Arlene Violet: Self-inflicted wounds by some educators

By Arlene Violet
Posted 4/8/21

Why is it that some educational leaders seem hell-bent on casting such a noble profession in such a poor light? First, we had the spectacle of the union honchos in the National Education Association …

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Arlene Violet: Self-inflicted wounds by some educators


Why is it that some educational leaders seem hell-bent on casting such a noble profession in such a poor light? First, we had the spectacle of the union honchos in the National Education Association (NEA) elbowing elderly and disabled folks out of the way so they could get the COVID vaccine shots, notwithstanding the science that schools are NOT the hotbeds of infection. Further, talking out of one side of its mouth the union fought tooth and nail to maintain remote learning so the educators could stay home.

Then, we have the spectacle of legislator Valerie Lawson, an NEA staff member, pushing pro-teacher legislation which would allow retirees to work up to 120 days as substitutes without impacting their pension. She and her other teacher legislative colleagues are looking to have early retirement breaks like less time to qualify for a pension boost and for early retirement by age 60 after 30 years.

Further, teacher members of the General Assembly are promoting the reinstatement of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) despite the fact that the state retirement fund for them is slightly over 52 percent funded and for state workers only 54.2 percent funded. Even as it is, taxpayers must cough up $4.88 million to fund the pension this year and $513.7 million next year. This money grab is being done at a time when Rhode Island’s unemployment rate is among the highest in the nation at 7.3 percent as of Feb. 21. A casual visit to downtown Providence elicits the impression of a ghost town with business and retail vacancies pockmarking the streets.

To add insult to injury the unions are mounting an assault on charter schools. The RI Senate already capitulated to passing legislation which results in a 3 year moratorium for charter schools, even for some that had been approved by the state department of education. It is malfeasance of the highest order for the democratic party which parades around like the savior of the “poor” to confine low income and students of color to a dismal education. Providence, which was described as an “educational horror show” in a study, now has its teachers union leader wanting to abort the state takeover of the system. Poor children do not have the resources to move to another system. Any abject phoniness of democrats may soon be in evidence in the RI House of Representatives if they vote for the moratorium. Fortunately, Governor Dan McKee has maintained his well-reasoned support for charter schools. Kudos to him for standing up to the trampling of academic success for low-income children. Governor McKee correctly notes that an additional $400 million for public education is coming from the federal government so the lament of “taking money away from the regular schools” is laughable.

Meanwhile, in Barrington, the educational poohbahs have decided to “delevel” education in the high school and not offer honor courses. This decision was made without input of or explanation to parents. An alleged study supports the concept of “deleveling” where students of various skill levels are integrated. The study is under wraps and is being guarded like a state secret. Share the study with the parents, for heaven’s sake.

Leaders: Stop these uneducated forays.

Arlene Violet is an attorney and former Rhode Island Attorney General.

Arlene Violet

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.