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Providence Teachers Rally Against Mayor's Mass Firings

Randi at Providence, RI rally   AFT president Randi Weingarten joined a large crowd of teachers, students, parents and other union supporters at City Hall in Providence March 2 to protest the mass firing of all the city's public school teachers.

"I thought the only insanity was in Wisconsin, not in Rhode Island," Weingarten said.

Mayor Angel Taveras on Feb. 23 announced that he was firing Providence's nearly 2,000 teachers as a way to help the city deal with its budget problems. Aside from the stunning scope of the firings, this came in a district where the Providence Teachers Union has been working with the district on a groundbreaking, nationally recognized school transformation model. (See earlier story.)

"Why destroy a school system and undo years of reform and dehumanize every teacher in the school system?" Weingarten asked. She urged the mayor and school officials to negotiate a less disruptive solution.

The union has filed with the state labor relations board an unfair labor practice complaint against the Providence school board. "You can only fire a teacher for a good and just reason, not because you are unprepared" to deal with fiscal problems, local union president Steven Smith told the crowd.

Watch video from the rally in a local ABC News report. [Dan Gursky, Providence Journal / photos by Constance Brown]

March 3, 2011