February 24, 2011
Statement by Randi Weingarten,
President, American Federation of Teachers,
On Providence, R.I., Public Schools’ Decision To Fire All City Teachers
School district officials announced Wednesday that they plan to fire every Providence, R.I., teacher because they need “flexibility” to deal with the budget.
WASHINGTON—Providence city officials’ sudden announcement firing every single Providence teacher—close to 2,000 people—without apparent regard to its effect or even consideration of the teachers’ performance, is shocking. What makes this even more stunning is that the district and the Providence Teachers Union have been working collaboratively on a groundbreaking, nationally recognized school transformation model. 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. The mayor claims he needs flexibility. We looked up “flexibility” in the dictionary, and it does not mean destabilizing education for all students in Providence or taking away workers’ voice or rights.
Mass firings, whether in one school or an entire district, are not fiscally or educationally sound. The mayor and school superintendent owe it to the community and to the students and teachers in Providence to resolve whatever problem they’re dealing with, not by fiat, but by working in a collaborative way. For the past two years, that’s what they have been doing when it comes to work on improving low-performing schools, developing an innovative hiring process and revamping the teacher evaluation system.
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The AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.