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Collision course for unions and ed reformers in the next 48 hours

August 31, 2011

The next 48 hours will be significant in the ongoing battles between teachers unions and education reformers in Rhode Island.

First up, the trial of the National Education Association Rhode Island’s John Leidecker — who is accused of harassing former state representative Douglas Gablinske — is expected to wrap up this afternoon in District Court.

Don’t be surprised if the outcome of the case carries over to next year’s legislative elections; If Leidecker is found guilty, state GOP chairman Ken McKay, RISC, and others will hammer at the theme of union dirty tricks. Conversely, if Leidecker is acquitted, Bob Walsh and other union officials will talk about the foolish aspersions being cast at labor.

Meanwhile, the state Board of Regents is expected to vote tomorrow on the fate of the mayoral academy proposed for Cranston. The ProJo’s Ed Achorn yesterday characterized support for the concept as broad:

There are shameful things going on in Rhode Island politics every day. But if special interests succeed in defying leaders of Providence, Cranston, Cumberland, Warwick, Woonsocket, North Providence, Lincoln, North Smithfield, East Greenwich and Westerly, and condemn minority children to failing schools rather than permit the slow expansion of a highly promising public alternative, they and Mr. Chafee will have brought Rhode Island to a new low.

Unions have reportedly been making a full-court press against the mayoral academy proposal, and Governor Chafee has been less than tepid in his support. So the Regents’ vote will also make grist for the political mill. If they back the mayoral academy, ed reformers will hail it as a great victory. And if they don’t, it will be portrayed as an instance of unions exercising their muscle.

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