At the end of his column on the economic and fiscal crisis in the state, Ed Achorn has a fact-rich list of examples of how Rhode Island is out of step with the rest of the country. We quote some of the key ones below:
● Rhode Island has the largest number of school districts and school administrators per capita in America.
● It may be the only state with simultaneous decreases in students and increases in teachers from 2000 to 2006. Student populations declined by about 4 percent, while teaching jobs grew 36 percent, the highest growth rate in America.
● Rhode Island has the ninth highest teacher salaries and perhaps the lowest class sizes. Its students finish second to last in New England (before Maine) in SAT scores and tend to join the worst states in performance in standardized testing.
● The state has 50 percent more special-education students per capita than the U.S. average, and its costs per special-education student are 30 percent above the national average.
Notice anything? Like how nearly half of them involve the public school system. Two other statistics stand out as well—the fact that government employment has risen faster than population growth and that we have the highest pension system in New England. These last two items are to a large extent a function of what is happening in public schools as well, given that public school teachers account for nearly a third of all government employees in Rhode Island. Now, news that hundreds of teachers could be laid off in East Providence, Central Falls, and Lincoln doesn’t sound so bad.