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Lova

RI/PVD Economic Development Issues

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I moved the economic and education issues posts into a new topic. It's a very valid and important topic, but was outside the scope of the thread it was in.

-Cotuit

This problem reiminds me of Europe's dilema: the population doesn't breed, so the economies are doomed without immigration, which brings it's own problems. I believe that the Prov job riddle may be cracked via high end condos: these will be bought by player$ who will get tired of commuting, import their offices, and/or start new businesses.

But the best solutions are multi-prong. Condos may spark growth, but state incentives, such as pro business and pro income would go along way. Schools are a huge prob for both keeping families and preparing existing kids for thier/our future. The teacher's union needs to be razed and rebuilt. And of course, cheap housing so grads can afford to stay and look around. It's a layer cake. But the solution will be both push and pull.

I'm suprised that South Prov is not a popular devlpment topic. This is a huge proportion of the City, and thus determines it's feel and success. The new Latin and Asian immigrants are gamely fixing it up, but without superior schools and some sort of cultural outreach it's going to remain the 3rd world of Prov. It's too big to forsake like this. The other weekend I drove down Broad St. Just past the Elmwood Ave split I saw a dozen whites raking and bagging garbage from the cemetary. This is very frustrating to me, that the locals didn't a) take the initiative and so the neighborhood has to import do-gooders to clean the yard and B) join to help. For many immigrants, a crappy, littered graveyard is still a better view than the one they left. This is the type of assimilation that takes time but has to be guided to achieve cultural integration and thus mutual success in Providence's future.

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This problem reiminds me of Europe's dilema...

But the best solutions are multi-prong...

I'm suprised that South Prov is not a popular devlpment topic...

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Kind of an odd post there Lova, with a bunch of right-on and somewhat-off ideas, but I'll pluck out two of them for review...

First, S. Providence has been getting some development attention, and there are a few projects in place there (I believe a large call center, by G-Tech or Blue Cross or someone, pops right to mind) but it's definitely lagging compared to some other areas, but not disporportionately...

Regarding education, you are, of course, correct. This is something I don't understand about New England in general. How can a region that prides itself on higher education and culture (with Boston long calling itself the "Athens of America") have such miserable public school systems? Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire all have bad reputations regionally and nationally in secondary education circles, especially compared to the Mid-Atlantic states (NY, NJ, Penn, Maryland).

Newsweek just had a story on America's 100 best high schools. Now, I have no idea how anyone comes up with silly lists like these and I don't know how much respect to give any such efforts (including the controversial US News rankings), but it was interesting that my quick scan of the list showed only one school in all of New England in the top 100, a school in Massachusetts, and it was like #63. New York, New Jersey, Penn have a ton of top schools. Now, again, I don't know how much to trust these lists, but I know many of the New York schools listed there very well (I grew up nearby them and my mother taught at some), and they are all really outstanding, far better than even many excellent private schools.

It's really sad. Here's one of the few things New England could do to differentiate itself (education), and we're really dropping the ball. Terrible. When I think of my life longterm and where to live, I'm hoping I get married and have kids, and the education system here (especially in the Providence Metro) compared to the NY metro is very weak.

- Garris

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My point, if it slipped through the cracks of detail, is that a multi-prong development strategy will achieve greater results re job creation, urban development, youth retention, a.k.a. quality of life. Downtown and high tech are powerful and sexy, but South Prov is gigantic, geographically and population wise. Success here can magnify the total achievement of Providence's development, making the City bigger in many ways. Downtown is tiny.

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I was there. Budget cuts are definitely ruining the schools. I don't know what those politicians are thinking who say they are pro-growth but don't fund education adequately. A poorly educated workforce is the inevitable result. It's not even the case that our taxes stay lower when at the state level they shortchange educational funding. We just get higher property taxes instead. My 2 cents...

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Lack of funding is not the problem w Prov schools. Spent money per student is already near nation-leading levels. The problem is managerial incompetance. I don't know who to blame more, the union, school dept, or whoever, but it is a poor return on investment.

