Providence Teachers Rally Behind Job-Saving Contract

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Thousands of Providence, R.I., educators who had faced job loss in the 2011-12 school year will be back at work thanks to a new contract, negotiated by the Providence Teachers Union and the city, that won landslide approval in a ratification vote this month.

Teachers rallied behind the three-year tentative agreement by 868-79 in votes tallied on Aug. 9; job security was a key to that decisive outcome. In February, all of the more than 1,900 teachers in the system received termination notices from the city, which cited a budget crisis for the move. (See earlier story.) Although most were recalled in the months to follow, the process unfolded as a bitter one for frontline educators, and scores of teachers still faced an uncertain employment picture heading into August. The new agreement guarantees no layoffs over the next three years and includes $53 million in cost savings achieved through measures such as extended school days.

Providence Teachers Union president Steven Smith says the new contract shows how school systems can work through tough issues, even in a terrible economic climate, when both parties come to the bargaining table committed and prepared to work for an agreement.

The new pact "recognizes that we are partners, that we have a seat at the table," Smith told reporters following the ratification vote. It "is a huge step in the right direction." [Mike Rose, Mark Bostic]

August 16, 2011