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Arthur Schaper: RI Education: End the Pillage, Restore The Village

Friday, September 06, 2013


Public education departments need to refocus on what works best to help a student succeed.

"It takes a village to raise a child." So repeated Former first lady, presidential candidate, Secretary of State, and all-around liberal buzz-cooler Hilary Clinton. She was way off, at least in Providence. It takes a bureaucracy to raise a child, apparently, in Rhode Island Schools, and a well-paid one at that.

According to GoLocalProv reports from last week, the highest paid school administrators work in Providence. Pawtucket has a comparable enrollment, yet costs a fraction of the money.

Top-heavy administration in public education is a laugh-track which has run aground these past few years. While taxpayers get taken, they witness the layoffs of great teachers. Students receive an anemic education, if anything at all, which the upper-echelon of school leadership gets more money, more power, and just plain more of everything else.

Yet progressives, liberals, and anyone else who believes in the perfectibility of man and the preeminence of the state as the great equalizer will attest that schools need more money, more staff, and will then be able to teach more students.


Fail. You get an "F" if you think so.

Let me tell you about the Los Angeles County Office of Education, one of the largest public education institutions in the country (something to make you Rhode Islanders feel a little better), yet also one of the most bereft, corrupt, and downright dysfunctional (plus a window into tax dollars not at work).

LACOE teaches the most marginal populations (special ed, alternative ed, juvenile hall), because no one else can or will. Special education programs rent classrooms in local school districts, and the County Office pays for them. Yet a growing number of school districts are taking back their special education students. The costs of doing business with the county have grown too much to carry. In effect, local school districts are tired of getting "schooled" by higher-level administration costs.

Employment guaranteed

Routinely I would witness overstaffing in classrooms. One summer, I was assigned to cover a special class in South Eastern Los Angeles County. Three teacher's assistants were also assigned to that classroom, yet only one student showed up. State law requires a certificated individual to supervise the classroom (a teacher, a sub like me). Four professionals got paid to babysit one student. I just read must of the time, since there was literally nothing else to do. In another class, there were two assistants, with only one student. "We always request more staff because if the county finds out that we have fewer students, we lose money and staffing."


Juvenile classrooms are smaller, but also tougher. At least you are guaranteed a job, one teacher confided with me. Exactly. Public education has become "job guarantee", rather than guaranteeing a future for our youth.

Los Angeles Unified School District is one of the largest in the country, and they have an expanding administrative staff, yet the student enrolled has flattened. The number of directors, advisers, and coordinators is staggering. They even have inspectors to investigate waste and fraud: sixty-six of them. Are they investigating themselves? Forget "a village". In public education, the mantra has become "It takes a pillage to raze a child." Boy, are our students getting razed all right, all the way down to the ground, and we are paying for it.

Get real

The problem with public education resides with the very notion that more administrators and more money will make education "more better."

I will qualify the money issue with one distinction: teachers are underpaid. Under. Paid.

God bless Stephen Round, but even $70,000 a year is not enough. Not for the crap and corruption that most teachers are called onto cope with.

Most people enter education to help kids learn, to contribute to their communities, and prevent a generation of illiterate, unskilled criminals from taking to the streets and taking up space in local jails (or depending on taxpayer dollars). A few years into the contorted system, with tenure behind them and pensions before them, teachers cannot resist the temptation to stay. Frustrated, they seek administrative promotions, or join their union hierarchy to fight for better working conditions. Of course, unions are part of the problem, preventing the termination of bad teachers and opposing necessary reforms, like vouchers and evaluations.

One frustrated teacher (and union rep) called the public school-administrator coven "The Old Boys Club". Too many administrators going to meetings just to go to more meetings.

Refresh, refocus

There is hope in California, though, as in Rhode Island. In Inglewood Unified, in a working-class suburb south of Los Angeles, state emergency managers have stepped in, one of whom was dismissed within two months, while the other has a proven record of recognition, reform, and results. Inglewood enrollment has plummeted in the last few years because of charter schools, which give parents and students a choice. Choice really does make all the difference, even though administrators and school boards will insist "Get the right administrators, give us more money, and we can 'fix the problem.'"