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There's too many school districts duplicating spending on the same things in our tiny little state. We could be leading the nation on state funding and consolidated spending. We need some more creative leadership on Smith Hill and some people who get it. Schools are the number one economic issue in this state in my opinion. There are other problems like an un-business-friendly tax system, but people and businesses want to be here, they'd be able to overcome the tax hurdles if we had schools that qualified workers were comfortable sending their kids to.

Instead of addressing the schools, the dipsh!ts on Smith Hill are spinning their wheels with economic development fantasies like the casino.

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An excerpt from today's WSJ:

As Rich-Poor Gap

Widens in the U.S.,

Class Mobility Stalls

Those in Bottom Rung Enjoy

Better Odds in Europe;

How Parents Confer an Edge

Immigrants See Fast Advance

By DAVID WESSEL

Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

........................

Why aren't the escalators working better? Figuring out how parents pass along economic status, apart from the obvious but limited factor of financial bequests, is tough. But education appears to play an important role. In contrast to the 1970s, a college diploma is increasingly valuable in today's job market. The tendency of college grads to marry other college grads and send their children to better elementary and high schools and on to college gives their children a lasting edge.

The notion that the offspring of smart, successful people are also smart and successful is appealing, and there is a link between parent and child IQ scores. But most research finds IQ isn't a very big factor in predicting economic success.

In the U.S., race appears to be a significant reason that children's economic success resembles their parents'. From 32 years of data on 6,273 families recorded by the University of Michigan's long-running survey, American University economist Tom Hertz calculates that 17% of whites born to the bottom 10% of families ranked by income remained there as adults, but 42% of the blacks did. Perhaps as a consequence, public-opinion surveys find African-Americans more likely to favor government redistribution programs than whites.

The tendency of well-off parents to have healthier children, or children more likely to get treated for health problems, may also play a role. "There is very powerful evidence that low-income kids suffer from more health problems, and childhood health does predict adult health and adult health does predict performance," observes Christopher Jencks, a noted Harvard sociologist.

Passing along personality traits to one's children may be a factor, too. Economist Melissa Osborne Groves of Maryland's Towson University looked at results of a psychological test for 195 father-son pairs in the government's long-running National Longitudinal Survey. She found similarities in attitudes about life accounted for 11% of the link between the income of a father and his son............

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Lack of funding is not the problem w Prov schools. Spent money per student is already near nation-leading levels. The problem is managerial incompetance. I don't know who to blame more, the union, school dept, or whoever, but it is a poor return on investment.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That's what the governor would have you believe. If you're looking for the other side of the story, read this: http://www.providenceschools.org/files/90D...DFE592AED88.pdf

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There's too many school districts duplicating spending on the same things in our tiny little state. We could be leading the nation on state funding and consolidated spending.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That is so true. Cicilline and others are advocating a centralized system of purchasing etc. RI definitely does not need 39 separate bureaucracies when the school population of the entire state is comparable to, say, that of Philadelphia.

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RI spends the 6th highest amount per student, yet student results compare very poorly to other states. Therefore, it's not the money, it's the meathod.

Math and literacy are the most mentioned parts of edication, but there is a giant piece of the puzzle that no one considers: culture. Self efficacy and optimism, organization and courtesy, these are the most powerful tools for success. This is why an immigrant family, who fights their way into the USA, continues to fight their way into college and beyond: their personal culture. Our indigenous poor don't have a success mentality. It's not at home and it's not taught in school. Over the last several years, as the "rennaisance" took hold in Providence and the RI economy in general improved, our average indigenous culture moved from decades of malaise into a can-do mode. As the urban design consultant remarked at the charette, it's very refreshing to hear people say "we can do this." This can be taught.

Rhode Island should be the Switzerland of the USA.

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Rhode Island should be the Switzerland of the USA.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I like that. :)

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RI spends the 6th highest amount per student, yet student results compare very poorly to other states.

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I don't know how the culture issue is going to solve the immediate school funding crisis. People are right to criticize public education, but it doesn't make sense to divest from it.

The neediest kids in Prov. are losing social workers, guidance counselors, nurses, as well as art, music, computers, foreign languages, science, as well as many other valuable programs.

Yes, there needs to be reform in RI to bring educational spending under control. We need to reassess health and pension plans and we need to eliminate inefficiencies in purchasing etc.

But, as the Superindendent of Schools in Prov., has pointed out, the system is riddled with the challenge of paying for unfunded mandates on the federal (such as No Child Left Behind) and on the state level, as well as educating one of the poorest populations in the country with their special educational as well as languange needs. The school system has a very old physical plant that is expensive to maintain. All told, 97% of the costs of public education are fixed.

Unless we say that the kids of our city are not worth the investment, we have to find a way to fund education to give them a chance.

As it is now, as Cicilline has pointed out, we rely far too heavily on local property taxes and not enough on state aid.

RI ranks second to highest in the extent to which it relies on property taxes to pay for education (only Hawaii ranks higher) and it ranks near the bottom in the level of state support for education.

This leads to inefficiencies and inequities in our system and it serves as a regressive means of paying for education.

Seniors, for example, who are house rich but are on fixed incomes, get hit hard while high income earners who could pay slightly more (like 1% more of their income) could easily pay a little more and eliminate the unacceptable cutbacks that are damaging our schools.

At the end of the day, the urban kids who are in the school systems of this urban state will be the future of this state. Do we write them off or do we invest in them?

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Interesting article in the NY Times about what to do with abandoned big box stores. Definitely a relevant issue locally when you consider some of the faded retail strips like Post Road in Warwick.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/12/garden/12box.html?

Apparently there are some 350 abandoned WalMarts nationwide.

Some relevant links:

http://bigboxreuse.com/

http://www.theboxtank.com/

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Interesting article in the NY Times about what to do with abandoned big box stores. Definitely a relevant issue locally when you consider some of the faded retail strips like Post Road in Warwick.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/12/garden/12box.html?

Apparently there are some 350 abandoned WalMarts nationwide.

Some relevant links:

http://bigboxreuse.com/

http://www.theboxtank.com/

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Why are there so many abandoned WalMarts stores?

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Why are there so many abandoned WalMarts stores?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

The reason why we have so many abandoned kmarts. They make a killing for the first 10 years then another bix box store moves rite next door with better prices.

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I don't know how the culture issue is going to solve the immediate school funding crisis...

True, of course, but it intersects with your next point...

People are right to criticize public education, but it doesn't make sense to divest from it.

Also true in the aggregate, but not in the personal... I can't blame Providence families for sending their kids to private schools instead of public schools or moving to Barrington or Sharon, MA where the public schools are much better. You only get one shot at educating your kids, and why, if you have the choice, would you send them somewhere you already know is failing?

One of my coworkers moved from Providence to Sharon, MA since he wanted his children to go to schools with other children whose families valued education as much as his own does. He wasn't seeing that in the Providence (or other immediate area) schools. Parents weren't involved and those that were seemed to care more about the football team's uniforms than education. That's where the cultural aspect comes in...

Yes, there needs to be reform in RI to bring educational spending under control. We need to reassess health and pension plans and we need to eliminate inefficiencies in purchasing etc.

All of those things are big problems. As I mentioned, my mother is a public school teacher, and the story she tells me blows my mind. Horrifically inefficient management that's frightened to death of lawsuits, terrible cost containment, tons of administrative and secretarial staff that do nothing and are no longer needed but unfireable due to union contracts, etc. etc. In my mother's opinion, scared administrators and rigid unions are a big part of the problem.

Purchasing is one good example. My mother's district recent bought a fleet of computers (to satisfy a mandate on computers per student) that are already outdated (my mother thinks the person put in charge of the decision knew very little about computers). The teachers in her district are only allowed to buy from a list of "approved" vendors. They just can't run down to Staples and get the lowest price.

Well, you have to see the price they paid for these outdated computers. Easily 50-100% more than what they would have run at Best Buy or Circuit City. But these come "pre-configured" from approved education vendors... And this goes on in every facet of school purchasing, from food to pencils to gas for the buses. The public is quite right to put this under a microscope.

