(The following is a flyer I wrote for the CDPE’s petition campaign. Please see my previous post by the same name for an older variation on the same theme. Also check out this excellent argument for an elected school board from an activist in Philadelphia.)
“It makes sense that those accountable are the same people who negotiate and sign agreements on behalf of the city and its taxpayers.” – Mayor Angel Taveras
With these ironic words, Mayor Taveras justified his latest power grab over the Providence Public School Department (PPSD). The PPSD has been overseen by a board appointed by the mayor since 1980. In his first six months in office, Mayor Taveras used this same mayor-appointed board, first to fire all Providence teachers, then to close down five schools despite 100% opposition to the plan from parents and teachers.
Taveras had already taken most of the negotiating of the Providence Teachers’ Union contract out of the hands of the School Board. But his power grab was made official in the closing hours of the 2011 General Assembly session, when a bill introduced by State Sen. Paul Jabour placed sole responsibility for negotiating the contract in the mayor’s hands. This bill did not apply to any other school district in Rhode Island. Of course, that’s because all other school districts (except Central Falls) already have elected school boards.
This does not, of course, mean that those other districts don’t have problems with their school boards, or that an elected board is a panacea for all the problems of public education. But an elected School Board puts one more check on the power of top officials and their corporate backers. It can be an important tool for parents, teachers and community members to actually have a say in how public education is run in our city. And in this context, it will be a defeat for the Mayor and his wealthy backers, and a victory for those of us fighting back against the cuts!
The Coalition to Defend Public Education calls on all Providence residents to join in our struggle to get an elected school board. We are circulating an official petition (only registered Providence voters are eligible to sign) demanding a change in the city charter to allow for an elected school committee.
Please sign the petition – and join the movement to defend public education!