Happy Saturday! Here’s another edition of my weekend column for WPRI.com — as always, send your takes, tips and trial balloons to tnesi@wpri.com and follow me on Twitter and on Facebook.

1. No big names have declared yet, but don’t be fooled: the 1st Congressional District race is well under way behind the scenes, as would-be candidates line up support and jockey for position. The veil will begin to lift on Monday, when Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos is expected to become the first prominent Democrat to enter the race. One reason to pull the trigger: with just $488 in her campaign account plus almost $150,000 in outstanding personal loans, Matos needs to begin fundraising fast. That’s in part to keep up with two other big names who are still playing Hamlet — Joe Shekarchi and Helena Foulkes, both of whom are having active but inconclusive discussions about whether to run. Shekarchi padded his $1.7 million campaign war chest at a well-attended Washington fundraiser on Wednesday, and he’d clearly love to be in Congress. But is he prepared to take the plunge, giving up his current power as House speaker and winding down his lucrative law practice? Foulkes is getting encouragement from Nancy Pelosi, who is practically an aunt to her, and isn’t worried about raising money or building an organization. But does she actually want to be in Congress, when it’s widely assumed she has her sights set on another gubernatorial bid in 2026? They’re not the only ones to keep an eye on. White House official Gabe Amo hasn’t ruled out a campaign, while Senate Education Committee Chair Sandra Cano told me Friday she is “seriously considering a run” and “getting very close” to a decision. The Pawtucket Democrat is aggressively soliciting support — and has no qualms about challenging Matos, dismissing suggestions that they might split the same vote. “I think that our communities of color have made a lot of progress,” Cano said, and having two Latinas competing for the seat is “a demonstration of that progress.”

2. There’s been a lot of talk about the urgent need to address pandemic-related learning loss and help kids get on track. Yet how much is that rhetoric turning into action? Take a look at the Providence school district, where my Target 12 colleagues Steph Machado and Eli Sherman have discovered nearly three dozen students with developmental delays aren’t receiving crucial educational support required under federal law. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green acknowledges the problem, but says the state-controlled district just can’t find enough trained teachers to do the work — even with $120 million of federal relief money available. Advocates say it’s a continuation of the problems in the Early Intervention program, created for the youngest kids with developmental delays, which had an unprecedented waitlist of nearly 900 families as of late November. “The staffing and funding crisis in early learning is spread across the entire sector from child care to Early Intervention to Head Start to Preschool Special Ed,” R.I. Kids Count chief Paige Clausius-Parks tweeted in response to the new Target 12 report. “Fixing this broken system requires investments and commitment to the educators who serve our youngest children.” A trio of state senators reacted to the story Friday by calling on the General Assembly to take action.

3. Indeed, personnel shortages seem to be straining essential services everywhere you look. Another example: pediatricians, as my colleague Adriana Rozas Rivera reported this week. “The ranks are just not being replaced, so as pediatricians are getting older in Rhode Island and retiring there aren’t people that are filling, backfilling and opening practices,” warns Dr. Peter Pogacar, vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Rhode Island chapter. How to think about all this? Longtime Nesi’s Notes reader Kevin Hively passes along this smart paper by Henry H. McVey of KKR, who writes: “Generational demographics, less cross border mobility, and rapid technological change represent structural forces in the developed markets that, we believe, will make labor the ‘eye of the tiger’ for governments, employers, and investors for the foreseeable future.”

4. Eye on Congress … Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse joined just 12 of their fellow Senate Democrats in voting to uphold D.C.’s controversial new criminal code, the same day the GOP bought digital ads attacking Seth Magaziner for the same position; the senators said they partly wanted to be “a unified delegation” … a New York Times story on Whitehouse’s plan to use the Budget Committee chairmanship to address climate change included notably positive quotes about him from GOP fossil-fuel consultant Frank MaisanoJake Auchincloss was the only one among Southeast New England’s four House Democrats who voted in favor of removing U.S. troops from Syria; Magaziner, David Cicilline and Bill Keating voted to keep them there.

