local feature

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island officially has a new education commissioner after a vote Monday to confirm Governor Gina Raimondo’s nominee, Ken Wagner.

So far, reaction to Wagner has been optimistic, but some teachers have expressed reservations because he lacks experience in the classroom. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison sat down with Larry Purtill, a member of the State Board of Education and the president of the National Education Association Rhode Island, one of two teachers’ unions in the state.

Providence Business News Editor Mark Murphy joins Rhode Island Public Radio's Dave Fallon for our weekly business segment The Bottom Line.

This week, the two are joined by Scott Wolf, the executive director of Grow Smart RI about "Rebuild RI." That's the new tax credit program created under the Raimondo administration to spur development in the state. Wolf discusses what sorts of projects are covered, as well as key similarities and differences between "Rebuild" and the old historic tax credit program.

When to listen:

AFGE / flickr

Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders has become the leading challenger to Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination. Rhode Island Public Radio political analyst Scott MacKay, a former Vermont reporter, spent a few days in the Green Mountain state parsing the Sanders campaign.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

The future of health care for the poor, a review of Rhode Island’s criminal justice system, and politicking in Vermont…that’s part of the conversation this week on Political Roundtable. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Kristin Gourlay hosts; Ian Donnis is away. We're joined, as always, by URI political science professor Maureen Moakley and RIPR's political analyst Scott MacKay.

Summer in Rhode Island means time to grab a book and sink your toes into the sand, or head out to the nearest lawn chair. For a few summer reading tips, Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison turned to Nicole Merola, chair of the Department of Literary Arts and Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Nicole Merola's summer book picks:


"I've just started it, and I have to say that I'm really kind of engrossed in the way that he is weaving together music, musical composition, chemistry and bioterrorism."

Gay rights activists are asking how to re-focus their movement now that same-sex marriage is legal across the country. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Emily Wooldridge spoke with several Ocean State residents to find out what they think. 

She filed this audio postcard with the voices of Newport native Rodney Davis and his partner Brian Mills, Anthony Masselli and Providence Wendy Becker and her 12-year-old son.


Work is the fulcrum of social mobility in our country. In Rhode Island, lawmakers have approved an increase in the minimum wage. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay says that falls far short of what’s needed to help the working poor.

Democrats claim to be the party of working people. Come campaign season, Democratic candidates boast at every turn that they care about ``working families’’ more than Republicans, the party Democrats brand as the tool of the rich and the one-percent.

Steven Richard / Theatre by the Sea

When “My Fair Lady” debuted on Broadway in 1956 it was an immediate classic. The “perfect musical” one review said. But how does this oft-repeated winner look today, almost 60 years later? Bill Gale says the version now at Theater by the Sea lets you know why “My Fair Lady” is still singing.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Charter schools dodged a bullet, this month when Rhode Island lawmakers ended the legislative session without agreement between House and Senate bills that could have changed the way charter schools are funded and restricted their ability to grow. 

Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison asked Tim Groves, the head of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, whether he thinks public opinion is turning against charter schools.

John Bender / RIPR

The first man to sail non-stop around the world by himself (in 1968) is in Newport this week preparing for the Transatlantic Ocean Race, which kicks off this weekend.

Now at age 76, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is skippering is one of nearly 40 teams participating in the 3,000 nautical mile race from Newport to Cornwall England. He sat down with Rhode Island Public Radio’s John Bender on his boat in Newport harbor to talk about his life-long career in sailing.

Chris Hondros / Getty Images

The shooting death of nine people at Emanuel AME church in Charleston, South Carolina, has raised a nationwide discussion about the Confederate battle flag. The flag is prominently displayed in many parts of the American South, including the South Carolina Statehouse. Many people are calling for its removal, but some say its cultural touchstone, that should remain.

Rhode Island Public Radio’s Scott MacKay got some insight from Brown Professor Matthew Guterl who specializes in race after the civil war.

Chuck Hinman / RIPR

For this month’s Rhode Island Artscape, we take a visit to the State Archives in downtown Providence. The agency has unveiled a new exhibit dedicated to odd and unexpected state artifacts. The historic objects range from counterfeit colonial money, to the death certificate of famed Providence author H.P. Lovecraft. Rhode Island Public Radio's morning host, Chuck Hinman went on a private tour of the exhibit with State Archivist Gwenn Stearn.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Providence Superintendent Susan Lusi opens up about her tenure in the state’s largest school district, as she prepares to step down. She spoke with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison at the district central office before her departure next week.

While she says she unequivocally believes she has made a difference, Lusi admits that Providence's student test scores leave a lot to be desired.

Ambar Espinoza / RIPR

Last night, friends and families gathered at a historically black church in Providence to honor the nine people who were murdered at a prayer meeting in Charleston, South Carolina. This interfaith service was both a memorial and a call for social justice. 

Eight clergy members from different churches walked down the aisle together at Olney Street Baptist Church before a racially mixed group of about 100 people.

Nine candles stood at an altar to honor the nine people killed in the Charleston church shooting.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

One of Rhode Island’s most controversial school leaders is retiring. Fran Gallo, the superintendent of Central Falls public schools, steps down on Friday. Her tenure includes the firing and re-hiring of high school teachers, which thrust Rhode Island into the center of a national debate over public education. Gallo sat down with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison at her office in Central Falls to look back on the firings, and what she’s learned from Rhode Island’s smallest school district.