No one disputes that Providence schools have a long way to go. We all want to improve our schools. However, an elected school board, as proposed by Question 11, is not the solution for Providence schools. At a time when our schools are simply not meeting the needs of Providence kids, we are strongly against inserting more politics into Providence schools and are asking Providence voters to vote no on the general election ballot question #11.
Statewide, only roughly 30 percent of students are meeting grade-level expectations in reading. During a crisis like this, ballot questions regarding education need to be focused on topics that will transformationally impact outcomes for students, such as allowing principals to run their school buildings or incentivizing effective teachers. This proposal to create elections for school board members, actually, runs in the face of ample evidence, both in Rhode Island and nationally, that elected school boards are no better than appointed school boards at improving student results. And in some measures, they are worse.
We have all heard from parents who feel they don’t have an adequate voice in their children’s schools. But this proposal will not solve that problem. The resources that are required to campaign for office create significant new barriers. Time. Money. Political capital. Special interests. Running a campaign means buying ads, spending countless hours out speaking to voters, spending personal time organizing a team, and so many other steps. With all of those added barriers, who will be able to run for school board and who will be funding their campaigns?
We currently have a School Board Nominating Commission, which vets candidates and sends a list of suggested candidates to the mayor. The mayor nominates board members and the City Council, after a public hearing, votes to approve or reject a nominee. Responsibility for our schools rests with the mayor and City Council, who regularly face the voters of Providence.
Ideologically, the four of us disagree on some issues, but after getting together recently to discuss how Providence schools can best serve our families, we strongly agreed this is not the solution. And so when you vote in this year’s general election, whether early or on Election Day, we ask Providence residents this one question: Do you really think inserting more politics into Providence schools will deliver better outcomes for our kids? If you agree with us that the answer is No, we encourage you to vote No on question #11 on your general election ballot.
Jorge O. Elorza is the current mayor of Providence, and Brett Smiley is the city’s future mayor. Angel Taveras served as Providence mayor from 2010 to 2015, and Joseph R. Paolino Jr. served as the city’s mayor from 1984 to 1991.