June 13, 2012

March 1 vs. June 1

Patrick Laverty

One specific bill did not pass in this General Assembly session and it should have been a slam dunk. The bill would have moved the teacher layoff notices from March 1 to June 1. It was sponsored by Senator DiPalma, was last seen back in February by the Senate Labor Committee and you guessed it, was held for further study.

Two groups are affected by the teacher layoff notices, school districts and teachers. Everyone that I've heard from, school districts and teachers included, wanted the date pushed forward to June 1. The March 1 deadline in the middle of the school year causes stress for teachers who then worry about their job status for the next few months, until they're notified that they will be brought back.

Each year, far more teachers receive this notice than actually get laid off. If the date was moved to June 1, school districts would have a better idea of their needs for the upcoming school year and fewer teachers would receive the notice.

So why didn't this pass? No idea. I've spoken with a few in the media covering this as well as elected members of the GA. No one has any idea why it didn't pass. It seems like a no-brainer.

Now because everyone wants this to pass, sometimes extreme measures are required to get peoples' attention to enact change. Here's my suggestion on how to get the General Assembly's attention on this one. Next March 1, every school district in the state should send the layoff notice to 100% of their teachers. Every district, every teacher. Remember the uproar it caused a couple years ago when Central Falls did then and then again last year in Providence? What if that happened throughout the state? We'd have everyone up in arms asking why this date is the law. I'm pretty sure at that point, we'd have every teacher telling their representation to get the law changed and the school districts would be fine with moving the date as well.

It seems that possibly in their haste, the General Assembly and the Senate Labor Committee dropped the ball on this one, someone just "forgot" about it. That is, unless there actually is someone or some group that thinks the March 1 date is appropriate. If so, that person should explain it to the teachers. It's only fair.

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The unions were the ones who got the March 1 layoff deadline enacted in the first place. It may be in the best interest of the teachers to move it back to June, but we all know the interest of the teachers isn't the same thing as the interest of the unions.

Posted by: Dan at June 13, 2012 5:57 PM

If my memory serves me correct the uproar occurred when Taveras fired the teachers because it was past the March 1st deadline for lay off notices. Since he hired them ALL back, the furor and desperation to have moved is long gone.

Posted by: Max D at June 13, 2012 9:52 PM

DD, when Taveras did it, it was right before the deadline. I just did a quick Google search and I see reports of it on Feb 23.

However, it's still a fairly big issue in my town. Teachers and parents don't like the March 1 deadline and we all expected it to change in this Assembly session. I'd love to find out why it didn't.

Posted by: Patrick at June 13, 2012 10:39 PM

You're right. It wasn't the actual date of the firing but that they couldn't make a budgetary decision of how many teachers the needed to retain by March 1st.


"State law requires that teachers must be notified by March 1 about any potential changes to their status. Given the March 1 notice requirement mandated by law and where we are in the budgeting process, issuing dismissal notices to all teachers was the most prudent and fiscally responsible decision. Here's why: We needed to retain the maximum flexibility we could to manage significant cuts to the school budget. We simply cannot have a situation next year where we have more teachers on the payroll than we can afford to pay or have expenses that exceed our resources.

This is also why we issued dismissal notices instead of layoff notices. As has been the case in the past, layoffs often come with many provisions, legally and procedurally, that could impact our ability to control costs to the degree we need to. A dismissal is different in that it enables the district to end its financial obligation to an individual completely."

Posted by: Max D at June 14, 2012 9:13 AM

" It wasn't the actual date of the firing but that they couldn't make a budgetary decision of how many teachers the needed to retain by March 1st."

Exactly. And that is the exact problem. The date is set but the towns don't know how many they'll need, and due to the law, they need to cover themselves for later and over-notify. Because if you don't notify someone, you can't (or will have a much harder time) laying them off later.

Move the date to June 1 or June 15 and people will at least be "happier" with that.

Posted by: Patrick at June 14, 2012 9:52 AM

Patrick -

Isn't part of the problem the cities/towns knowing how much money the state will give them? I'm just saying it seems July 1 or late June would be better than June 1 since the state budget usually does not go through until; well 2:30AM yesterday or so. I have a few friends who are teachers and if my memory is correct, the school departments do not hire until late August anyway so its not like the possibly laid off teachers would miss other job opportunities.

Posted by: Mark L at June 14, 2012 12:03 PM

Mark L.
The law should be repealed. There should be no room for union protections in state law. That's why unions have collective bargaining.

Posted by: Max D. at June 14, 2012 2:52 PM

Max -

You cannot even get a law passed moving it back, good luck getting it repealed. I'll take an improvement over a no shot.

Posted by: Mark L. at June 14, 2012 6:26 PM

"You cannot even get a law passed moving it back, good luck getting it repealed. I'll take an improvement over a no shot."

That's the Rhode Island way isn't it? We know what needs to be done but no one has the fortitude.

Posted by: Max D at June 15, 2012 9:10 AM
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