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The truth about the new Providence Teachers Union contract

Will it move the needle for a district that needs dramatic improvements in student results? Here are a few takeaways.

The Providence Teachers Union held a rally opposing school reopening outside the Rhode Island Department of Education building last September.
The Providence Teachers Union held a rally opposing school reopening outside the Rhode Island Department of Education building last September.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

This article originally appeared in the Rhode Map newsletter. If you would like to get the newsletter as a convenient e-mail Monday through Friday, just sign up here.


Happy Thursday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Dan McGowan and I propose that Governor McKee and Mayor Elorza race, play one-on-one basketball, and then wrestle to settle their beef. Follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan or send tips to Dan.McGowan@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 153,954 confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, after adding 145 new cases. The overall daily test-positive rate was 2.6 percent. The state announced no new deaths, keeping the total at 2,739. There were 29 people in the hospital, and 655,786 residents were fully vaccinated. Check our dashboard for more data.


While Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Governor Dan McKee were going all Macho Man-Hulk Hogan at WaterFire last night over the teachers’ union contract, I was actually reading the proposed agreement.

The contract, which is expected to be approved by the union on Friday, includes modest raises, a one-time $3,000 payment for the teachers, and a handful of changes that are designed to give principals more autonomy, improve lesson planning, and crack down on the abuse of sick leave. You can read my full story on the deal here.

So will it move the needle for a district that needs dramatic improvements in student outcomes? Here are a few takeaways.

It’s not nothing: Because of the political battle lines that have been drawn, you’re going to hear Elorza complain that the proposed contract isn’t a game changer, especially when you consider that the state now controls the city schools. But if Elorza had managed to get four mandatory days of professional development for teachers and more flexibility for principals to hire teachers in the 2018 contract he negotiated, he’d have likely hailed it as “transformational.”


No contract was going to fix all of the challenges in Providence schools, but it’s going to improve teacher morale (don’t underestimate how important this is for students) and it includes enough management-friendly provisions to be considered better than what is currently in place.

It’s not everything: Of course, “good enough” is not what Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green wanted when she warned that “something drastic” would happen if a deal couldn’t get completed by the end of 2020, and it’s probably not worth all the money the state spent on lawyers to help negotiate the contract. It doesn’t add more time to the school day or the school year in a meaningful way. And while requiring teachers to attend parent-teacher conferences is going to be portrayed as a win, the majority of teachers were already doing this.

The bigger picture: The worst-case scenario was that Providence was going to start another school year without a teachers’ union contract, and a work-to-rule scenario where teachers refused to do anything that wasn’t explicitly spelled out in their expired contract was going to play out (this happened a few years ago). That potential crisis has been averted.

We also know that Providence is moving forward with the opening of several new charter schools despite opposition from the union, which means there will be several thousand more Providence children attending high-quality schools over the next decade no matter what happens with the state takeover of the school system.



🎤 Podcast: Don’t miss the latest edition of Rhode Island Report, where Ed Fitzpatrick interviews Rhode Island civil rights icon Clifford R. Montiero. Read more. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, and Google Podcasts.

⚓ My latest column: Michael Solomon might be the unluckiest politician in Rhode Island, but he just dumped $250,000 into a campaign account as he gears up for another run for Providence mayor. Read more.

⚓ State authorities are quietly prosecuting a sexual assault case against a former Diocese of Providence priest, Brian Amaral reports. Read more.

⚓ While Governor McKee has not yet committed to requiring parts of Rhode Island to wear masks indoors, the state announced Wednesday that it will follow guidance from the federal government to recommend that all students, teachers, and staff wear masks in schools this fall. Read more.

⚓ The Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority is seeking proposals to study putting suicide prevention barriers on the state’s most iconic bridges. Read more.


Health: Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that he sees no need for Massachusetts to reinstate restrictions in response to rising COVID-19 cases, striking a contrast with President Joe Biden, who is urging Americans to mask up again and requiring many federal workers to get vaccinated. Read more.


Politics: Here’s what you should know about the proposed infrastructure bill that Congress will consider. Read more.

Environment: The wildfire smoke from Canada and the Western United States that rolled into New England this week should be considered a warning to all of us. Read more.

Sports: The Bruins just went on a free agent frenzy. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

BIRTHDAYS: Rhode Map readers, if you want a friend or family member to be recognized on Friday, send me an e-mail with their first and last name, and their age.

⚓ Governor McKee is holding another one of his Rhode Island 2030 discussions on Facebook Live at 5:30 p.m. Tonight’s focus is on small businesses.

⚓ The NBA Draft is scheduled for tonight, and Providence’s David Duke might be a second round pick. It starts at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

⚓ At 7 p.m., the New Shoreham Town Council could vote on a new COVID-19 ordinance to mitigate spread on Block Island. Here’s the agenda.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

Thanks for reading. Send comments and suggestions to dan.mcgowan@globe.com, or follow me on Twitter @DanMcGowan. See you tomorrow.

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Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.