The Providence, RI, School Board voted tonight to send layoff notices to every teacher in the school district, approving a plan about which I posted earlier, Providence Teachers Union Head Compares Layoff Notices To Pearl Harbor Attack.
The notices are required to be sent by March 1 under state law, for the next school year. The school district does not know how many teachers actually will be laid off, but complied with the deadline to give it flexibility in dealing with a massive budget deficit.
As reported by The Providence Journal:
After a raucous discussion, the Providence School Board Thursday night voted 4-3 to send letters of termination to the 1,926 teachers in the city’s school district.
More than 700 teachers jammed the 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 Letessa, a special needs teacher. “We are broken. How do you repair the damage you have down today?”
Every one of the district’s teachers received a certified letter from the school department Thursday informing them that they might be terminated at the end of the school year. It also said that the School Board would vote on the proposed dismissals at Thursday’s meeting, which was moved to the career and technical high school to accommodate the huge turnout.
Rhode Island may be the next Wisconsin, indeed, except that labor unions — which all but control the state legislature — have much greater power and Rhode Island is overwhelmingly Democratic.
For a comparison of Rhode Island’s fiscal problems with those in Wisconsinc, consider these statistics:
In Wisconsin, the projected deficit for fiscal year 2012 is considerably higher than Rhode Island’s—$1.8 billion compared to $290 million, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But when the deficit is viewed as a percent of their respective 2011 budgets, the two states are closer. In Wisconsin, the 2012 deficit equals 12.8 percent of what is being spent in the current year. In Rhode Island, the deficit is 9.9 percent.
When it comes to unfunded pension liabilities, however, Rhode Island is actually worse off than Wisconsin. The Badger State has an unfunded pension liability in the millions, while Rhode Island’s liability is in the billions—$252.6 million versus $4.3 billion, according to the Pew Center on the States. The center rates Wisconsin’s state pension system as a “solid performer” while Rhode Island is labeled as having “serious concerns.”
The finances of the City of Providence are a particular problem, and the City’s finances are being monitored under a newly created state mechanism which could — as happened with the City of Central Falls — lead to a type of receivorship in which the state would take over city finances:
For months, the city’s financial condition has been labeled everything from “concerning” to “a crisis,” but Governor Chafee and his staff say full intervention by the state is not necessary.
The state is helping the city, at Mayor Angel Taveras’ request.
Chafee is “aware of the severity of the challenges facing the city” and is committed to “provide advice and technical assistance,” said Michael Trainor, Chafee’s spokesman.
That is less than what the state did in other distressed communities — Woonsocket, Pawtucket and North Providence — in 2010. It is also different from assigning an overseer, the first step in Rhode Island’s receivership act.
David Cicilline, the prior Mayor of Providence who left the City in such bad shape, was elected to Congress in November, filling the seat previously held by Patrick Kennedy.