In the haze of misinformation emitted by the union-busters in the debate over the Providence teachers, no issue is perhaps more hazy and misinformed than the saga of the so-called “Regulars in Pool” or “Rs in Pool.” Not only is the matter opaque to the ordinary hapless citizen, many within the school system don’t seem to understand it, and even the Providence Teachers Union (PTU) has been oddly quiet about it. Nor has Providence’s newspaper of record, the Providence Journal (“All the news that’s fit to reprint”), been much help: an extraordinarily confusing article by Linda Borg (“Providence teacher dismissals would end costly substitutes,” March 8th) starts off by repeating the Taveras administration’s claims that the “Rs in Pool” are paid “whether or not they work,” then concedes it’s never actually happened, then says it could happen next year if teachers are laid-off instead of dismissed, then quotes the city auditor saying this doesn’t happen because, well, it’s stupid to pay people who aren’t working. Clear?
Untangling the story required some hours of connecting the dots from disparate sources, some amount of inference, and a testy online exchange with Matt Jerzyk, the mayor’s evil vizier. After excavating through the administration’s layers of anti-teacher propaganda, it’s possible to reconstruct the sequence of events that resulted in the creation of the “Rs in Pool” program. Instead of finding a malicious scheme to pay teachers for nothing, we discover that the program is a creation of the very “school reform” chicanery embraced by Taveras Mission Control–and it’s been unexpectedly expensive due to the classically “consultocratic” mismanagement of the Providence Public School District (PPSD) under Superintendent Tom Brady. The PTU leadership, for its part, finds itself hoist with its own “partnership” petard, as its attempt to compromise with the PPSD over seniority rights has become a big stick with which it is beat.