PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WJAR) — Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is calling for the state to take further action in dealing with the Providence public school system.
He stood with parents and community leaders Wednesday to ask the state to exercise what he calls their "full authority" under the Crowley Act to reform the Providence Teachers Union contract.
"It's been a waste of time being at the negotiation table," said Elorza. "There is no way the teachers' union is going to agree to the kinds of transformational change that we need."
A small group of parents echoed his remarks.
"We keep pouring money in and keep changing leadership, and we keep changing strategy, but we never change the contract," said Raymond Two Hawks Watson, who has two kids who will soon be entering the system.
"We demand a teacher contract that centers the need of our children," said Ramona Santos Torres, who co-founded PLEA, Parents Leading for Education Equity.
Under Elorza's leadership, the state took control of the school system.
Elorza said he feels the state can do more by fully invoking the Crowley Act, which allowed the state to take control.
"File in court for a declaratory judgement, tell us what the state gives us the power to do or just go ahead and invoke the Crowley Act and do it, reform the terms," said Elorza.
But the Providence Teachers Union president, Maribeth Calabro, said that cannot happen under the act that was invoked in November.
"There is nothing the Crowley Act that speaks to contracts," explained Calabro. "There is nothing in the Crowley Act that speaks to negotiations. It's a reach for him to even think that that is part of what the Crowley Act says."
Elorza said seniority is the heart of the problem with the contract, but said he believes the structure is flawed, too.
"Any deviation of that can be grieved which creates a massive headache for principals and doesn't allow them the flexibility they need," said Elorza.
Calabro said state law impacts seniority. She said principal control is also a misunderstanding. Contentious discussions include the evaluation system and the ability to hire.
Calabro said the union is looking forward to the meeting.
"We have a very progressive package on the table that is good for students, has student voice, has parent voice, has community opportunities," said Calabro.
In a statement, McKee said they are staying in negotiations and he is confident both sides can come to an agreement.
Elorza said the contract must be transformative for the district in the end.
"We're also here to let the state know that parents, the community also has to agree to the terms of the contract," said Elorza.