In Rhode Island and California, local control and school choice will bring back the village and end the pillage in public education.


Arthur Christopher Schaper is a teacher-turned-writer on topics both timeless and timely; political, cultural, and eternal. A life-long Southern California resident, Arthur currently lives in Torrance. Follow him on Twitter @ArthurCSchaper, reach him at [email protected], and read more at Schaper's Corner and As He Is, So Are We Ministries.


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Ok it was impossible not to blame the Union for the overabundance of administrators. Really? Today the unions no longer protect teachers in their jobs and that is part of the problem. When teachers had protection they were for many students the ONLY advocate the student had. The unions have now become at best ineffective and as is the case in Providence a partner with the administration.
The other issue is the added layer of bureaucracy called the Charter schools that have very highly paid administrative staffs. Thank you to the taxpayers. Charter Management companies that have their own staff of very well paid managers along with the central administrations suck huge amounts of resources out of the classroom and short change the students of the education they are entitled to. This is the innovation of privatatization.
So please get it right and the unions never were and are certainly not now the problem. A good union would be a partner to the parents and the communities to fight for the rights of TEACHERS, STUDENTS, PARENTS AND ADEQUATELY FUNDED PUBLIC SCHOOLS. That kind of union does not exist here we have union leadership that has cut the teachers lose to save thier own skins and bought into privatization. Without the endorsement of the Providence Teachers Union RI would not have gotten Race to the Top. So thank Steve Smith for RTTT.

Comment #1 by Eloise O'Shea-Wyatt on 2013 09 06

All public sector unions need to go away. Period.

Comment #2 by Mike Govern on 2013 09 06

A large part of the problem is that teachers' authority is diminished. As public sector employees, they have thousands of bosses--the taxpayers--many of whom are ignorant of educational policy or theory, and who simply think of their wallet. Taxpayers do have a right to know how their money is spent, but a result of increasing demands is the development of a bureaucracy that spends too much time justifying its actions rather than teaching kids. On top of that, administrators like Gist impose high-stakes standardized testing that removes curriculum from the control of teachers and places it in the hands of for-profit testing companies. The tests are not for the kids--any honest person would admit that. They are for taxpayer watch dogs to rate and judge the school system that spends their money, and for administrators to justify spending. Now, along with dealing with all the crap that teachers deal with, they are no longer allowed to actually teach. People who enter the profession for the love of education are viewed as enemies by taxpayers and administrators. Is it any wonder teachers want the protection of a union? The solution: Let teachers teach. Let students learn. I think a lot of the bureaucracy would crumble as a result.

Comment #3 by John Onamas on 2013 09 06

Is there a lawyer in the house?

I agree with Mike Govern.

Could we have a ballot proposition calling for the abolition of public sector unions in Rhode Island?

Would that be legal? It sure would be grand and I bet it would pass with a landslide!

Or maybe a ballot proposition for RI to become a Right to Work state. That would have a similar effect and I know that is legal because enlightened states have already done it.

Comment #4 by James Berling on 2013 09 06

"Is there a lawyer in the house?

I agree with Mike Govern.

Could we have a ballot proposition calling for the abolition of public sector unions in Rhode Island?"

Right on, James!

Rhode Island should lead the fight to break the union-statehouse collusion which is corrupting states across the country.

I love teachers, and every employee deserves representation, but unions which compel membership and take dues without permission, then spend those dues on candidates and causes which members do no support -- those putrid policies must stop!

Thanks for reading!

Please also visit and share:


Republican resurgence in the Northeast is just a matter of indentity, intuition, and initiative!

Thanks again, everyone!

Comment #5 by Arthur Schaper on 2013 09 06

Arthur, maybe you could write an article on how we could go about getting some ballot questions in RI. For years the General Assembly has had a stranglehold on democracy in this state. The public sector unions and the Democrat Party have a too cozy relationship. As a result the General Assembly—totally dominated by one party—won’t even allow important issues like Right to Work to be discussed. Instead, when this state suffers from high taxes and high unemployment, they vote on what the official state appetizer should be.

