The union leader’s assessment is right on target: This is, indeed, a “back-door Wisconsin.” The Providence school board just eviscerated the union contract so they can fire the most experienced (and most expensive) teachers at the end of the school year — instead of laying them off. This move also probably denies them unemployment benefits. This is just shameless:
PROVIDENCE — After two hours of contentious discussion, the School Board voted 4 to 3 Thursday night to send out termination notices to each of the city’s 1,926 public school teachers.
More than 700 teachers jammed a high school gymnasium to tell school officials that their hearts were broken, their trust violated and their futures as teachers jeopardized.
“How do we feel? Disrespected,” said Julie Latessa, a special-needs teacher, before the vote. “We are broken. How do you repair the damage you have done today?”
Every teacher received a certified letter from the School Department on Thursday informing them that they might be terminated at the end of the school year. It also said the School Board would vote on the proposed dismissals at Thursday night’s meeting, which was moved to the Providence Career and Technical Academy to accommodate the huge turnout.
Many of the teachers were caught off guard by Mayor Angel Taveras’ decision to terminate teachers instead of laying them off. Last night, speakers questioned the mayor’s rationale: a $40-million school budget deficit and a March 1 deadline by which the School Department must notify teachers if their jobs are in jeopardy.
“This is a quasi-legal power grab,” said Richard Larkin, a teacher at Classical High School. “You want to pick and choose teachers. Well, we will not be bullied.”
[…] Teachers begged the School Board to issue layoffs rather than fire them outright because, under the layoff provisions, teachers are recalled based on seniority. There is no guarantee that seniority would be used to bring back any of the fired teachers. School leaders have been vague about exactly how seniority will play out in the case of terminations.
Before the vote, several School Board members explained their reasons for supporting or rejecting the motion to dismiss:
Philip Gould said he believes that Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith is committed to serious and meaningful school reform, adding that if “we do this, it will be detrimental to the children of this district.”
[…] Earlier Thursday, Smith called the terminations “an attack on labor and an attack on collective bargaining.”
“This is a back-door Wisconsin,” Smith said, referring to the weeklong protests in Madison by labor unions. “We don’t know why we’re being fired. The mayor says he needs flexibility. Can you buy that? I don’t know of any other district that has done this.”
Thursday night, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called the possible dismissals “shocking,” and said the move will “disrupt the education of all students and the entire community.”
Superintendent Brady has said that the majority of teachers will be rehired but could not give any details until the mayor’s special panel completes its report on the city’s financial status.
Meanwhile, the TEA teachers union in Tennessee rallied Saturday to preserve collective bargaining:
More than 3,000 people marched on downtown Nashville to protest legislation that would end collective bargaining for teachers in Tennessee.
Democratic lawmakers, union representatives and education activists denounced the Republican-sponsored bills as a political attack to destroy the Democratic Party’s fund-raising and voter base.
“This is not about budgets. This is a political ballgame. They want to silence the votes of teachers,” said Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association. The Arizona math teacher flew in for Tennessee’s rally as he has for others in Wisconsin and the Northwest.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner of Nashville warned that Republicans won’t stop with dismantling teachers’ unions and bargaining rights. “They’ll be coming after police officers, firefighters, construction workers and service workers.”