Because what’s happened in Providence, Rhode Island is so outlandish, it could seem like a joke that the city government would issue would issue pink slips to every teacher in the district. Of course it’s no joke, but a painful reality when it was announced several days ago that every 1,926 of the district’s teachers would get notice of termination. If anybody in the education world in Providence is laughing, it’s nothing but gallows humor.
And why would a city lay off all of its teachers? Like so many American school districts in crisis, Providence’s district is facing staggering deficits; theirs to the tune of $40 million. (Other cities considering similar “You’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me” maneuvers include Detroit, where they may shut down half the schools, leaving some classes with as many as 60 students.)
In Providence, teachers must be informed by March 1 if they’ll be laid off. So in the likelihood city officials will have to do severe layoffs when they decide on what budget cuts to make in several months, they terminated them all. Providence Superintendent Tom Brady said, as reported by The Providence Journal, that this would give those in charge “maximum flexibility to consider every cost savings option, including reductions in staff.”
“Maximum flexibility,” “cost savings option,” and “reductions in staff.” Could Brady have possibly come up with more generic euphemisms for such a draconian and inhumane act? Certainly, the city’s school district is in crisis and okay, desperate times call for desperate measures.
But a 100 percent layoff – even if it’s technically a bureaucratic move that ultimately won’t mean everyone loses their jobs – is no way to do this. For anyone who has ever been “pink slipped” knows, being laid off – or even worrying that you may be – is intensely stressful and demoralizing. Even for the best of the best teachers, how couldn’t this affect their ability to be inspired by their work and inspiring to their students? As Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith rightly put it, “This is beyond insane.”