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Warwick students, parents rally at Warwick City Hall over funding cuts; More protests planned



Warwick City Hall

In response to the funding cuts presented by the Warwick School Committee (which would eliminate the sports program and cut funding to teacher assistant positions, janitorial services building improvements, mentoring and transportation) about forty Warwick students, along with parents and other stakeholders rallied outside Warwick City Hall on Tuesday, directing chants to Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon like “you’re a liar,” “save our schools” and “keep your promise” before storming City Hall and rallying directly outside the mayor’s office.

The promise the students are referring to dates back only a week to the last rally the group held at city hall, where the Mayor told the students that the sports program would be reinstated.

In his campaign for mayor in 2018, Solomon told the Providence Journal that he wanted to attract young families to the city and lamented cuts to the district’s janitorial services, adding that he wanted to boost the schools’ mentorship program. His Republican opponent told the Providence Journal the cuts to janitorial services were “deplorable” and that the city should not level-fund the school district year after year.

The students – mostly dressed in team uniforms – led chants, cheers and song outside for about an hour in the rain before eventually running into City Hall and positioning themselves directly outside the mayor’s open office door. After a few minutes of chanting, a woman emerged from the mayor’s office and asked that the students keep the volume down and refrain from using the megaphone indoors, assuring the group that she understands their frustration. After some deliberation, the students decided that they would not be quieted until “the mayor kept his promise” to them.

“You give and you get,” one student said.

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Parents at the rally said they were there not only for the sports programs that offer their children structure, purpose and the opportunities for scholarships, but for the other cuts to the schools’ budget such as teacher assistants and building improvements. A father of two Warwick students said his children are under a lot of stress as it is, and that the school sports programs are “everything to them.” These cuts, he said, have given his children and his children’s friends a lot of anxiety. That anxiety and anger was apparent in the students who participated in the rally on Tuesday.

The deadline for the final budget is set for June 30, giving the very active group of stakeholders just five days from the time of writing to make their voices heard. The Warwick School Committee is holding a closed session on Thursday at Warwick Vets, where the group is tentatively planning a protest. They also plan on picketing a political fundraiser for Ed Ladouceur, the Ward 5 City Councilor and City Council Finance Chair, on Thursday at 6pm at Harbor Lights on Grey Street in Warwick. All who are interested in protesting the budget cuts are welcome to attend.

Benjamin Branchaud is a labor and community organizer and a lifelong Rhode Island resident.