But, as the Superindendent of Schools in Prov., has pointed out, the system is riddled with the challenge of paying for unfunded mandates on the federal (such as No Child Left Behind) and on the state level, as well as educating one of the poorest populations in the country with their special educational as well as languange needs. The school system has a very old physical plant that is expensive to maintain. All told, 97% of the costs of public education are fixed.

All true, but most of these problems aren't unique to Providence, some may just be more prominent here. The physical plant definitely is a problem. I thought that idea to sell Hope High to developers and use the proceeds to build three new smaller, modern, modular schools was a fantastic idea. Too bad no one took it seriously.

Oh, and No Child Left Behind, while deeply flawed, isn't the boogeyman people say it is. While its mandates are unfunded, the issues that are being mandated were problems that communities were not funding beforehand anyway. This has just shone a spotlight on them. The biggest problem with NCLB is that it's deeply unflexible and hasn't yet (although there are signs from the education department that it soon will) adequately factored in how to classify populations that will have problems meeting the mandates (ex. special ed, ESL populations, etc).

As it is now, as Cicilline has pointed out, we rely far too heavily on local property taxes and not enough on state aid.

I've never quite understood this argument. I thought the whole point of using property taxes was that:

1 - Each community funds its own schools

2 - Essentially everyone contributes

Now, if we use some state (or even nationwide) funding, why should someone in South County be contributing to a system that goes disproportionately to Providence schools and not their local ones? And whether it comes from property taxes or some other tax, you're (we're) still all paying for it. It just redistributes the hit.

Providence has near half the state's population. I have a hard time accepting the argument that our schools would be so much more successful if only the other half of the state helped support them financially.

I personally frequently work at the Providence VA hospital, a system which shares many of the flaws of the public school system and for many of the same reasons. Even if it's slightly underfunded, the biggest causes of the VA's woes are clearly administrative, employee, and patient centered, and the intersection between all of these where money changes hands. I believe the same is true of the schools.

I liked Bill Gates' explanation: Our schools are "obsolete," his definition being that even if given all the time, money, energy, and attention in the world and the system works 100% as designed, it still fails.

- Garris

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Why are there so many abandoned WalMarts stores?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

There are so many abandoned stores in part because Walmart has been opening a lot of supercenters with gas and groceries in addition to all the usual stuff. These supercenters have much bigger footprints. Apparently Walmart finds it more cost effective to abandon the old store and build new than to add to the existing store.

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I take your points, Garris, but I think that Cicilline has been persuasive in showing that the present funding crisis in public education is NOT due to incompetence or gross inefficiency.

According to several independent audits, the school system actually has a lean bureaucracy and management consultants who have been brought in by Cicilline have pretty much discounted the idea that the system is rife with inefficiency.

Salaries and benefits that many find too generous are only part of the problem. Even if the salary and benefit packages could be renegotiated substantially downward, the system would still be facing a deficit.

What is really driving the school funding crisis is a lack of money.

The fact is that like most cities Providence has a costly student population with attendent ESL and special education issues and it has a limited tax base. Without the state assuming a greater role, Providence residents will bear the brunt of higher and higher property taxes and Providence students will receive a increasingly inferior education. Ultimately, this will compromise the city's economic fortunes.

As to the question of whether the costs of urban education should be shared throughout the state. Providence might require a greater allocation than Barrington but at the same time it contributes much more to the state's economy.

But, in any case, the school funding crisis is finally at the point that it is no longer primarily an urban vs. suburban issue.

Suburbs, even wealthy ones, have also hit the wall and are having trouble financing their school systems based on their mostly residential tax base.

This year, for example, many of the speakers at the State House rally were from places like Jamestown and Chariho (Charlestown-Richmond-Hopkinton). As more districts feel the pinch I would expect pressure to grow on the governor and the General Assembly to finally adopt a more rational and less antiquated approach to the issue.

True, of course, but it intersects with your next point...

Also true in the aggregate, but not in the personal...  I can't blame Providence families for sending their kids to private schools instead of public schools or moving to Barrington or Sharon, MA where the public schools are much better.  You only get one shot at educating your kids, and why, if you have the choice, would you send them somewhere you already know is failing? 

