NEW REPORT: Collective Bargaining Gives Incentive to Providence Teachers NOT to Work for 37 Days

37 Days: Paid for Not Working in Providence Schools

Collective-bargaining contracts provide a disincentive to teach

Providence, RI –– The collective-bargaining agreement between the Providence Teachers Union and the government of Providence may explain why chronic teacher absences are one of the major problems contributing to the dismal K-12 educational conditions in the capital city. 

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today released a report – Paid for Not Working, Collective Bargaining Taxpayer Ripoff #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence – that highlights the many forms of collectively-bargained “leave time” allowed for teachers. About a quarter of all Providence teachers are being paid for missing 10% (18 days) or more of their vital class time with students. As the union contract actually allows for up to 37 days of paid-time-off per year per teacher, the teacher absentee problem could be twice as bad.

“It is not difficult to understand that if our front-line public servants have incentive to not actually be on the front lines, then the overall quality of those public services will suffer,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “We should be thankful that more teachers are not taking full advantage of the numerous and counter-productive leave provisions that unions demand.”

The Center’s new report, an expansion of its Taxpayer Ripoff #1 Ghost Workers report in May, discusses the financial and societal costs of these excessive leave provisions and includes a table listing the many ways and days teachers are allowed to not teach and, in most cases, to be paid for not working. 

In the spring of 2019, the Center published a major report – Public Union Excesses – detailing the $888 million per year in excessive costs paid by taxpayers due to overly generous collective bargaining provisions in government union contracts at the state and local levels. With two-thirds of these costs absorbed by municipal taxpayers, property taxes could be lowered by as much as 25% if government services were contracted at normal market rates.

PAID FOR NOT WORKING, COLLECTIVE-BARGAINING TAXPAYER RIPOFF #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence

It is not difficult to understand that if our front-line public servants have incentive to not actually be on the front lines, then the overall quality of those public services will suffer … Mike Stenhouse

In the spring of 2019, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity published a major report — Public Union Excesses — detailing the $888 million per year in excessive costs paid by taxpayers due to overly generous collective bargaining provisions in government union contracts at the state and local levels. With two-thirds of these costs absorbed by municipal taxpayers, property taxes could be lowered by as much as 25% if government services were contracted at normal market rates.

Societal Costs. The excessive financial costs to taxpayers may not be as troubling as the social costs resulting from government worker unionization in our state. Union officials have propagated a culture in which extracting every possible dime from taxpayers and dues-payers, regardless of the impact on the quality of the services rendered, appears to be the objective, a culture that inevitably has creeped into the workplace. 

Educational Failures. Perhaps no area of government service exemplifies this negative value proposition more clearly than public education. In November 2018, the state released the RICAS student assessment scores, which highlighted the Ocean State’s dismal performance of schools within its public educational system. Furthermore, a July 2018 report showed that Rhode Island schools also suffered from the third-highest teacher absentee rate in the nation.

Connecting the dots, Public Union Excesses clearly lays out the many union contract provisions that provide a disincentive for teachers and other public employees to actually show up for work or perform the vital public services they were hired to conduct at peak levels. 

Teacher Attendance. With a national spotlight shining on the government-run Providence public school system for operating what some have characterized as among the worst schools in the country, the lack of consistent and reliable teacher attendance has been in the news.  Boston Globe journalist Dan McGowan reports that 500 of the city’s teachers (more than one-quarter) were absent at least 18 times, which is 10% of the school year.  That percentage is subtracted from teachers’ 181-day work-year, which is already 21% shorter than the approximate private-sector average work-year of 230.

Parents and interested Rhode Islanders might wonder how this is possible, so the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity took a look at the Providence Teachers Union contract.  Our results are shown in the table below.

In summary, in a standard year, teachers are contractually allowed to take up to 26 days off for a variety of reasons, from sick leave (15 days) to “purposes connected with the welfare of the school and/or community” (2 days).  Unlike in the private sector, unused sick days for teachers are allowed to roll over — in full — from year to year, up to 150 days.  A teacher can use up to 135 paid days off in one year before facing any consequences.

Common life events like weddings and deaths can add more time to the annual total — 11 days for a year with one of each.  Additionally, all teachers are eligible for up to another 11 days for union activities on a rotating and limited basis.  Additionally, a union professional development/mentoring coordinator is relieved of teaching duties for one-fifth of the school year, while the union president is relieved for two-fifths; that’s the equivalent of 36 and 72 days each.  Adding in the other days off available to all teachers, the union president would be able to not do any actual teaching for the equivalent of 101 of the work year’s 181 days.  The Center reported on such absences in our May 2019 “Ghost Workers” report.

