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….From Thomas Schmeling of the East Side Public Education Coalition…
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.
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.