To the Editor:
The budget for the City of Warwick is about $300,000,000. More than half of that goes to the School Committee. Now, let’s be clear. It doesn’t go to the schools. It doesn’t go to “education.” It doesn’t go to the “students” and it certainly does NOT go to the “teachers.” It goes the five members of the School Committee (SC). They then use their infinite wisdom to spend our tax dollars as wisely as they see fit.
How’s that working out so far?
Are they doing a great job or what? We have teachers with no contracts (for two years), students with no Chromebooks, buildings that are literally falling down and a budget process that is so secretive that it begs for an investigation. And why? Because Warwick doesn’t have a Home Rule Charter.
If we did (even Richmond has one), we could make them accountable at long last. As it stands today we give them $160,000,000 and say “spend it wisely.” Oh wait, I forgot. Once we give them our hard-earned tax dollars, we can’t advise, suggest or even request they tell us how they spend the millions of tax dollars that are now exclusively under their control.
The old saying that “power corrupts” is a very appropriate definition of the School Committee. They have $160,000,000 of power.
For years, I have been recommending that they submit to a voluntary audit. No one stepped up. I have often stated that the City Council should get their many questions answered “before we give them a dime.”
For example: The School Committee has a cash reserve for their medical benefits that has been growing every year for eighteen years with not a penny withdrawn from it in those eighteen years. Why? Because there isn’t any reason to take any money out. There never has been. There never will be. We simply don’t need a cash reserve account for medical benefits any more than we need a cash reserve account for the electric bill. As of today that totally unnecessary fund has about three and a half million of taxpayers’ money in it, sitting there doing absolutely nothing, and that is only one of their hiding places.
While the SC is crying poverty, they constantly attack the teachers, describing their desire for a new contract as “greedy.” Really? With all the money the SC saved by laying off over a hundred teachers they should be able to double the salaries of the remaining few teachers and still be able to give huge tax rebates to every taxpayer. They could start with the three and a half million from the unnecessary health benefits reserve.
Instead, they use terms like “level-funding” when the ever-decreasing number of teachers isn’t anything close to “level.” Instead, they are bringing their “agreement” to the court of public opinion. They deceitfully reported that they “reached an agreement” regarding the teachers contract. Who are they trying to con? They reached an agreement alright, but it was the SC agreeing with the SC. How stupid do they think we are? They think that by announcing it as a breakthrough in the Beacon, they can get the readers on their side when the teachers say, “What? We didn’t agree to that!”
That is like Governor Ramondo saying that her free education bill is “free” when it really costs the taxpayers over thirty million for the first year alone. Maybe the SC got this idea from her. Maybe the SC thinks they are smarter than us. Maybe the SC has been corrupted with power. Maybe the SC needs to be taught that the money they are spending on attorneys and public relations firms would be better spent on our teachers and students. Maybe the City Council needs to enter the discussion and meet (again) with the SC. Maybe two budgets are what Warwick needs – one for the teachers and one for the School Committee.
The one thing everyone can agree on is the SC needs to change. The taxpayers simply can’t afford to give them a blank check anymore. They have squandered too much money.
Happy Summer everyone.