Ruggiero legislation would amend notification date for teacher layoffs
State Rep. Deborah Ruggiero has introduced legislation aimed at easing an annual horror for teachers and school administrators by moving the layoff-notification date for teachers from March 1 to June 1.
The proposed bill is aimed at preventing schools from having to issue as many unnecessary layoff notices to teachers due to budget uncertainties.
“Most of the state budget, each town’s budget, and each school district’s budget are still being shaped between March and June,” said Ruggiero. “School committees just don’t have specific enough information on March 1 to be able to say with any certainty whether they will have to lay off staff, or how many people they will have to lay off if they do. To cover their bases, they have to send out the maximum number of notices they might need, and then recall them when they have more solid information later in the year. It’s a waste of school resources and it puts teachers and their students through a lot of unnecessary stress.”
The legislation is aimed at averting situations like the ones that occurred in Woonsocket last year and Providence the year before, when the school districts send layoff notices to every teacher in February to provide maximum flexibility in the face of budget uncertainties ahead.
Later in the spring, closer to the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, schools have a much better idea of how much funding they can expect from the state and their municipalities, said Ruggiero. As the new statewide funding formula phases in over the next decade, the level of predictability will increase, too.
Since often budgetary decisions at the state level aren’t made until the final days of the fiscal year – and occasionally even later – moving the deadline to June 1 still isn’t going to mean school officials will know the exact level of support they will be getting from the state and their municipalities when they issue the notices. But they’ll have more information than they would have in March, and teachers need to know before the end of the school year whether they can expect to be returning to their classrooms the next fall or should apply for other jobs, said Ruggiero.
“These notices will serve their purpose much more effectively when they are based on real information, not a wild guess about the worst-case scenario. Instead of causing panic every year by sending out lots of notices, schools should be able to limit layoff notices to situations when they are very likely to face a budget shortfall, they’ve already explored all their alternatives, and they have a reasonable certainty about how much savings they need to find,” said Ruggiero.