The state takeover of Providence schools just entered its fifth school year, and the conversation about when Governor Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green will return Rhode Island’s largest school district to local control will ramp up in the coming months.
At tonight’s Council on Elementary and Secondary Education meeting, officials from RIDE will, for the first time, present the state’s timeline for creating regulations that will outline when and how the state will end its oversight of a school district and give it back to local officials to run.
So what the heck does that mean?
A state law passed in 2022 essentially requires RIDE to be more transparent about evaluating the intervention in Providence (and any future state takeover) and deciding when it will come to an end. According to the timeline the council will see tonight, there will be a 30-day public comment period in November, and RIDE will conduct a full review of Providence schools in the spring.
If all goes according to plan, by next summer Infante-Green will have to make one of three possible recommendations to the council: Renew Providence’s existing turnaround plan, create a new turnaround plan, or give control back to Mayor Brett Smiley and the school committee.
This doesn’t mean that Providence will automatically assume control of its school system beginning next school year. While some of these conversations will play out in public, McKee, Infante-Green, and Smiley will likely spend a lot of time behind closed doors negotiating how the actual transition will play out.
If you zoom out, the takeover in Providence has been plagued by bad luck (pandemic), untimely transition (former governor Gina Raimondo’s departure), poor decision-making (the commissioner’s handpicked superintendent was pushed out), and self-sabotage from the Providence Teachers Union (which actively opposes every decision at every moment).
At the same time, record investments are being made in school construction and other upgrades, and McKee is staking his entire legacy on dramatically improving student outcomes in Rhode Island by 2030. He understands that his goals of catching Massachusetts in test scores and attendance rates by the time he leaves office won’t happen unless he and Infante-Green right the ship in the capital city.
Simply put, there is a lot riding on the future of the takeover and the eventual transition back to Providence control.
This story first appeared in Rhode Map, our free newsletter about Rhode Island that also contains information about local events, links to interesting stories, and more. If you’d like to receive it via email Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.