Responding to a recent Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDOT) decision to allow a 3000+ student expansion of Achievement First, a corporate charter school, the Providence Teacher’s Union (PTU) organized a rally in the courtyard of Central/Classical High School. Over 200 people attended the rally, mostly teachers but also students and parents. The people at the rally were united in their call to Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, who has the power to veto the expansion of Achievement First, but also sits on the board.
Achievement First right now stands to get $35 million dollars of education funds.
Plans were made to hold another rally on Valentine’s Day, when thousands of signed Valentines will be delivered to Mayor Elorza’s office imploring him to spend the money that might go to Achievement First on public schools instead.
Below are videos of the speakers at the rally:
We are here, said Maribeth Calabro, President of PTU, “to talk about saving Providence Schools.”
“We can’t just put a dollar sign on a child’s head and say, ‘In the future you’re going to make $100,000 so therefore I’m going to take money from that kid and give it to him instead.” said Mike Araujo of RI Jobs with Justice proclaimed, “Is that fair?”
“I’m here as a grateful parent,” said Sam Zurier, Providence City Councilor of Ward 2, “My three children went through Providence Public Schools. They received a quality education. They were blessed to have several of the teachers who are assembled here today.”
“You take every student who comes across your threshhold. You don’t have the luxury of saying, ‘I don’t want this child’ or ‘send this child somewhere else,'” said Frank Flynn, president of the RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (FIFTHP), “You supply the most quality education that you can with limited resources and unfortunately in many cases in buildings that are substandad…”
UMass Dartmouth history professor Mark Santow, speaking as a resident of Providence, not as a member of the Providence School Board, said, “I cannot imagine a worse time for us to be weakening our public institutions, especially one so central to our civic immune system and our future as a just society. We need to come together in Providence to defend our public schools, not eviscerate them.”
Josh Antuna of the Providence Student Union (PSU) had special words for teacher Mary Ann Russo at Hope High School. “When I was at Hope, I honestly didn’t really care that much about school, but when I was down she always kept me motivated and told me to keep my attitude up no matter what happens and she is the reason I became involved in PSU and became a better student.”
Noting the deteriorating physical conditions of public chool buildings, Classical High School student Jayleen Salcedo of the Providence Student Union (PSU) said “We need to rebuild our schools… If public schools are the problem, and we want to fix the problem, why don’t we just fix the public schools?”
Alex Lucini, PTU treasurer and organizer of the event, talked about love. “We love our kids,” said Lucini, “Please don’t let people tell you that we don’t love our students because we all know that you do.”