In one fell swoop, a nearly evenly split Providence, Rhode Island School Board voted on Monday to send out termination notices to all of the city's nearly 2,000 teachers, citing the need to cut a $40 million school budget deficit by March 1.
It doesn't mean every teacher will be fired, but the board, which voted 4 to 3 to approvve the action, said all teachers were being sent notices to ensure maximum flexibility in making budget cuts. According to District rules, teachers must be informed if they'll be fired ahead of the next school year by March 1.
Every teacher received a certified letter from the School Department on Thursday, warning that they could be terminated at the end of the school year, according to the Providence Journal.
More than 700 teachers showed up for the School Board meeting Thursday night when the votes were cast.
Many of the speakers at the meeting wanted to know why they were being fired, according to the report. Questions related to funding, union collaboration and teacher evaluations.
One of the requests was that teachers by issued layoff provisions, which are different than terminations. That difference allows for teachers with seniority to be recalled based on seniority, according to the report.
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, called the move shocking.
A mass firing, announced in the middle of a school year, does not help solve a budget problem-the purported reason-but, rather, disrupts the education of all students and the entire community, she said.
Weingarten dismissed the school superintendent's need for flexibility, saying that word does not mean destabilizing education for all students in Providence or taking away workers' voice or rights.
She urged working in a collaborative way and not resolving problems by by fiat.