September 19, 2014
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My Take On the News
Indefinite teacher contract legislation is ludicrous
Lonnie Barham

CHAFEE’S JOBS CABINET: It’s wonderful that Governor Chafee is emphatic about creating new jobs in Rhode Island. With our unemployment rate the third highest in the country, job creation is perhaps the most important mission of state government right now. However, Chafee’s creation of a “Jobs Cabinet” appears to be just another ploy to make it appear that state government is doing something about the joblessness problem when, in reality, it is just creating another bureaucratic body whose mission duplicates that of other agencies – specifically, the Department of Labor and Training, the Economic Development Corporation, the Governor’s Workforce Board, and the various chambers of commerce. Creating yet another state board charged with creating jobs will, most likely, result only in the creation of more state jobs to support the new board. The resulting additional state salary costs will only add to the private sector tax burden and, paradoxically, may result in the loss of even more jobs.

A SOUND JOBS FORMULA: U.S. private sector employers added 257,000 jobs in January while government entities reduced public sector jobs by 14,000. For every government job eliminated, 18 private sector jobs were created. While there is no direct causal link between the two statistics, they combine to make a very good jobs-creation formula! Let’s cut a few more government jobs so maybe the private sector can continue to create jobs and prosper – and, in turn, increase the amount of taxes businesses pay. We can then better afford to run a smaller, more efficient government.

INDEFINITE CONTRACTS FOR TEACHERS: Imagine this: You are a middle class homeowner whose financial condition is deteriorating. You have a yearlong contract with your heating oil provider for fuel and furnace maintenance. As the contract approaches expiration, you and the oil company can’t reach an agreement on next year’s prices. Because you just can’t afford the price proposed by the oil company and realize you must find a deal that will allow you to survive another year, the contract expires without the two sides agreeing. So what happens now? Before you need another tank of heating oil, you must find another provider whose prices fit your needs, right? Not so fast! The law says your old oil company gets to continue providing you with its expensive oil indefinitely with no contract – whether you like it or not and regardless of your ability to pay. A surreal scenario? Not if you are a school district taxpayer and the proposed “indefinite contract for teachers” bill passes in the General Assembly. The concept that an expired contract should continue in effect is ludicrous on its face and so is the proposed bill. We must all fight it!

CITIES/TOWNS AND SCHOOL DEPARTMENTS: We see it throughout Rhode Island – cities and towns butting heads with their school departments on financial matters. The Cranston School Committee sues the City of Cranston; East Providence’s and Woonsocket’s budget deficits caused by overspending by the school departments or underfunding by the cities; now, Coventry officials are “surprised” that its school department runs a pension program. Superintendents and school committees point to municipal underfunding; mayors and city councils point to school department mismanagement. This untenable situation is getting worse. The problem: one entity (cities) exercises sole control over taxing and funding, while another entity (school departments) exercises sole control over how that tax money is spent. The solution: change state law to either give school districts independent taxing authority, much like independent fire districts; or put school departments entirely under the control of their cities and towns, just like police and public works departments. Only when one entity has ultimate authority for both funding and spending can this problem be resolved. With this dual authority – whether exercised by a school district with taxing authority or by a city with spending controls over schools, comes the dual responsibility for the quality of education and the protection of taxpayers. Deciding which entity will better fulfill both responsibilities will be a tough decision for lawmakers – but it must be made or public education will continue to suffer.

U.S. DIPLOMACY FAILURE: While most Americans worry about our economy and are concerned that President Obama’s big-government spending, anti-business policies are severely limiting economic recovery, few Americans seem to take note of Obama’s dismal diplomatic record. Let’s count his losses. First, he tried but failed to convince the Iraqi government to allow U.S. troops to remain as a hedge against civil war and Iranian interference. Then, pretending he had wanted to remove all troops anyway, Obama claimed “success” in Iraq. As U.S. troops left, an Iranian general who reports directly to the Ayatollah said Iran now controls Iraq. Obama has failed to hold together the NATO coalition in Afghanistan. In fact, France has just announced it will pull its troops out in 2013 instead of 2014 as planned. Again, Obama tried to make lemonade out of lemons when he followed the French announcement by pretending he was thinking the same thing all along as he proclaimed the U.S. will also pull troops out of combat in Afghanistan in 2013 instead of 2014 as planned. Simultaneously, because of his failure to hold diplomatic sway with the Afghanistan government, Obama has lowered himself to negotiating with the hated and despotic Taliban. Just last week, Obama failed in his attempt to secure U.N. Security Council approval for a resolution condemning Syrian President Assad for continuing to massacre his own people. This week, Obama seems to be failing miserably in trying to convince Israel not to bomb Iraq’s nuclear weapons development facilities, an attack that would surely pull us into yet another Middle East war. Four major diplomatic failures in four months! Yes, economic recovery is extremely important for America. However, a strong economy will be very hard to maintain if the rest of the world is mired in political turmoil because of Obama’s diplomatic failures.

OBAMA ADMISSION: In a pre-Super Bowl interview last Sunday, President Obama admitted to a prediction he made before the Super Bowl three years ago. At that time he said, “If I don’t have this done (economy fixed) in three years, then there’s gonna be a one-term proposition.” Well, if anything, Obama has worsened the economy. Americans certainly cannot say they are better off now than they were three years ago. It’s time for Obama’s prediction to become a reality. It’s time for America to make him a one-term president!


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