On top of this are longer-term and more-rare absences like sabbaticals, quarantine, or job-related-injury leave, which can go for a year or more with pay.  Teachers can also take a year at a time off without pay for a number of reasons.

Of course, when a regular teacher is away for a day or for an extended period of time, a substitute teacher must often be hired at additional expense; in Providence it is estimated that substitute teachers cost taxpayers and extra $7 million per year.

These added costs, combined with the reduced quality of education, are one reason why Providence public schools are performing so poorly.

“PAID FOR NOT WORKING” – COLLECTIVELY BARGAINED, ALLOWED TEACHER ABSENCES IN PROVIDENCE

Number of Days Contract Citation
Standard Year
Sick leave 15 4-1
Personal 2 5-1.4
Superintendent-approved personal 3 5-1.5
Religious observance 3 5-1.2
"Welfare of the school and/or community" 2 5-1.6
Visiting other schools (in or out of district) 1 5-1.7
Subtotal 26
Life Events1
Wedding 2 5-1.1
Bereavement (immediate family) 5 5-2
Bereavement (in-laws) 3 5-2
Bereavement (extended) 1 5-2
Subtotal 11
Union Activities (Limited Number of Teachers)
Delegate to AFL-CIO or other union meetings 5 5-1.3
Negotiating Committee2 1 16-2.2
Union professional development/mentoring attendance 5 8-30-2
Subtotal 11
Total available to any given teacher each year 48
Special Union Positions3
Union professional development/mentoring coordinator4 36 8-30-1
Total available to coordinator 65
Union president5 72 5-6
Total available to union president 101
Other Events
Sabbatical 91 5-3
Compulsory Reserve or National Guard 20 5-7.2
Injured on the job 90 6-1
Assault and/or battery on the job 181 6-2
Government tests & examinations Unlimited 5-8
Court service Unlimited 5-9
Quarantine Unlimited 5-10
Without Pay
Personal 181 5-5.1
Union service 181 5-6
Military leave 181 5-7
Parental/adoption leave 181 5-11
Notes:
1 The “life events” subtotal assumes one of each in a given year.
2 We estimate an average of one day per year in total negotiating time for each teacher on the negotiating committee. Some years, this would be zero, and other years, it could be much higher than 1.
3 The union coordinator and president totals adjust the days available for all teachers so as not to double count their lighter work schedules.
4 The number of days off for the coordinator is the one-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.
5 The number of days off for the president is the two-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.
The Center refutes the unsubstantiated & off-target NEA-RI claims made by two government union officials in publicly responding to our Union Excess Report.

Center Assigns Blame, Calls for Bankruptcy to Help Solve Providence K-12 Disaster

The Government-Union Alliance Has Failed Students
Collective-bargaining savings and immediate private school options are vital

Providence, RI –– The dismal public school system in Providence is clearly the result of a failed and costly government-union alliance, with misplaced priorities, that likely will require new perspectives and city bankruptcy as part of the solution. A state takeover would only be more of the same.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperitymaintains that whatever reforms are eventually implemented from whatever public review process is put in place will not help the tens of thousands of Providence students currently in their critical learning years. 

The Center refutes the unsubstantiated & off-target NEA-RI claims made by two government union officials in publicly responding to our Union Excess Report.

“These kids need a new and better learning environment now, today. They cannot wait,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “In order to provide Providence and all Rhode Island students with a better chance at a brighter future, new players must have a seat at the table and new thinking is required as part of the solution. This dire situation cannot be turned around if the same people that caused the problem – local and state government and teachers union officials – are in charge of developing solutions.”

Historically, faint-hearted politicians and their teacher union allies have blocked educational reform ideas that have been successful in other states. However, if political leaders are honest and serious about their proclamations that all options must now be considered, and are willing to break those historical ties, the Center offers two practical and significant reform items that can have immediate impact:

1. More Educational Choices for Families. Recognizing that the larger school system reform process will take many, many years – if ever – to take positive effect, the Center suggests that thousands of Providence families can be provided with an an immediate escape-hatch from the drowning Providence school system. Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), first introduced in Rhode Island by the Center in 2014, would empower parents with the freedom and funding to select a private school educational path for their children. Extensive research by the Center showed that an ESA program can be immediately implemented – at no additional cost to state or local taxpayers!

Learn more about the Center’s Bright Today Scholarship program at www.RIFreedom.org/EdChoiceRI or read our mini-report here.

