up their hands in despair, the school board took the drastic measure of firing all 88 of Central Falls’ teachers.

UPDATE: I’ve been reminded that Ed covered the firing of the teachers last year with full details of just how badly the school was performing.

Now, I already know what you’re thinking here. “But Jazz, what about those poor, unemployed teachers? Couldn’t anyone do anything to help them?”

Fear not! In charged the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, who not only got all of their jobs back… they landed them a raise. And all of this is taking place in a community which wouldn’t even qualify as “working class” by most standards. The average wages in the Central Falls region are very low. Steve Perry sat down with Supervisor of Schools Frances Gallo to ask her about it.

CNN: So did you wind up paying them more?

Gallo: Yes

CNN: Central Falls is a poor community. Where did you get the money?

Gallo: Through the School Improvement Grant dollars. We had promised that if we secured those dollars, there would be a $3,000 stipend per teacher.

He then questions union representative James Parisi, who also seems to be put off by the pay situation.

CNN: So in this town where the average income is $22,000 the average teacher is now making $76,000. What are the community members paying for?

James Parisi: The highest paid teachers are making about $76,000, which frankly I don’t think is enough for the committed professionals that are in that school district.

CNN: You had a 93% fail rate. That’s undeniable.

JP: And you think that’s caused by teacher’s actions?

CNN: Absolutely.

JP: I don’t think the teachers are responsible.

We should note that the teachers didn’t just walk away with more cash without making some concessions. They had to agree to a number changes including making each class a few minutes longer and being forced to eat lunch with the students.

And how did that work out? Not so well, apparently, as 93% of the students are still failing to meet minimum standards in math and reading, with large numbers once again not even receiving a grade of any sort.

The teacher’s aren’t taking all of this unwanted attention lying down, though. This fall they staged a “sick out” in protest of the increasing demands for improved performance. Also, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten visited the area to demand that everyone “stop playing the blame game,” and focus on the real needs of the students. (These needs apparently don’t include new, better teachers in the opinion of Ms. Weingarten.)

So there you have it. The feel good story of the week. See? And you thought the unions weren’t out there doing anything productive. The video of CNN’s report follows. Enjoy.

Now you can yell at Jazz for being a stupid, wrong-headed RINO even faster than by leaving a comment. Follow him on Twitter! @JazzShaw

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why am i not surprised?

trailortrash on February 20, 2011 at 9:48 AM

It’s Rhode Island! The unions have run it for decades, hand in hand with the Democrats in the State House. The State is crooked from top to bottom and nobody seems to care–least of all the voters. I don’t know what can be done about it, it’s hopeless. It’s why I no longer live there and would never consider moving back. Central Falls is a little third world country(along with it’s neighbor Pawtucket)and ‘so what, I got mine’ say the powers that be.

jeanie on February 20, 2011 at 9:49 AM

This is why we HAVE to eliminate the federal Department of Education and stop sending our tax dollars to criminal enterprises like the Central Falls School District. If people want to live in hellhole towns like that and cough up the local taxes to support a cadre of incompetent, lazy, ineffective teachers – no skin off my nose. But don’t ask ME to pay for it with MY tax dollars! I voted with my feet 6 years ago and moved from a bad school district to a great one. I pay huge property taxes for the privelege. My kids are getting a terrific education in a school district that probably spends less per pupil than Central Falls.’

We are subsidizing too much failure in this country.

rockmom on February 20, 2011 at 11:26 AM

The locals tried to do the right thing and the feds stepped in to save a union with our tax dollars. The feds threw more money at a problem and it still wasn’t fixed. Imagine that. In the meantime, the kids are on the road to becoming entitled to more govt money and a crappy life.

Kissmygrits on February 20, 2011 at 11:44 AM

I lived in RI for 45 years and finally ran for my life. Much of the State is becoming blighted with illegal immigration, drug dealing and enormous welfare spending and crooked or totally indifferent politicians. Everyone seems to have given up. The wealthy and upper middle class have escaped to various ocean front enclaves around the state defended by tight zoning laws. Places like Central Falls are effectivly cordoned off and ‘that element’ ghettoed. In spite of this, the blight has spread and continues to spread and what were once working class neighborhoods sink slowly into a level of crime, poverty, indifference and physical blight equal to that of any large city you can name.(In the case of Cantral Falls, it’s the whole city, small, one mile square). No one seems to know what to do about it. RI is in desperately bad shape, and you wonder if most don’t know or don’t care!. If you go there do not be fooled by what you see in the nicer areas of Providence or Newport or upper middle class suburbs.. The State is a mess, a deep, unsolvable morass.

jeanie on February 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM

The State is a mess, a deep, unsolvable morass.

jeanie on February 20, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Anyone who needs a place to come is welcome to join us here in South Dakota. :D Where you can ski and jet-ski all in the same nine-month period!

gryphon202 on February 20, 2011 at 12:26 PM

None of that excuses each individual professional in Central Falls or anywhere else though. If they can’t deliver the goods, no matter the conditions, then they should either leave voluntarily or be terminated. I’m quite certain the Central Falls teachers have forfeited all pride of achievement for more more money. They’re just showing up and collecting a paycheck–there’s no way they could be caring about results.They are merely blaming their own incompetence or loss of incentive on teaching conditions. A losing state of affairs.

jeanie on February 20, 2011 at 12:47 PM

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Ed Morrissey on February 20, 2011 at 6:17 PM