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Teachers union leader named to Chafee transition team

November 9, 2010

Bob Walsh from the National Education Association of Rhode Island, one of the state’s two teachers’ unions, will be part of a four-person advisory committee for Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee’s transition team.

“Jack of all trades” is how Walsh describes his new role.

“Being a liaison to labor and the progressive community will be part of it,” Walsh says. “Helping chase down information, certainly passing ideas back and forth.”

Walsh downplayed speculation that teachers’ unions will seek the ouster of State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.

“People like to speculate about everything I suppose,” Walsh says. “It’s really up to her.  If she wants to put her energy and enthusiasm and dedication with this new leadership, that’s great. If she wants to run her own shop without that level of input, that will become obvious.”

Walsh says he believes Chafee has been transparent about his position on public school reform.

“One of the reasons he’s attractive to us is because he doesn’t like vouchers,” says Walsh. “And he thinks the emphasis should be on existing public schools, as do we. He’s made it clear that something like charter schools is not something he would make a priority given the challenges our regular schools already face.”

When it comes to the budget, Walsh is concerned about pension payments for school districts and local governments, which change every year.

“One of my suggestions is to give local communities some stability in their pension costs,” Walsh says.  

There may not always be agreement, but Walsh is pleased to have a seat at the new administration’s table.

“We couldn’t even have these conversations with Governor Carcieri,” Walsh says. “If you don’t have a seat at the table you find yourself on the menu all too often in this state.”

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