Education Hell Revisited

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Remember that report on Providence schools? Nothing has changed.

By
RI State Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green. PHOTO: RYAN T. CONATY FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Rhode Island’s politicians this summer made a show of decrying the shameful condition of Providence public schools. But with the school year beginning again, the city’s progressive mayor has returned to keeping kids prisoners in the failing schools.

Readers may recall some of the ghastly details—peeling lead paint, vermin, brown water, leaking sewage—from a Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy 93-page report on Providence schools commissioned by the state. The physical disrepair seems to be a real-life metaphor for the degeneration in professional standards and student learning.

Examiners observed students during class chatting with friends, talking on the phone and watching YouTube videos. “Kindergartners punch each other in the face—with no consequences,” one teacher said. About a quarter of teachers were absent at least 10% of the school year. Student test scores are the worst in Rhode Island and lower than districts in other states with similar demographics. “Economically disadvantaged students experienced decreasing rates of proficiency as they progressed through school, with a low of only 6.2% proficiency by the 8th grade,” the report noted.

State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo in March, met with hundreds of parents and students. “I think the big takeaway is things are actually worse than the report indicates,” she concluded.

She added that “the district’s performance is continuing to decline despite increased interventions and funding.” Providence’s school budget has increased by nearly a quarter since 2011. Last month the commissioner proposed appointing a new superintendent and endorsed more charters. Good for her.

But now Mayor Elorza is threatening to block an expansion of Rhode Island’s top-performing Achievement First charter network. About four times as many students at Achievement First schools meet or exceed state English standards than at traditional Providence schools. Achievement First’s newest school last year ranked number one in the state—despite spending about $1,700 less per pupil than traditional schools.

The mayor says he worries that a new Achievement First charter could trigger a prison break by parents that drains money from traditional schools. Due to an oddity in state law, the mayor chairs the Achievement First board in Rhode Island and can stop its expansion. He wants to force a charter school in Providence to close before letting Achievement First add an additional school.

The mayor is holding the children and charter schools hostage while he tries to squeeze more money from the state for his failing schools. Ms. Infante-Green shouldn’t pay his blackmail. The Governor and Legislature can strip him of his power over charters before he does more harm to children.

Opinion: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Gives Up on Minority Kids

Opinion: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Gives Up on Minority Kids
Mayor de Blasio may identify as a progressive champion of the underprivileged, but the reality is that he’s blocking the surest path to the middle class by relegating the city’s poor to inferior schools. Image: Richard Drew / AP

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