2. Bankruptcy & Collective Bargaining Savings to Repair Schools. The top priority of any public school system must be about educating kids, not enriching adults. Decrepit and rat-infested school buildings can be repaired with savings from reworked overly-generous contracts with the teacher and all Providence unions. The Center’s May 2019 Public Union Excesses report estimated that the city of  Providence is paying $110 million per year above and beyond private-sector rates for collectively-bargained services. This amount of annual money could easily fund the physical repair and upgrade of school buildings in Providence in just a few years. 

However, given the newly enacted “evergreen contracts” law, it is only through bankruptcy proceedings, with a capable receiver, that these excessive collectively- bargained funds can be freed up for use in Providence. This is a Providence problem that must be solved with Providence money. It would be unfair for the state to mandate that taxpayers in other cities and towns to be forced to pay for the capitol city’s incompetence.

A House bill that would dramatically expand the State's eminent domain powers was delayed for at least one day, after we raised concerns prior to vote.

Center Forces Delay of Bill that Would Dramatically Expand Government’s Eminent Domain Powers

Unconstitutionally Expands Eminent Domain Powers?Government Would be Allowed to Intrude-upon, Dig, and Seize Property

Providence, RI –– A House bill that would dramatically expand the State’s eminent domain powers was delayed for at least one day, after the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity raised concerns just prior to yesterday’s scheduled House Committee on Finance vote.

The Center, long known as an avid defender of private property rights, categorized this bill as RhodeMapRI-style legislation that places some vague and arbitrary notion of economic development above the constitutional rights of property owners.

Derived directly from the 2018 legislative language to keep the Pawtucket Red Sox in Pawtucket, the current legislation targets property owners and would give the city of Pawtucket and governments across the state unprecedented access to intrude upon, test, and ultimately seize private property. Other provisions of the bill deny due process and would even force property owners to be evicted or pay penalties and attorneys fees to defend and keep their land. 

Yesterday’s vote on H6153 was delayed with the official status, “Proposed Substitute”, but is expected to be re-considered as soon as today. The Senate version of the bill, S0673, was passed by the Senate Finance Committee on June 18. 

The two pieces of legislation, with both lead sponsors from Pawtucket, Representative Tobon and Senator Cano, were also co-sponsored primarily by Pawtucket Reps and Senators. 

“Everyone wants to see the city of Pawtucket succeed, but infringing on private property rights is not the way to go. If enacted, this legislation would constitute the largest expansion of the government’s eminent domain powers in Rhode Island history,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Perhaps unconstitutionally, it would expand the powers of redevelopment agencies to take private property for private economic development purposes instead of for “public” purposes or helping to remediate blighted and substandard areas.”

On the one year JANUS Anniversary: Center Launches $30,000 Phase-2 of Campaign to Inform Public Employees of their Rights

JANUS Anniversary: Center Launches $30,000 Phase-2 of Campaign to Inform Public Employees of their Rights

MyPayMySay Campaign to Spend $30,000 in Phase-2
Phase-1 Led to Doubling of State Worker Opt-Outs

Providence, RI –– In recognition of tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court Janus v AFSCME ruling the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that it has launched phase-2 of its MyPayMySayRI.comcampaign to inform government workers of their restored first-Amendment rights.

“After hearing last summer from dozens of workers, frustrated that their unions were not adequately informing them of their rights following the Janus decision, our Center quickly launched, with little funding, our MyPayMySaycampaign, in conjunction with our national partner, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. 

Phase-1 of the campaign has already achieved significant results. According to a Providence Journal article, the percentage of state workers choosing not to become a union member has doubled from about 3% to 6% in less than one year. Also, 26% of the professional staff at the University of Rhode Island have left their NEA-RI union. 

JANUS Anniversary

Yet, a recent national survey shows that 83% of K-12 teachers don’t fully understand their rights, while half of all teachers still don’t know they can leave their union without being required to pay fees and without losing any of their pay, health insurance, tenure, or seniority or other benefits.

Phase-2 of the Center’s campaign, following a more sustained fundraising outreach, began in late May and will end in July. Overall, approximately $30,000 is being spent to inform workers of their options through social media and web advertising, as well as mail pieces to union households.

The June 27 anniversary coincides with action this month by state lawmakers to side-step the rights of public employees by advancing bills that are a clear contrast to the decision made by the nation’s highest court. The legislation gives government unions special access to workers and allows unions to charge certain fees to those who choose not to pay for membership. The Center will monitor these actions from a legal standpoint.

