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Providence Teachers Union pickets Elorza’s State of the City Address



Maribeth Calabro, left

Hundreds of Providence public school teachers and supporters picketed Mayor Jorge Elorza’s State of City Address on Tuesday night, loudly filling four floors of the Providence City Hall. At issue are stalled contract negotiations between the union and the city. The Providence Teachers Union (PTU)’s last contract expired on August 31, 2017. They have been working without a contract since. PTU maintains that they have “been negotiating in good faith to obtain a contract that is fair to teachers, students, and taxpayers since last February. But in recent weeks, despite significant progress toward an agreement, the Mayor and his administration have reneged on many of their previous offers – showing their refusal to negotiate in good faith.”

Elorza delivered his State of the City Address without commenting on the teacher protest, though he did talk about education. The teachers made enough noise to pause Elorza’s comments early on.

The picket was informational in nature. PTU President Maribeth Calabro said that the teacher turnout was bigger than when Mayor Angel Tavares fired teachers in 2011.

“Here are the facts,” said Calabro in a written comment, “One, Mayor Elorza has given un-budgeted salary increases to top level school district administrators. Two, Mayor Elorza supports spending $35 million a year of school district funding to expand the Achievement First charter school. Three, he has hired six school culture coordinators at a cost of approximately $500,000. And four, the City has needlessly spent more than $1 million on the employee time tracking system NovaTime. So the Mayor has no problem spending millions of dollars on raises for upper management, charter schools, and other non-essential services, yet he refuses to invest in the very people who educate our children. And this is all despite the School District’s budget that allocated raises for teachers, a $10 million surplus, and raises for other municipal employees.

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“Providence teacher morale is the lowest it’s been in years, but we have remained focused on providing the best education possible for students. We’re working in some of the most deplorable classroom conditions throughout the state. Despite working in these extremely difficult and sometimes unsafe conditions, we are still some of the lowest paid teachers in the state due to several pay freezes in previous contracts. This lack of respect for the teachers and support professionals who educate Providence’s children is unprofessional and unacceptable. Mayor Elorza needs to get his priorities straight.”

Calabro addressed the teachers in the center stairwell of the City Hall:

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading.