March 30, 2011

How the Game Is Stacked for the Teachers' Unions

Justin Katz

Predictably, teacher-legislator James Sheehan (D., North Kingstown) is vocally opposed to Providence Schools' attempt to save the necessary money while causing the least amount of harm to students. At bottom, Providence's approach is an attempt to keep the teachers who offer the most value per dollar, which will also allow it to keep more teachers, because the highest-paid and most-senior teachers are not necessarily immune. Sheehan thinks that the law requires Providence to raise taxes and cut services so that it can keep its most expensive teachers whether or not they're the most effective:

In the Richard Phelan v. Burrillville School Committee decision, on Aug. 26, 1991, the commissioner of education held that: In conducting our inquiry as to whether a bona fide financial exigency exists in a particular case, we will consider such factors as the money-saving measures other than tenured-teacher dismissals implemented by the school committee, and the proportion that the amount saved as a result of the school committee's money-saving measures, including the amount saved from the dismissal of tenured teachers, bears to the budgetary shortfall. In short, a school board/committee may only fire as many teachers as is necessary to cover the budgetary shortfall.

Firing all Providence teachers does not meet the latter standard of proportionality, especially when one considers that the dismissal of some hundreds of teachers, as opposed to all 1,926 teachers, would likely have been sufficient to cover the expected school-budget shortfall. Moreover, even these dismissals do not take into account the savings generated from the proposed school closings as well as other cost saving measures.

If financial exigency does not permit the mass terminations of all Providence teachers, as it appears, then Providence teachers must be dismissed according to the contract, namely on a seniority basis.

I'd argue that the district really does have to fire all teachers so that it can rehire the faculty that it requires to meet its budgetary and educational requirements. That there is likely to be substantial overlap of the new faculty with the terminated one is merely a testament to the value of district-specific experience.

Of course, the longer-term necessity is for school committees to stop agreeing to contracts that attempt to lock them into stultifying personnel practices. Unfortunately, Rhode Island's so-called leaders seem not to recognize pitfalls until they hurtle off of them. Or perhaps too many of them, like Sheehan, have a financial interest in maintaining the practices that are pushing the state to its doom.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

This is an example of why learning history (and from history) is so important. Central Falls anyone?

Posted by: Rosie at March 30, 2011 10:09 AM

I think you should add in the line from Colbert:

"The facts have a well know liberal bias."

Posted by: Pat Crowley at March 30, 2011 12:39 PM

Yeah, like any of these union stooges would run their own businesses or even their households with such perverted rationale.
By the way, when Bob Walsh had his heart surgery, did he ask for the surgeon with the most seniority, regardless of how shaky his hands were?
We all know the answer to that. It's the same ol' same 'ol with the union as I say, not as I do.

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at March 30, 2011 1:07 PM

The unions aren't retarded-the people who elect their stooges are. In a sane state a wide eyed scumbag like Crowley wouldn't even be a serious player.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 30, 2011 7:25 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Important note: The text "http:" cannot appear anywhere in your comment.