Providence mayor fires back at superintendent over YouTube video

Providence mayor fires back at superintendent over YouTube video

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Mayor Brett Smiley is firing back at Superintendent Javier Montañez, saying he was disappointed when the school leader posted a video to YouTube criticizing the mayor over funding.


“A YouTube video released at 10 at night is not how adults should negotiate over funding,” Smiley told Target 12 on Tuesday.

The response comes after Montañez posted the video last week, urging people to contact Smiley’s office over what he described as a lack of city support to finance the schools.

“The mayor’s proposed budget shortchanges Providence Public Schools by over $27 million,” Montañez said in the video.

Smiley is pushing back, noting that he’s proposed $133 million for the schools, representing a $3 million increase compared to this year. The problem-riddled school district has been under state control since 2019 when a consultant issued a report detailing a litany of issues from crumbling infrastructure to unsanitary conditions inside schools.

The state has since been responsible for running the schools while the city provides financial support.

“We all agree that the Providence schools have been underfunded historically,” Smiley said. “But we’re not going to right that wrong in one budget year. It’s both not possible and not responsible.”

In a June 6 letter penned by PPSD’s Deputy Superintendent Zack Scott to the Providence City Council, Scott explained the district’s budget assumes $147.7 million in city aid, meaning there is a $14.7 million gap with the city’s current proposal.

“If the increase in state aid holds and the city does not increase funding, PPSD will still have a revenue gap of $11.7 million generated by underfunding from the city,” Scott said. “To be absolutely clear, PPSD’s proposed budget that includes $147.7 million in city funding already assumes a significant number of cuts; if additional funding is not provided, PPSD will need to make additional cuts to account for the gap in city revenue.”

The school district is struggling with a funding gap that’s been exacerbated by the drying up of federal COVID-relief funds that the state chose to help pay for everything from operations to staffing.

Dozens of non-tenured teachers lost their jobs this spring after the district didn’t renew their contracts.

Montañez has hinted that there could be additional job cuts, school closures and other ramifications if the Smiley administration doesn’t give them more money.

In the meantime, Smiley said the district should do a better job dealing with its finances.

“They have to manage their budget just like I have to manage my budget,” he said. “We’re doing the most we can to get them additional funding.”

PPSD had been slated to get a $300,000 cut to its $282 million in state aid under Gov. Dan McKee’s state budget proposal, but the R.I. House’s budget increased aid to Providence by $11.7 million.

District spokesperson Jay Wegimont told Target 12 that PPSD had already incorporated an $8.7 million increase in state aid in its proposed budget “based on updates to revenue projections in March due to enrollment changes over the course of the year.”

“If the increase in state aid holds and the city does not increase funding, PPSD will still have a revenue gap of $11.7M generated by underfunding from the city,” Wegimont added.

Smiley also confirmed he’s been interviewed by state-hired consultants who are examining whether the city is ready to take back control of the school district. The mayor said the city isn’t ready and his administration would need at last a year to prepare.

“If they tried to give me the schools back in September, I’d say no; that would be reckless,” Smiley said. “But if we had a year to get ready, we would work very hard to solve all of the administrative problems that existed in the first place.”

Eli Sherman ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook.

Alexandra Leslie ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.