5. Frank Corrente, one of the key figures in the Plunder Dome scandal that brought down Buddy Cianci, has died at the age of 94. Corrente was a top aide to Cianci when he was caught accepting a bribe on an infamous black-and-white surveillance video. (That video, in fact, was what led to Jim Taricani’s criminal conviction when he refused to reveal his source.) Our Tim White interviewed retired Projo reporter Mike Stanton, who literally wrote the book on Cianci, for a Corrente obituary that aired Thursday night. “There was a parlor game in Providence during Operation Plunder Dome — was Frank going to flip?” Stanton told Tim. “And everybody knew if Frank flipped on Buddy, Buddy was going away for a long time — he had the goods on Buddy. But Frank was old-school. He was from the North End; his father worked in a macaroni factory. He actually once said to a guy, ‘You know, I don’t care if I go to jail as long as they put on my gravestone that he was a standup guy.’ And Frank did keep his mouth shut.”

6. Providence’s new police chief, Col. Oscar Perez, sits down with Steph Machado for a wide-ranging interview on the latest episode of WPRI.com’s Pulse of Providence.

7. People on the move: Sydney Diewald, who won praise as Governor McKee’s campaign finance director last year, has been tapped as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s new Northeast finance director. She’ll be in charge of fundraising efforts for New York — ground zero in 2024’s fight for U.S. House control, and home base of new Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries — as well as New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

8. Are colleges ready for the era of ChatGPT? Kim Kalunian looks at its rapid rise here.

9. After seven years of debate and discord, the Fane Tower project is officially dead.

10. Few if any companies have more effect on the news environment in Southeast New England than Gannett, formed by the highly leveraged 2019 merger of USA Today’s venerable owner with GateHouse. Almost every daily in our region is in the company’s clutches: The Providence Journal, the Newport Daily News, the New Bedford Standard-Times, the Fall River Herald News and the Taunton Gazette are all Gannett papers. Two reports this week demonstrated just how badly things are going at the company, with Axios revealing it has cut nearly half its staff since 2019 and Nieman Lab showing its papers are losing circulation much faster than those owned by other chains. In the quarter-century since the Projo first came under out-of-state control, there have been many discussions about returning Rhode Island’s flagship paper to local ownership, so far to no avail. But is another opportunity on the horizon? Axios quoted Gannett CEO Mike Reed saying the company “would entertain bids on any of our markets.”

11. It’s a testament to the continued high esteem in which Jack White is held 18 years after his death that news of his Radio & TV Hall of Fame induction was frequently met with this response: “I can’t believe Jack wasn’t in the Hall of Fame already!” Indeed. As another iconic Rhody investigator, the late Jim Taricani, put it in his 2005 obituary: “Jack White was a straightforward, no-hype reporter who got it right. He was humble to a fault, and went out of his way to help younger reporters learn their trade. … He was my mentor, and his standard of excellence was something I have always looked up to, and I always will.” The Hall of Fame dinner on Sept. 21 is going to be an extra special one for all of us at WPRI 12, since Jack will be posthumously inducted alongside two of our other greats, Danielle North and Pam Watts. Congratulations to all of this year’s honorees.

12. Two up-and-coming Rhody reporters got people talking this week: 89.3 FM’s Nina Sparling discovered how Woonsocket is blocking tax-sale protections for its residents, while EcoRI’s Colleen Cronin spotlighted how Little Compton residents are struggling with the housing shortage there. (Cronin, a Brown Daily Herald alum, is working for EcoRI as a Report for America corps member.)

13. How could a Dominion victory over Fox News affect defamation law in the U.S.?

14. Before Tom Brady, there was Joe Montana. The 49ers legend is 66 now, and ESPN’s Wright Thompson is out with a portrait of him that’s well worth your time.

15. Set your DVRs: This week on Newsmakers — Providence Police Col. Oscar Perez. Watch Sunday at 5:30 a.m. on WPRI 12 and 10 a.m. on Fox Providence, or listen on the radio Sunday at 6 p.m. on WPRO. You can also subscribe to Newsmakers as a podcast on iTunes (or wherever you get your podcasts). See you back here next Saturday morning.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook