Sen. Louis P. DiPalma has introduced legislation that would ease an annual nightmare for teachers, school administrators and school committees by moving the layoff notification date for teachers from March 1 to June 1.
The bill (2013-S 0049) is aimed at preventing schools from having to issue as many unnecessary layoff notices to teachers due to budget uncertainties.
“Because of the way the state and local budget systems work, schools have very little information about their budgets for the following year by March 1, when they are required to notify any teachers who might be laid off. The result is that they regularly have to issue pink slips to dozens or, in some cases, even hundreds of teachers to make sure they’re covered for the worst-case budget possibilities. It’s an unnecessary, frightening and disruptive experience for teachers, students and parents, and it hangs over their heads from March 1 until the budget is settled months later,” said Senator DiPalma, a Democrat who represents District 12 in Middletown, Little Compton, Newport and Tiverton. “The slips are essentially meaningless, so why are we forcing schools and teachers to go through the trouble, expense and worry?”
Senator DiPalma said his legislation is aimed at averting situations like the ones that occurred in Woonsocket last year and Providence the year before, when the school districts send layoff notices to every teacher in February to provide maximum flexibility in the face of budget uncertainties ahead.
Later in the spring, closer to the start of the next fiscal year on July 1, schools have a better idea of how much funding they can expect from the state and their municipalities, said Senator DiPalma. As the new statewide school aid funding formula phases in over the next decade, the level of predictability will increase, too.
Since often budgetary decisions at the state level aren’t made until the final days of the fiscal year – and occasionally even later – moving the deadline to June 1 still isn’t going to mean school officials will know the exact level of support they will be getting from the state and their municipalities when they issue the notices. But they’ll have more information than they would have in March, and teachers need to know before the end of the school year whether they can expect to be returning to their classrooms the next fall or should be applying for other jobs, said Senator DiPalma.
He added that besides the unnecessary emotional toll those layoff notices take on the school community, it’s also a waste of school department resources to have to issue so many layoff notices when, ultimately, many of those receiving them will not be laid off.
“It is necessary to have a deadline for notification, because teachers need to prepare if they might not be returning to their schools, and they need time to begin looking for other employment. But it doesn’t help them if they get a notice that’s based mainly on a lack of information. It’s hard for them to know how real the threat is, but it’s still a very disconcerting situation that will last until the end of the school year or even later. I’m sure the situation isn’t helpful to the education process,” said Senator DiPalma.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Roger A. Picard (D-Dist. 20, Woonsocket, Cumberland), Sen. Ryan Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln), Sen. Christopher Scott Ottiano (R-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) and Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham).
Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) is sponsoring the bill (2013-H 5066) in the House, where the cosponsor are Rep. Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston), Rep. Marvin L. Abney (D-Dist. 73, Newport, Middletown), Rep. Linda Finn (D-Dist. 72, Middletown, Portsmouth) and Rep. Joseph A. Trillo (R-Dist. 24, Warwick).