We applaud the West Side Public Education Coalition’s (WSPEC) asking tough, important questions of the Providence Public School Department. These relate to demographic changes in the South and West neighborhoods of the city, and the need for school seats in these areas. These are found at their website:
These follow on the heels of a recent article in the Providence Journal which points out that an increase in the (predominately Hispanic) population in Providence helped our state retain a Congressional Seat. See the following article:
WSPEC is also asking some serious questions about the decisions which led to the proposed school closings:
We are aware that everything is moving too fast. The School Board needs to make a decision by April 25th, so the Mayor can propose a budget by May 1st. We recognize that this deadline will allow the city to more rapidly determine which teachers will have their termination notices rescinded, and support that. While working to comply with these deadlines, we call upon the City and School administration to answer the community’s questions and concerns in a timely and satisfactory manner.
We ask that the Providence School Board be confident of the following before they cast any binding votes:
1. Are you confident that the schools you are moving children into are educationally adequate? If not, do funds exist to bring them to a level of educational adequacy?
2. Are you confident that a proper place has been found for each child displaced by the proposed closings? Mr. Jones had announced that kids would be distributed to schools that generally are closer to their homes and higher performing. Has that been modeled? Could School Board members and parents see maps similar to the Providence Plan maps used to justify the school closings, showing how children will be redistributed? How will parents be involved in the placement decisions? Is a plan in place to allow parents to request, or if necessary, contest, a placement?
3. Does the recommended closure plan provide a margin of flexibility beyond the stated capacity studies? For example, will the projected closures and reassignments permit enough space in the remaining buildings to continue important programs that currently exist in schools that are absorbing new students? Will the influx of students into other buildings force the closure of art or music classrooms, or other special services that are currently offered in those buildings? Will an influx of students substantially alter best practices, positive school cultures, or utilization of space in the schools that are absorbing them? Is there space in each building to accommodate a strand of children who can move through the building over time to graduate from the school? Will the new configuration provide some flexibility for anticipated demographic changes over the next few years?
4. Have all options been considered? Would a K-8 configuration in some buildings better suit the children’s and neighborhood’s needs? Could a step-wise approach be taken over the next 2 years? Are there other models not yet considered which could address the community’s desires about building utilization?
We also ask the following questions of our elected and appointed politicians:
1. Why are all students in Providence on the short end of the (financial) stick compared with children in other Rhode Island communities?
2. Why isn’t the new funding formula able to help maintain adequate educational facilities for all of our children in all of our neighborhoods?
3. Are there other City services/contracts/projects that could be altered so as to provide additional sources of financial support to our schools?
Under-funding our schools is under-funding our future.
All of our elected politicians should be working to answer these questions and help to provide a positive outcome for our students in this time of financial need!