One of my coworkers moved from Providence to Sharon, MA since he wanted his children to go to schools with other children whose families valued education as much as his own does.  He wasn't seeing that in the Providence (or other immediate area) schools.  Parents weren't involved and those th

t were seemed to care more about the football team's uniforms than education.  That's where the cultural aspect comes in...

All of those things are big problems.  As I mentioned, my mother is a public school teacher, and the story she tells me blows my mind.  Horrifically inefficient management that's frightened to death of lawsuits, terrible cost containment, tons of administrative and secretarial staff that do nothing and are no longer needed but unfireable due to union contracts, etc. etc.  In my mother's opinion, scared administrators and rigid unions are a big part of the problem. 

Purchasing is one good example.  My mother's district recent bought a fleet of computers (to satisfy a mandate on computers per student) that are already outdated (my mother thinks the person put in charge of the decision knew very little about computers).  The teachers in her district are only allowed to buy from a list of "approved" vendors.  They just can't run down to Staples and get the lowest price. 

Well, you have to see the price they paid for these outdated computers.  Easily 50-100% more than what they would have run at Best Buy or Circuit City.  But these come "pre-configured" from approved education vendors...  And this goes on in every facet of school purchasing, from food to pencils to gas for the buses.  The public is quite right to put this under a microscope.

All true, but most of these problems aren't unique to Providence, some may just be more prominent here.  The physical plant definitely is a problem.  I thought that idea to sell Hope High to developers and use the proceeds to build three new smaller, modern, modular schools was a fantastic idea.  Too bad no one took it seriously. 

Oh, and No Child Left Behind, while deeply flawed, isn't the boogeyman people say it is.  While its mandates are unfunded, the issues that are being mandated were problems that communities were not funding beforehand anyway.  This has just shone a spotlight on them.  The biggest problem with NCLB is that it's deeply unflexible and hasn't yet (although there are signs from the education department that it soon will) adequately factored in how to classify populations that will have problems meeting the mandates (ex. special ed, ESL populations, etc). 

I've never quite understood this argument.  I thought the whole point of using property taxes was that:

1 - Each community funds its own schools

2 - Essentially everyone contributes

Now, if we use some state (or even nationwide) funding, why should someone in South County be contributing to a system that goes disproportionately to Providence schools and not their local ones?  And whether it comes from property taxes or  some other tax, you're (we're) still all paying for it.  It just redistributes the hit. 

Providence has near half the state's population.  I have a hard time accepting the argument that our schools would be so much more successful if only the other half of the state helped support them financially. 

I personally frequently work at the Providence VA hospital, a system which shares many of the flaws of the public school system and for many of the same reasons.  Even if it's slightly underfunded, the biggest causes of the VA's woes are clearly administrative, employee, and patient centered, and the intersection between all of these where money changes hands.  I believe the same is true of the schools.

I liked Bill Gates' explanation: Our schools are "obsolete," his definition being that even if given all the time, money, energy, and attention in the world and the system works 100% as designed, it still fails.

- Garris

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

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I've never quite understood this argument.  I thought the whole point of using property taxes was that:

1 - Each community funds its own schools

2 - Essentially everyone contributes

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Well, how does one define community? How about all of us without children form our own town so we can by-pass the expense of education, afterall, our "community" would be childless. Of course regardless of the fact that I don't have kids, I understand the need for quality education. If only because I don't want some functionally illiterate dolt dispensing my meds when I'm old and in a home.

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There are so many abandoned stores in part because Walmart has been opening a lot of supercenters with gas and groceries in addition to all the usual stuff. These supercenters have much bigger footprints. Apparently Walmart finds it more cost effective to abandon the old store and build new than to add to the existing store.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Also, If they continue to pay rent on the old location rather than terminating the lease, it keeps another bigbox discount retailer from moving into the building.

I wonder if we will see this in Cranston after they build the new Walmart up behind the Home Depot on Hartford Ave.

Liam

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They should build little mixed use neighborhoods on the old Wallmart locations, or donate the land to nature conservancies and let it grow wild.

They're about 100 acres each, no?

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