In rain-soaked rally, Warwick parents call for ‘responsible’ education spending

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Despite the rainy conditions, a group of parents held a rally outside Warwick City Hall on Monday to call on the city to invest more in its public schools.

The protesters are pushing for more money in the proposed budget to go towards basic education materials – like teachers and books – rather than items that might be outside students’ basic needs, like wrestling mats and auditorium seats.

“It feels like we’re not investing in the students of the city,” said organizer Stephanie Shelton. “It seems that when given money, they don’t allocate the money to the basic fundamentals.”

The group also called for smaller class sizes and improvements to what some parents, students and teachers say are poor classroom conditions. They also expressed dissatisfaction with Warwick Schools Superintendent Philip Thornton and called for his resignation.

“We do need money for our schools. The question is, ‘how is it being spent, and are they being good stewards of that?'” asked parent Carol Carr. “In most people’s opinion, the answer is they are not.”

Thornton said Monday morning that the budget recommended by Mayor Scott Avedisian provides for a $3 million increase in the operating budget for the school department. $2.4 million will be set aside to settle a teacher contract, he said.

Other improvements planned for the district include 1-to-1 computers for all high school students in the coming year, as well as interactive flat panel displays for high school classrooms, to match middle school ratios and equipment.

School building upgrades and repairs are also needed and have been discussed at length, Thornton said; more meetings are expected in coming months to examine capital needs — such as repairs to roofs, windows and boilers. A bond issue for that capital spending is expected to go on the ballot for the fall of 2018.