Education

Mayor Elorza rallies to have teacher contract details released

“…once we see the contract, we can get into whether it’s transformational or not,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. “But all we’re asking for here today is let us see the details of the contract, and let us provide some input before you sign the dotted line and make it official.”
Photo for Mayor Elorza rallies to have teacher contract details released

Published on July 28, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza held a rally on the second floor of the Rhode Island State House, or, as the Mayor put it, “as close to the Governor’s office as we can be.”

Elorza had a message and demand for Governor Daniel McKee, and claimed the support of the entire community in delivering it. “We are here as a community to call on the Governor and the Commissioner of Education to commit to briefing the community and allowing them to provide input before the contract is signed.”

Governor McKee recently announced that his administration has made a tentative agreement with the Providence Teacher’s Union (PTU). What that contract looks like has not been revealed to the public, pending a vote by the union.

Two years ago, Providence ceded control of the Providence Public School Department (PPSD) to the state, and to then Governor Gina Raimondo and her then newly appointed Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green. Once contract negotiations between the PTU and the Commissioner had stalled, and after a no-confidence vote by the union, Governor McKee removed the Commissioner from negotiations.

Mayor Elorza maintains that the reason the City invoked the Crowley Act and ceded authority of the PPSD to the state in the first place “was specifically to reform the contract.” The Crowley Act act allows the state to rewrite the contract – essentially create an entirely new agreement with teachers, and effectively crush the union’s ability to fight it. The new contract, fears Elorza and the people he had with him, will not go far enough.

A transformational contract would downplay seniority, and make the hiring and firing process of teachers easier, said Mayor Elorza, and it would give more power to school principals.

“Once this contract is finalized, this contract is going to govern our [children’s] education for the next 50 and 60 years in the City of Providence,” said Mayor Elorza.

UpriseRI asked why the City should expect a say in the contract, given that the City allowed the State to takeover the PPSD two years ago.

“All we’re asking for here today is let us see the details of it before it’s made final,” said Mayor Elorza. “How are you going to make decisions that’s going to impact us for 50 and 60 years, without including us in the process?

“Then, once we see the contract, we can get into whether it’s transformational or not. But all we’re asking for here today is let us see the details of the contract, and let us provide some input before you sign the dotted line and make it official.”

“If there is no transformational contract, would you say the state takeover has been a failure?” asked UpriseRI.

“We are not going to accept anything less than a transformational contract,” said Mayor Elorza. As for declaring the state takeover a failure, “We will cross that bridge when we get there.”

Update:

Many people spoke at the rally:

Dr Rudolph Moseley, Founder and CEO of the National Student of Color STEM Initiative:

Pastor Shane Lee, Providence Baptist Church:

Raymond Two Hawks Watson, Providence Cultural Equity Initiative founder and CEO:

Wanda Brown, community leader and Providence parent

Providence City Councilmember Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) who is also running for Mayor of Providence:

Jim Vincent, President of the Providence NAACP:

Here’s Mayor Elorza’s full Q&A with the press:

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