TOM WARD – Who needs money more? The state or taxpayers?

TOM WARD – Who needs money more? The state or taxpayers?

It was no surprise last month to read that Gov. Gina Raimondo told The Providence Journal “We (as in the state) need money.” With all due respect, governor, so do we (as in the residents). Across the U.S., many states are awash in surpluses coming in from an improved economy. There is no surplus in Rhode Island, a state still tethered to a structural deficit that political leaders find difficult to tackle. We are an estimated $200 million in the hole, and the governor has already said we’ll pay an extra 17 cents per gallon for gas outside the budget. I am pleased to see Raimondo does not support the doubling of the highest tax rate on top earners, a short-sighted idea sure to chase businesses and great jobs away to other states. It’s simply far too easy for those earning high pay to flee to nearby Massachusetts to dodge Rhode Island’s progressive overlords. And they will.

No teachers

On Dec. 18, Jeremy Chiappetta, chief executive officer at the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy wrote in a Journal column that our state is running out of new teachers. Specifically, he wrote: “The Journal reported on Dec. 7 that teacher candidates at Rhode Island College are down 50 percent over the past decade. And, I have been told that the total number of candidates for math, science, and secondary special education from Rhode Island College, the top producer of future teachers in our state, is less than 10 this year.”

You read that right. There are only 10 students who want to teach math, science, and special ed in the middle and high schools at RIC in this year’s graduating class. Chiappetta was ringing the alarm. If you have small children, there’s big trouble on the horizon.

He had some ideas worth exploring: Four years free college at RIC or URI in exchange for four years of classroom work, for example. He even asked for consideration of allowing young teachers into low-cost housing.

Might I suggest we move on to starting new math and science teachers at a higher step pay on the 10-year pay ladders common in public schools? As many “STEM” college students are being lost to higher pay in private industry, perhaps we can provide higher starting pay to STEM graduates in our schools. We don’t need to re-invent the wheel; just start them at Step 5, for instance. In Cumberland, a new math or science teacher might start at $57,752 (Step 5) instead of the $45,573 on Step 1. While the teachers’ union understandably aims for equality of pay in its ranks, there is a crisis brewing. Few are training for the math and science middle and high school teaching jobs that will be offered in the coming years. What are we going to do about it?

End of an era?

In the past week or so, there have been many stories written about “the decade in review” in news, sports, and politics. I couldn’t help but think on Sunday that, right on cue, the New England Patriots’ two extraordinary decades were coming to an end. The game against Miami was hard to watch, the loss forcing an extra playoff game on a very average team.

Like all Patriots fans, I’ll root and hope they can play above their heads for a four-game miracle run. Anything can happen, right? But Sunday left me thinking we’ve not only come to the end of the decade, but the end of the magic run here in Patriots Nation.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze