At the end of the current winter public school quarter, every one of the 1,926 teachers in Providence, R.I., schools will be dismissed, reports the Providence Journal. The desperate move on the part of the Providence School Board will culminate in a vote that insiders believe will favor teacher dismissal as a means of addressing a $40 million deficit. The budget deadline for Providence schools is March 1.
Providence schools issued pink slips en masse before
Last year, Central Falls High School in the Providence area dismissed 88 teachers because students weren’t meeting standardized test score requirements. Yet the scale of the Providence School Board’s upcoming move is unprecedented. In accordance with state law, Superintendent of Providence Schools Tom Brady told all teachers and staff via e-mail that the move is a “precautionary action” designed to address the $40 million shortfall in the 2011-2012 budget.
“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,” said Brady.
Maximum flexibility to alienate the voting public
The fact that the Providence School Board’s blanket action may not actually dismiss all Providence teachers offered little consolation to teachers’ union leadership.
“This is beyond insane,” said Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith. “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,” the day of the Pearl Harbor bombings.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras told local press that the unsettled state of city finances, coupled with the March 1 deadline, led to the decision to issue the statement that all Providence teachers would be fired. It was a move that provided the school board and Providence city government with “maximum flexibility,” but minimum public sentiment.
Blowing the student-teacher ratio out of the water
Smith exclaimed that sending pink slips to all Providence public school teachers is senseless if the school district is still committed to educating its students, regardless of the budget problem.
“You have so many students,” he said. “You need so many teachers. You have a student-teacher ratio of 26 to 1. Do the math.”