Government unions themselves were exposed in the news last year when the NEA-RI issued a misleading and coercive letter to its local Bristol-Warren members.

State government officials also have been complicit in attempting to deny public employees the unbiased information they need to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Last summer, Governor Raimondo issued a directive to deny state-worker information to groups seeking to inform workers of their rights. And, more disturbingly, shortly after the Center’s campaign was launched, former Attorney General Kilmartin issued a public statement that misled public workers about their Janus rights; legal experts rightly called out this failure of leadership.

In many other states, where similar post-Janus or Right-To-Work informational campaigns have been initiated, up to 20%-30% of public employees have freely chosen to leave their government-designated unions.

Public employees can learn the full truth at www.MyPayMySayRI.com.


Instead of honor the law to reduce the state's sales tax, faint-hearted House leaders are instead trying to sneak a repeal without public debate.

Center Calls on Lawmakers to Keep and Honor the 6.5% Sales Tax Promise, and Stop its Repeal

House Budget Seeks to Repeal Sales Tax Cut Statute
Center Calls on Lawmakers to Keep Promise to Taxpayers

Providence, RI — Rather than honor existing state law that specifies a reduction in the state’s sales tax rate, and deal with continued criticism for inaction, faint-hearted House leaders are instead seeking to change the law by attempting to sneak its repeal through the budget without public debate. 

As a sad irony, instead of using the budget process to reduce the sales tax rate for Ocean State consumers, and comply with state law, as the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity had previously suggested … the House decided to use the budget process to repeal the law, hoping not to raise any public attention. 

“Clearly, the Speaker and House leaders recognize that our Center has been right all along about complying with this state statute,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “So, rather than honor the law, they seek to change the law. This disturbing trend of moving the goal-posts will not bring prosperity to Rhode Islanders.”

Now, the Center calls on rank-and-file lawmakers to stand-up for the promise made to taxpayers years ago and to find a way to keep the law on the books, if not demand that the law actually be followed. 

The original rationale for the law was to relieve Rhode Islanders of the added burden of a sales tax imposed on a broader range of “internet” purchased goods, by easing the overall tax rate. The Center, in its 6.5% Sales Tax policy brief argued that the legal threshold had effectively been met by the continued expansion of the sales tax on internet purchases by remote sellers.

“If the political class breaks this sales tax promise, how can Rhode Islanders ever trust the promise made about not imposing tolls on our cars,” asked Stenhouse. “This loss of hope for our state’s political system is one reason why so many of our family and friends are fleeing our state.”

Suffering from a spate of retail store closings and a depressed jobs market, as compared with other states, the Center has repeatedly made the case that Rhode Island would get an economic boost from a reduced sales tax rate, in addition to providing residents with more cash in their pockets.

In its Zero.Zero report many years ago, the Center’s extensive research and economic modeling calling for a full repeal of the state sales tax, or reduction to 3.0%, as the most effective way to grow jobs. Related legislation in 2013 gained significant legislative interest, but ultimately did not advance.

Former Justice Flanders Joins Center’s Board

Will Explore Development of an Internal Strategic Litigation Capacity

Providence, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is pleased to announce that former R.I. Supreme Court Justice Robert G. Flanders, Jr. has joined its Board of Directors, now totaling 14 members.

An Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court from 1996 thru 2004, Flanders is also well known for his 2018 candidacy as the Republican nominee for the United States Senate and for his appointment as “receiver” for the city of Central Falls in 2011. Flanders, who is now a partner with the Providence-based law firm, Whelan, Corrente, & Flanders, also spent many years with the Hinckley Allen law firm.

“As a long-time admirer of the Center’s work, I look forward to exploring with Mike Stenhouse the viability of building a new strategic litigation capacity for our organization,” commented Flanders. 

“With our state suffering from a sharp policy turn to the left, and with legislative leaders unchecked and out-of-control in their devotion to special-interests, one strategy is to look into whether not some of the most harmful laws and regulations on our books are even constitutional,” added Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO.

Across the nation, it is a growing trend for state-based think-tanks, like the Center, to develop their own, internal legal capacity to challenge potentially unconstitutional statutes.

A Brown University and Harvard Law School graduate, Flanders has served in dozens of public, civic, professional, and nonprofit leadership capacities – receiving multiple special honors and awards. Like Stenhouse, who had an eight-year minor and major league baseball career, Flanders was also a minor league professional baseball player.

The entire list of the Center’s Board, along with a listing of its staff and adjunct scholars, can be found on its About Us webpage.