Q&A: RI education commissioner on Providence teacher contract negotiations, funding for blind students

School Updates

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Providence Teachers Union remains in heated contract negotiations with the state.

Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green acknowledged the current contract is broken and they need to work together to fix it.

“We respect the teachers and we have put more money on the table than the teachers of Providence have ever been offered in any negotiation,” Infante-Green said during an interview on 12 News Now at 4. “We’re not trying to disrespect teachers in any certain way or form.”

Last month, the union voted “no confidence” in both Infante-Green and Providence Superintendent Harrison Peters after finding fault in their claims that the current contract created obstacles in hiring teachers of color.

“If we can’t interview a teacher for more than 20 minutes, if we can’t ask a teacher to do a lesson plan for us, I say this all the time: would you hire a chef without tasting their meal? I don’t think you would,” she explained. “Why is this any different? This is super important to us.”

Infante-Green also addressed a recent Target 12 report that the R.I. Department of Education recently pulled a $684,000 federal grant from the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities.

She said as a parent of a child who is developmentally disabled, she understands why parents are frustrated.

“No one is trying to short-change anyone,” Infante-Green said. “I think everyone is trying to work together to make sure services continue so parents can continue to receive services from the teachers that they trust.”

“I get it as a parent, and I think this is where we are and this is something we should have tackled as a state many years ago,” she continued. “There are a lot of things that could’ve been done better, but we’re all working to ensure that families have what they need for their students.”

Infante-Green said she’s been working with lawmakers to see if there is a way to secure state funding for the Sherlock Center.

“We want high-quality services for everyone, for all students in Rhode Island,” she said.

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