The City of Providence is a fiscal mess. The former Mayor, David Cicilline, is now a Congressman, but he left behind a huge budget gap which the new Mayor, Angel Taveras, and the Providence school district are struggling to cope with.
The Providence School Board has a vote set for tomorrow to send out dismissal notices to every teacher in the system. This does not mean that all the teachers will be laid off. Because state law requires notice by March 1 to teachers who face layoffs for the following school year, if the school district misses the deadline, it will lose the ability to reduce staff.
As reported by The Providence Journal:
The school district plans to send out dismissal notices to every one of its 1,926 teachers, an unprecedented move that has union leaders up in arms.
In a letter sent to all teachers Tuesday, Supt. Tom Brady wrote that the Providence School Board on Thursday will vote on a resolution to dismiss every teacher, effective the last day of school.
In an e-mail sent to all teachers and School Department staff, Brady said, “We are forced to take this precautionary action by the March 1 deadline given the dire budget outline for the 2011-2012 school year in which we are projecting a near $40 million deficit for the district,” Brady wrote. “Since the full extent of the potential cuts to the school budget have yet to be determined, issuing a dismissal letter to all teachers was necessary to give the mayor, the School Board and the district maximum flexibility to consider every cost savings option, including reductions in staff.” State law requires that teachers be notified about potential changes to their employment status by March 1.
Needless to say, the unions are not happy at this precautionary move, even though the move is dictated by a deadline the pro-union legislature imposed on school districts to protect teachers. The head of the Providence teachers union has compared the announcement to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
From the ProJo link above (emphasis mine):
“This is beyond insane,” Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith said Tuesday night. “Let’s create the most chaos and the highest level of anxiety in a district where teachers are already under unbelievable stress. Now I know how the United States State Department felt on Dec. 7 , 1941.” That was the day the Japanese government bombed Pearl Harbor.
Smith, who has forged a groundbreaking collaboration with Brady that has received national recognition, said he believes this move comes directly from Mayor Angel Taveras, not the School Department. In a conversation with Taveras earlier Tuesday, Smith said the mayor also hinted at school closings but didn’t elaborate.
Rhode Island is one of the most heavily union states in the country. As I have written before, almost half of the state legislators either belong to unions or are public sector employees who participate in the state pension system. The City of Providence has lived off the largess of the state for years, and now that the state is cutting back aid to school districts, Providence must adjust.
This may not be as dramatic as what Gov. Scott Walker is doing in Wisconsin, but it is a sign that even pro-union states and cities simply do not have the money anymore to continue with the current public sector employment situation. Something has to give, and it is.