Teachers in Providence have voted to reject a new contract that would have done away with the district's "no-layoffs" policy. The agreement to outlaw layoffs followed a major outcry when Providence Mayor Angel Taveras fired all of the district's teachers in 2011, citing a budget crisis. The teachers were later rehired and a contract deal was struck.
Providence Superintendent Susan Lusi responded to the union vote rejecting a new three-year contract with the following statement:
“I regret that the Providence Teachers Union membership has chosen to work without a contract rather than support an agreement that provides for increased professionalism and leadership for our teachers. We will continue on with the work of the district, and with our efforts to move the district forward.”
Providence Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro told The Providence Journal that teachers rejected the contract because of concerns about a new compensation policy that would have changed the way teacher salaries are determined.
She said teachers were also concerned about a provision that would allow principals to request more control over hiring and curriculum, and she said they were unhappy with language Taveras used to describe the contract, referring to "misrepresentations."
Taveras fired back, saying the union should not blame him for the contract's failure to gain passage with members.
"The union leadership’s decision to point fingers and deflect responsibility for the rejection of the contract is nothing more than a scramble to save their leadership positions," Taveras said in a written statement. "I will not saddle Providence’s next mayor with an unreasonable labor contract. There is nothing left to negotiate.”
The agreement rejected by teachers called for a new system for paying teachers, one that would increase their salaries as a reward for better performance instead of their years on the job, which is the norm in most school districts.
The deal called for the Providence Teachers Union to work with the district to develop the new compensation system and put it in place during the third and final year of the contract. However, Providence school officials are quick to point out that it also gave both sides the power to reject the new pay system.
Providence Superintendent Lusi says she plans to declare an impasse in the negotiations and request mediation to try to resolve the dispute.