Editorial & Opinion

As state budget hearings commence, Reclaim RI calls for divestment from carceral systems

“Providence public schools have been underfunded since they started serving mostly-Black and brown students. The buildings are unhealthy, classrooms are crowded yet short staffed, and most students face similar divestments in their neighborhoods. The consequence is that they are criminalized rather than offered a solution…“ Yesterday, July 21st at 4pm,  the Rhode Island State Senate Finance Committee convened to hear
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Published on July 22, 2020
By Reclaim RI

Providence public schools have been underfunded since they started serving mostly-Black and brown students. The buildings are unhealthy, classrooms are crowded yet short staffed, and most students face similar divestments in their neighborhoods. The consequence is that they are criminalized rather than offered a solution…


Yesterday, July 21st at 4pm,  the Rhode Island State Senate Finance Committee convened to hear testimony on Article 10 of the proposed state budget, related to matters of education reform. Today, Wednesday, July 22nd, the House Finance Committee will hear the proposed budgets for both the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections. Finally, on Thursday, July 23rd, the committee will hear testimony on Article 20, which pertains to health care.

“We know from polling—and the pandemic’s confluence with protests against policing—that these three issues are of the highest priority for Rhode Island residents, as in much of the country,” said Kelton Ellis of ReclaimRI. “Every office in the state government is facing budget cuts except the state’s police force and prison system. Constituents should demand better. The people of Rhode Island do not need more police or larger prisons, but they could certainly use better schools and healthcare.”

Reclaim Rhode Island demands an equitable, human-centered budget, not one defined by cuts to essential programs like education and healthcare. Governor Gina Raimondo is likely seeking to apply CARES Act funding to close gaps in the budget. Instead, these funds must be invested as they were intended: to uphold each person’s safety and security during the COVID-19 pandemic. If she wants to close budget deficits like she says, the Governor must instead raise taxes on the wealthy and make substantial cuts to policing, incarceration, Student Resource Officers, and other systems of oppression. Our representatives should use these hearings to insist we divest from a carceral system that is pervading our schools and communities. For example, the state should not be using its funds to encourage municipalities to put police in schools. It should not have done so before, and it certainly should not continue to do so in the future. 

“If we want the best outcome for students, we need to focus on their needs,” said Providence educator Casandra Inez. “Providence public schools have been underfunded since they started serving mostly-Black and brown students. The buildings are unhealthy, classrooms are crowded yet short staffed, and most students face similar divestments in their neighborhoods. The consequence is that they are criminalized rather than offered a solution.

“We have the perfect opportunity to redirect funds that have harmed them and caused trauma into a support system that can help mend their wounds; with social, emotional and behavioral support, mentors from the community, more pathways to success, trauma specialists, and other assistance they desperately need.”

To view the hearings live, use this link: www.rilegislature.gov/CapTV

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