Providence Parents Versus Bumping

According to multiple sources, the number one concern expressed by Providence parents at Wedenesday night’s East Side Public Education Coalition/Martin Luther King Parent-Teacher Organization open forum was a need to reform the “bumping” system that requires personnel decisions to be made on the basis of seniority.
From Linda Borg of the Projo

The public’s frustration with the way that public school teachers are hired and fired was palpable last night, as parents demanded to know why highly qualified teachers are displaced based on seniority….
Harlan Rich, one of the leaders of the East Side coalition, described the process as follows: every March, dozens of teachers receive pink slips warning them that they might lose their jobs in the event of a budget shortfall. During the summer, after the School Department determines its budget, teachers are rehired. When the schools are facing deep budget deficits, like they did this spring, bumping based on seniority creates a ripple effect that tears at the fabric of school communities, Rich said.
This summer, some schools lost a third of their staff because of bumping, and principals and teachers alike say that this process makes it difficult, if not impossible, to build on past successes when there is a constant reshuffling of faculty members.
“It’s clear that this is built into state law,” Rich said. “I want to know what the General Assembly is going to do about it.
From Thomas Schmeling of the East Side Public Education Coalition
The forum covered a number of topics, from funding to consolidation of school districts, to after-school programs, but things really heated up when the question of “bumping” of teachers was addressed. Each spring, large numbers of Providence teachers are laid off because the funds to pay their salaries are dependent on state budgets which are not approved until June. Priority is given to senior teachers. Newer teachers, often highly talented and successful, are displaced. The process appears to be very wasteful because, when funds are approved the majority teachers are hired back, but they often return only as long-term substitutes with uncertain futures, or as “permanent” teachers with the prospect of being bumped again next year. Some teachers are hired away by other districts before Providence has a chance to hire them back, and others give up. The story was told of an extremely talented high-school science teacher who was bumped twice, and eventually went elsewhere.
And from Chaz Kelsh of the Brown Daily Herald
Audience members became most incensed when speaking about the process of “bumping,” when school districts fire more-junior teachers when the district budget has not been finalized. Some are later hired over the summer when funding officially becomes available. Schools are not allowed to rehire based on performance, participants at the meeting said, so younger but possibly more qualified teachers are let go if the budget decreases.
The officials agreed that bumping is a problem at Rhode Island schools. “It has to stop,” [City Councilman Cliff Wood] said. “It tears the culture of a school apart. The progress we’ve made will be over in a flash if we don’t fix this problem.”
But parents were skeptical that true change could be made.
“Why can’t someone just stand up and say, ‘I’m going to be the one to sponsor this?’ ” Kira Greene asked. Audience members responded with cheers and applause.

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Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
16 years ago

These silly, naive serfs! Why do they continue to cling to this outdated, quaint notion that the public school system exists to educate children, much less that this should be its #1 priority?
Today the public education system exists for one purpose and one purpose only – for the aggrandizement of the teachers unions, and in particular the teacher union bosses who no longer have to set foot in a classroom. Everyone knows that!
These silly parents and taxpayers should just “get over it” and “move on” … and start saving money for the next property tax increase.

no surprise
no surprise
16 years ago

There are 2 bumping solutions, but each have similar problems.
1. Get a rep or senator to propose an amendment to § 28-9.3-2 (Right to organize and bargain collectively – teachers) that says that this right does not extend to personnel decisions, such as filling job vacancies and transfering into or out of position). The problem is that the democrat-controlled general assembly are all related to teachers so proposing such an amendment would get their wives mad at them. Or, they’ll get the union mad. It’s pretty safe to say corruption is the driving factor behind the majority of the GA. It might take a while, but either you can bother the heck out of them until they do something smart, or just vote them out of office.
2. If appealing to the GA cowards isn’t your bag, then just tell your school committee to eliminate all that bumping business / job fair stuff when it’s time for the next contract renewal. But, the school committee is also too closely related to teachers and they’re also terribly cowardly and won’t upset the union. Might as well vote them out, too, until you can find someone who guarantees that he’ll standup to the union.

16 years ago

{Comment deleted for general over-the-linedness.}

16 years ago

Are we speaking in absolutes here? In other words, is it assumed that a junior teacher is always “better” than the more senior one? I would like to think that wouldn’t be the sentiment.
Is there any circumstance where it (bumping) could or should be warranted?

16 years ago

“is it assumed that a junior teacher is always “better” than the more senior one?”
No, Frederick. But what we have now is a system that assumes the junior teacher is never the better one. That is not acceptable, either.
Inasmuch as seniority is the sole consideration in teacher contracts around the state, the eye-opening testimony of these parents on the East Side can safely be extrapolated to parents and schools Rhode Island. It is clear that merit needs to be introduced as a consideration in hiring and releasing.

Tom Schmeling
16 years ago

Thank you, Andrew, for posting about our meeting. Bumping shows up as a serious problem in Providence because of the large numbers of teachers and the high proportion of teachers that are “pink-slipped” each Spring. We don’t know how serious a problem it is elsewhere, but would be interested in hearing experiences in other districts. We can be reached at Ragin’ Rhode Islander’s comments are humorous, but we’re actually pretty optimistic that something can be done. If you read the entire ProJo story, you’ll see that Gordon Fox (who is House Majority Leader and an East Side rep) said he would be willing to introduce legislation to end or reduce the effects of bumping. Several of the other members of the General Assembly who were present agreed. “no surprise”‘s first solution is far more dramatic than is necessary to achieve our goal, and it is probably politically impossible even if it were desirable. His/her second solution is probably not sufficient to solve the problem. School committees may not be able to do much about bumping because it is, to a significant extent, written into state law. The timing and unpredictability of the state education budget is a key condition that leads to the massive ‘pink-slipping’ in Providence. According to state law, the city can only budget for teachers they know they can hire, and state law says lay-off notices have to go out on March 1, at least three months before the state budget is completed. Without these large-scale layoffs each year, bumping would not have to happen. State law also requires suspension of teachers according to seniority. These two provisions together thus seem to lead to mass bumping. It could be largely eliminated by altering one or both laws or, possibly, moving the state’s education funding process to… Read more »

16 years ago

Well, I would imagine it is a greater problem in districts with several hundred if not a thousand or more teachers. But think about it, wouldn’t you say most senior teachers would to prefer to stay where they are? Not uproot themselves? Not to have to learn a whole new faculty, group of kids, management style? For some of the same reasons you don’t think it works …
But if it means a paycheck or no paycheck.
So to that you may say, but what if they stink and have managed to hang on? … by whose criteria or judgement or standards are they a horrible teacher (or a great one)? Is it objective criteria? How do you assure that it is objective?

Ragin' Rhode Islander
Ragin' Rhode Islander
16 years ago

>>f you read the entire ProJo story, you’ll see that Gordon Fox (who is House Majority Leader and an East Side rep) said he would be willing to introduce legislation to end or reduce the effects of bumping. Several of the other members of the General Assembly who were present agreed.
Introducing it is one thing – if it’s not a PR gimmick to placate the masses.
The acid test is will he / they later kill it in committee so it never sees the light of day for a vote, or will they advocate for it and get it to the floor for a recorded up or down vote?
With the Democrat General Assembly introducing bills, like talk, is cheap.

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