Providence Teachers Fume Over Mass Firing

February 25, 2011

Bill Chappell

In Rhode Island, the Providence school board has sent termination notices to every teacher in the financially troubled city, sparking outrage in the teachers' union.

The city's mayor says the firing of more than 1,900 teachers, which takes effect at the end of the year, is meant to give budget officials "maximum flexibility" in addressing its deficit.

Filing a Newscast spot from member station WRNI, Elisabeth Harrison reports that Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith reacted to the mass firing by saying, "This is an attack on collective-bargaining rights. This is a back-door Wisconsin," referring to attempts by that state's governor to take away collective-bargaining rights from most public workers.

Smith said that Mayor Angel Taveras "is making a political decision to take control — and silence workers."

Harrison reports that Providence school officials say that sending the termination notices now will allow them to recall teachers by position, not by seniority. But the officials say they're unsure how many termination notices would be rescinded.

As for Rhode Island's governor, TV station WPRI says that Gov. Lincoln Chafee is keeping the controversy at arm's length. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.