2014-03-20 / Letters to the Editor

House bill does not remove protections

In last week’s Jamestown Press article, “Education bills divide union, school board,” Patrick Crowley of the National Education Association of Rhode Island is quoted as saying that my legislation (H-7026) “would remove protections that teachers are afforded by contracts and laws.”

I respectfully take exception to Mr. Crowley’s interpretation of the bill.

My bill simply moves the layoff notification date from March 1 to June 1 for all teachers laid off due to budgetary constraints, program reorganization, or a substantial decrease in student population.

Under current law, only teachers laid off due to a substantial decrease in enrollment have the right to be recalled based on seniority. My bill does not change this.

I believe – and hopefully Mr. Crowley agrees on behalf of his association members – that teachers are our most important asset and it’s unfair they receive layoff notices on March 1, a full four months before the end of the school year. Because municipal budgets for the coming year are not finalized by March 1, school districts must provide for all possible scenarios and therefore issue layoff notifications to any teacher whose position could conceivably be impacted.

In reality, many (if not most) of these layoffs are rescinded in June, when cities and towns have a clearer picture of their finances for the coming year. Hence, it’s common sense to move the notification date to June 1.

My bill does not, as Mr. Crowley alleges, “remove” any protection afforded to teachers under current law. It does, however, alleviate the stress of the countless pink-slipped teachers in our state.

Rep. Deborah Ruggiero
R.I. House of Representatives

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