PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ After hours of discussion, political debate and negotiations, the Providence Teachers Union overwhelmingly voted in favor of a new contract Friday evening.
The new collective bargaining agreement takes effect immediately and expires on Aug. 31, 2023.
“This contract is just the beginning of our work to produce better outcomes for Providence students,” Gov. Dan McKee said. “We need everyone on board to make it work. That means families, students, teachers, administrators, elected leaders and community members coming together to achieve a common goal – giving our students the very best opportunity to succeed.”
The three-year contract requires teachers to attend parent-teacher conferences, use their planning periods in specific ways and participate in at least four school functions per year outside the school day, something many teachers already did but was not required before.
The agreement also provides 1.5% retroactive pay raises for last school year, 2% raises for this upcoming school year, 2% raises in 2022 and 0.5% raises in 2023 on the day the contract expires. (The previous contract expired in August 2020.)
“I’m pleased we have worked in collaboration to reach an agreement that considers the best interests of our entire Providence Public Schools community,” Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said. “The goal has always been to provide Providence students a high-quality education and with this agreement we are better positioned to support our educators and school leaders while meeting the needs of our students and families.”
The collective bargaining agreement represents the first contract negotiated by state officials during the takeover of Providence schools and has fueled tensions between McKee and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza.
Elorza has continuously expressed his frustration regarding McKee’s lack of transparency in the negotiation process, especially after the governor announced last week neither he nor the union would disclose any details until it was finalized.
Everything came to a head Wednesday night when when Elorza angrily confronted McKee at an event marking the return of WaterFire.
Elorza no longer has authority over the school district or the teachers contract. Prior to the state takeover of the school district, such a contract would have been vetted by the City Council and discussed in public meetings, with testimony taken from the public before passage.
The mayor told 12 News Now anchor Kim Kalunian the revisions made to the new contract were marginal, and the city is “long past the point where we need marginal changes.”
“I know so many people who put all of their hopes and dreams for their family and their kids into our school department,” he continued, “and to see this opportunity thrown away … to make a difference in people’s lives for the next generation, it’s hard to see.”