Andrew Stewart recounts the alarming plans that Governor Gina Raimondo has in store for Providence public schools. She is a former venture capitalist who seems to have an instinctive suspicion of the public sector. What she has in mind, he says, is the planned demolition of the public schools.

He writes:

Someday, after the operatic cycle of Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo’s political career has reached its concluding note, it will be a masterpiece of neoliberal assault upon the public sector, the commons, and the fabric of the welfare state in America to behold. It is absolutely essential, in order for the faculty and the students of Providence to fight back and win in this contest, to form a broad-based coalition that is centered on the success of students and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline.

Right now, a multi-year media narrative, assembled by allegedly-liberal local news outlets, is being utilized in order to justify the anti-democratic takeover of public education. (I will offer a further analysis of this narrative in a future report that time and space bars me from providing here.)

Motivation stems a number of reasons, including because the Providence Teachers Union is one of the largest white collar educator unions in the state and its majority composition is white women, meaning success would have a ripple effect for female workers statewide; the PTU benefits and salary package is one of the most robust offerings in the entire state economy and serves as a useful high watermark for all female service and public sector economy workers, especially with paid maternity leave. Whereas suburban teacher unions play a peripheral role in the respective municipal political debates, Providence Teachers Union is a major force in statewide politics. Simultaneously, another front of this attack can be found in the halls of the Community College of Rhode Island, where Raimondo seeks to crush the unionized faculty owing to its large membership, the subject of a future report….

Right now, Providence Public School Department is being taken over by the state and the state’s newly-appointed (by Raimondo) Education Commissioner Angélica M. Infante-Green, an alumnus of the Jeb Bush education privatization project Chiefs for Change, which has seen in the past decade a revolving door installed into various Ed offices in RI. Interim Superintendent Fran Gallo, who has a history in the district, seems to occupy a rubber-stamp position. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza has recently moved to defund all other charter schools in the city so to move the money into his own personal project, the Achievement First Mayoral Academy, not unlike several other patterns of funding we have seen locally over the years whereupon the independent charters serve the purpose of creating good PR until they are defunded to make room for the big-box corporate players. Achievement First has a national reputation for abominable student abuses and their opaque, unaccountable budgetary processes pertaining to per-pupil expenditures have a distinct and negative impact on special needs and English Language Learner students both inside their charters and outside in the remaining non-privatized schools.

He reminds us that Raimondo’s campaign was funded by the hedge fund industry, which loves charter schools.

Raimondo ascended to her political position by starting out as the first woman elected Treasurer of Rhode Island. With a heavy war chest funded by the hedge fund industry, particularly Paul Tudor Jones, as well as Enron alum John Arnold, she walked into Treasury and saw the writing on the wall.

The Rhode Island Democratic Party was influenced since World War II by the diktats of ethnic Catholicism, with attendant anti-Communism, corruption, and conservatism. Treasury for decades had been run as little more than a bail-out fund for the state and its multiple ridiculous schemes, including failed real estate deals and other pay-offs that clearly violated the responsibility of not just a fiduciary but probably every sane child with a piggy bank.

With this in mind, Raimondo invested the state pension fund (which includes public school teacher contributions) into the hedge funds that in turn finance charter schools (Paul Tudor Jones’s Robin Hood Foundation finances Achievement First) [4], meaning that Providence teachers still to this day see a payroll deduction on their pay stub that finances the literal busting of their own union!

She was aided in this by donor John Arnold, who foisted upon the public, via the Pew Charitable Trust, a phony pension crisis narrative in the media [5] that was picked up by perceived non-partisan outlets like PBS. Raimondo is a pro at manufacturing a crisis to attack organized labor and this recent stab at PTU and Providence public schools bears striking resemblance to the pension heist of 2011.

Privatized education in Providence, he predicts, will be a cash cow for the corporate entities that feed off the misery of inner-city communities and schools.

The untold story, to which Stewart alludes, is not about failing schools, but about racism, structural inequality, white flight, and unexamined white supremacy. Nothing in Governor Raimondo’s plans will address root causes.