TOM WARD – What ‘hipster doofuses’ run our economy?

TOM WARD – What ‘hipster doofuses’ run our economy?

Cumberland educators are to be commended for their work in raising the bar – and scores – in the state’s educational testing. The significant effort being made in the elementary and middle school grades is showing dramatic and successful results, and kudos to all those doing the hard work each day!

It’s a double-edged sword, however, as school leaders continue to bemoan the town’s “lowest per-pupil spending” in the state by local taxpayers.

I have long countered that our per-pupil frugality compared to other towns is not necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison. Cumberland educators, for instance, are not in the Social Security system, and taxpayers do not have to pay the millions of dollars each year into that system for teacher retirement. In other communities, those Social Security dollars are paid by taxpayers, and boost their per-pupil spending amount, even though the money has nothing to do with a child’s education. Not a penny is “for the kids.”

Cumberland’s results should make all its residents proud. But it’s now more of a challenge to make the case that superior results are all a function of more money. It’s about good people, really. And we should re-commit to doing our best for those good people.

Adding to Cumberland’s possible woes was last week’s story that (egads!) families were not signing up fast enough for the low-price breakfasts and lunches, and the town could lose as much as $800,000 in state aid.

Can we all agree this is a bit strange? Here in Rhode Island’s Bizarro World, good economic news is bad news for the school budget.

It is the first week of November and children have been in school for two months now. Apparently, they are finding food to eat, or they are able to pay full price for that food. The economy is better, and joblessness is lower. Perhaps parents are finding work. But something is happening where children, apparently, may not need the help.

But children in need are a meal ticket (so to say) for the schools.

According to School Committee member Ray Salvatore, who heads the board’s finance subcommittee, 200 fewer children have signed up for reduced-price lunches, and because of that, the schools may lose $800,000 in state aid. Our story reports Salvatore saying those kids deserve it. How do we know that? Do we see them hungry and unfed each day? I doubt it. Good people in our schools would be all over helping that child!

And so educators and administrators will be beating the bushes to get those kids signed up for reduced-price lunch, come hell or high water, to get that state money.

By all means, let’s identify any hungry children and get them taken care of. But if it’s not 200 children and state aid is cut because the economy is better, don’t look for any tears from me. Fix the funding formula that makes this exercise so Bizarro.

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial Saturday (Nov. 2-3) amplified this. The government Friday reported continued increasing employment and good jobs, despite a bit of a bump in the economy, now with only a 2 percent GDP. There were 131,000 jobs created despite GM having 42,000 workers on strike. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a press release saying the jobs report “offers further evidence that the Republicans’ disastrous special interest agenda is hollowing out the middle class while enriching the wealthy and well-connected.”

As the Journal queried: “What hipster doofus wrote that?”

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze


Tom Ward barely scratched the surface, in his column above, he commenting on the Highly Convoluted, Unfactual, Per Student Spending Composite Report RIDE puts out.

Putting together composite reports was my job at SAAB Cars USA prior to my retirement!  On average  I recieved 192-Dealers' Monthly Financial Statements, analyzing them, and putting together meaningful, factual, composite reports broken down into 8-groupings.  The "Groupings" determined by size and market.

These reports also DID NOT include figures of dealerships from one market whose expenses COULD NOT be incurred by a dealer in another market.

For example the dealer in Bangor, Maine, within his "Semi-Fixed Expenses" included $850,000.00 for Snow Removal. 

For a dealer in Atlanta, of the same size, that would rightfully belong in said composite report and incurred $0.00 in snow removal cost, it would be wrong to leave that $850,000.00 expense in the report...then claim that "The Average Snow Removal Cost is $450,000.00"!  Doing so would be ludicrous and totally misleading...more-so financially irresponcible!!!

However, being totally ludicrous, and not comparing apples to apples, and being irresponcible, is something that RIDE has mastered the art of doing with their very erroneous, and misleading, alledged Per Student Spending, as Tom explained in his column...a d cited examples!!!

What RIDE needs to do, and should do, is put together composite reports that show, at the very least, per line comparative expense.

More-so, RIDE needs to put out more then one report, it by School District, with similar need and expenses, so that we can, once and for all, see a competitive and meaningful "Per Student Spending" comparative analysis. Not the Clustermuck that they do and that so many School Committee fall hook, line and sinker over!

This misunderstanding of the Per Student numbers is further demonstrated in this week's Breeze within a letter by Lincoln School Committee Chairman, Joseph Goho.

Mr. Goho states, along with his debating many comparisons made between Lincoln and Cumberland students in last week's Breeze, that with Lincoln spending almost $4,000.00 more then Cumberland, on the per-pupil expenses front, the Lincoln School Committee is committed to providing students with high-quality education in a fiscally responsible way.


I must assume Mr. Goho, as is the case with many, does not recognize the fact that RIDE's "Per Student Spending" report is highly flawed and maybe Lincoln DOES NOT have to spend that additional $4,000.00 per student!


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RIDE explicitly notes that its UCOA system is an apples-to-apples comparison between districts.

From RIDE's web site:

"The UCOA standardized account-code structure allows every district, charter public school and state operated school to use the same account codes and methods for tracking revenue and expenses in their daily accounting. This not only allows for an apples-to-apples comparison between districts, but also helps districts in their financial decision-making processes to ensure that their investments are driven toward improving instruction and advancing learning."

UCOA data is audited and broken down by various line items. For example, if you want to compare how much each district spent on electricity (for example), you can do that through UCOA.

UCOA info is here:

You can also use these tools to compare districts on an line item basis:

Clearly Mr. Letourneau's experience peddling luxury cars for a now defunct automaker is directly analogous to educating children. Furthermore, as a former executive in the highly honest and well-respected industry of car sales he is well-positioned to pass judgement on the honesty and integrity of a public department like RIDE. As he has stated time and time again, RIDE cannot be trusted, their numbers are fictitious, and it's all a giant conspiracy to fleece the taxpayers of this state. He has stated it numerous times in this very paper. We must simply accept Mr. Letourneau's assessment as fact, there is no need for him to back up his conjecture and vitriol with objective evidence. His life experience and viewpoint are universally applicable and righteous. He said it, it's the truth. It's that simple.

and as per usual, when you go after the cash cows of the public sector unions in this state, their little minions resort to ad hominem attacks and try to deflect from the truth by being smarmy.

Not an attack so much as an exercise in irony and sarcasm to illustrate the sheer lunacy of comparing the education of children to selling Saabs. And while it may be comforting to believe that those who disagree with you are part of some insidious orchestrated conspiracy to advance an agenda, that's not always the case, and certainly not in this instance.