TOM WARD - Tread carefully, teachers, with your ‘work to rule’

TOM WARD - Tread carefully, teachers, with your ‘work to rule’

May I offer a word of caution to the Woonsocket Teachers Guild in their “work to rule” return to work last week? Be careful. Many years ago, when this was a new paper, the Cumberland teachers did the same, and parent support for teachers turned to fury against them on just one little “exception.”

But first, the facts. Woonsocket’s teachers are the lowest paid in the state, by far. Top-step teachers earn about $71,000 annually, on average between $5,000 and $10,000 per year less than colleagues doing the same work across the state. (North Smithfield – right next door – just OK’d a contract paying top-step teachers about $80,000 annually.) Woonsocket teachers also have some of the largest average class sizes.

What irritates the teachers union is that educators there made sacrifices during the recession, going years in some cases without raises. Now that the economy is humming, they expect to get raises that might help them catch up a bit. It’s not an unreasonable request.

But then there’s the question few ask: Can taxpayers in Woonsocket afford more? Sadly, city residents don’t have growing incomes, on average. In a chart prepared by my brother, Lincoln Finance Director John Ward, he shows that median household income has grown only 43 percent in the city since 1990, while in other towns average income growth has been nearer to 70 to 100 percent. He believes the state funding formula is flawed, cheats Woonsocket (where he served on the City Council), and has plenty of evidence to back his assertion.

None of this makes things easier for deserving teachers.

But back to my original point: Teachers are rightfully feeling left out, but they should be careful in their use of “work to rule.” Many years ago, Cumberland teachers tried the same, and were generally successful – for awhile. But then it came time for teachers to write letters of recommendation to help their best students get into colleges, a task generally done in the fall. Work to rule teachers wouldn’t help their best and brightest college-bound kids, and parents became anxious. Then, it happened: Teachers were found to be writing letters of recommendation secretly for the children of other teachers, and the lid blew off! Parents of college-bound students were apoplectic, and work to rule – and the parent support it had – came crashing down.

I didn’t have to give this history class, but I chose to anyway. Learn from it, teachers. And good luck in your negotiations.

First Test

Check the election results in Burrillville when you get up Thursday morning and see how Gov. Gina Raimondo did there. That should give you some idea of how Republican U.S. Senate candidate Judge Robert Flanders will do with his anti-power plant position, announced last week.

As everyone knows, the company Invenergy wants to build a near-1,000 megawatt electric power plant fueled by natural gas in the woods of Burrillville. Despite its promise of clean, predictable power and tax revenue, residents in town have expressed vehement opposition to it. Those who originally were in favor were long ago bullied into submission on social media.

Raimondo came out in favor of the plant years ago, but its movement forward has languished over questions regarding water – and more. I expect she’ll be savaged in Wednesday’s Democratic primary there, but we’ll see.

Judge Flanders is running against Climate Change Warrior Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who (it appears) avoids talking about the “fracked gas plant” (as opponents call it) as much as possible. That said, he has called for “sustainable balance” in energy delivery.

With last week’s announcement, Flanders claims Whitehouse is a hypocrite, and pokes fun at him and his Johnny one-note climate change mantra. Will it help Flanders gain traction in northwest Rhode Island as he gears up for November?

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze


Well said, Mr. Ward. While we may WANT to pay the teachers more, we simply can't afford it. And, 71K is nothing to sneeze at, either. I'd venture that all city employees are amongst the lowest paid in the state and though they work diligently, the tax base is just not there.

Regarding Flanders and Whitehouse, it seems to me there is a clear choice. One is a lifelong political hack who has never had a job outside of government and the other is an accomplished person who would represent Rhode Island well and not constantly embarrass us. And, you gotta hand it to the Flanders folks - that ad is hilarious! And, true!!

I can't help wondering why government is the one area where a lack of qualifications is presented as a qualification. Senator Whitehouse has held a fairly wide variety of posts, beginning with clerking in the WV Court of Appeals, to being Director of RI's Department of Business Regulation, to being a US Attorney, to being RI's Attorney General, eventually being elected to the Senate. Sounds to me like a breadth and depth of experience that one would welcome in one's representative. Just as I want my surgeon to have relevant experience, and I don't want my tax accountant to be someone preparing their first return, I want people in senior positions in government working for me to have had a series of progressively more-responsible jobs in government. We don't have to look very hard to see what kind of job amateurs can do in high government positions. Pretending that ignorance and inexperience are positive qualifications demeans us all.

forget Sheldon wanting to charge climate change "deniers" with crimes under the RICO laws and failing to protect Jennifer Rivera. Doing nothing in the Robert Urciuoli case,etc.