I am totally convinced that if we could get some commonsense ballot questions before the voters we would have a very good chance of turning this state around.

Comment #6 by James Berling on 2013 09 06

Willing and able citizens who desire to work as a public teacher should not have to join a union.Its as simple as that.

Comment #7 by michael riley on 2013 09 06

For hose who consider right to work states are enlightened I suggest they go live in one. Those would be the states in the deep south, Wisconsin under Scott Walker, and Indianna and if anyone thinks they are enlightened there is no level too low except for slavery and last time I checked slavery was no longer legal. But if we keep taking away workers rights then we will be very close. Or maybe we should just drop to the level of Bangledesh that might satisfy those enlightend people. What is wrong with people who can't see we are all working people who are victims of corporate power. We should be uniting for a decent life for all working people. There is never a low enough level for these people except for slavery.

Comment #8 by Eloise O'Shea-Wyatt on 2013 09 06

Empty drums make a lot of noise.

Fighting for dignity, decent working conditions and livable wages, unions came about because of the abuse of working people - be it teachers or whomever.
When you look at working conditions and wages at WalMart, anyone can understand why they are trying to organize a union. The billionaire Waltons never seem to have enough. Management created unions.

Comment #9 by Johnny cakes on 2013 09 07

No, Eloise, I chose not move away. I’m going to fight against wrong-headed ideas right here RI. I love RI and I’m going to try as hard as I can to wrestle it out of this free fall created by the alliance of the Democrat party and the public sector unions.

Eloise, Right to Work doesn’t take any rights away from anyone. On the contrary it simply says no one will be forced to join a union. Those who wish to join are free to do so.

And also you need to understand there is a stark difference between private sector and public sector unions.

Public sector unions should have never been allowed. The reason being that its very concept is fataly flawed.

Government collective bargaining means voters do not have the final say on public policy. Instead their elected representatives must negotiate spending and policy decisions with unions. That is undemocratic – a fact that unions once recognized.
The former president of the AFL-CIO, George Meany, agreed that public sector unions should not exist. He wrote: “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.”

Even Socialist President Franklin D. Roosevelt drew a red line when it came to public sector unions. "The process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service," Roosevelt wrote in 1937 to the National Federation of Federal Employees.

Eloise, maybe you should move to North Korean.

Comment #10 by James Berling on 2013 09 07

Johnny cakes, the beat of this drum will be heard on the next hill and then another drummer will add his beats and so forth until a million drums will awaken the people.

The working people who pay the taxes are the ones being abused today. It’s the taxpayers who are paying for the corrupt and unsustainable contracts that the Democrats gave as a gift to the Unions.

Enough is enough.

Comment #11 by James Berling on 2013 09 07

The problem with public education--at least judging from these comments--is that many people view it as a battle of ideology, rather than as a means to prepare STUDENTS for a successful and self-sufficient future.

Comment #12 by John Onamas on 2013 09 09

Well stated James...

Comment #13 by Mike Govern on 2013 09 09

and John

Comment #14 by Mike Govern on 2013 09 09

Good for everyone.

Maybe a little civil disobedience is in order in Rhode Island.

Perhaps every teacher should do what Stephen Round did and announced their resignation.

Demand better conditions.

No more public sector unions in education. Teachers deserve better representation than they are getting.

In Los Angeles, teachers are squeezed with huge classes and small salaries, and the union is doing NOTHING!

Comment #15 by Arthur Schaper on 2013 09 09

One problem is that the history of labor struggles have not been taught and unions took on a business model. In the business model the union negoiated contracts just for the workers in their union. So benefits such as health were not won for all workers. Unions should have been a social movement advocating healthcare for all and a decent pension for all workers. They became ossified at the top isolated from the workers with no representation. This I believe created resentment towards unions. That is a major difference between Europe and the US. European unions fought and got universal healthcare for all and pension benefits for all workers.
We need to have social movement unions especially in educatiobn so we can be advocates for students and their communities as well as teachers. As they say in Chicago Students learning conditions are teachers working conditions.

Comment #16 by Eloise O'Shea-Wyatt on 2013 09 09

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