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House passes teacher jobs bill

August 10, 2010

Rhode Island will get $33 million to retain teachers under a bill that cleared the U.S. House of Representatives today. The bill has already been passed by the Senate, and President Obama is expected to sign it.

State teachers’ union leaders say the money will help districts like Cranston, which had to cut a gifted and talented program. It may also affect a dispute in Warwick, where the school board unilaterally froze pay and cut benefits to address a $9 million budget gap.

“This is not about raising salaries for teachers,” said Marcia Reback, President of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals. “Its about maintaining programs and keeping class sizes at reasonable levels.”

Reback estimates that hundreds of teachers and other school employees around the state stand to benefit from the bill.

It is not clear exactly how much money each school district will get from the bill. Tim Duffy, of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees, says distribution will probably be based on student need.

“Providence will probably see the lion’s share of the money,” said Duffy. “The formulas that come out of Washington are all need based and there’s a presumption that other communities can make do.”

However, Duffy says suburban districts may benefit from a provision in the bill that requires states to maintain 2006 school funding levels.

“For a temporary period there’s an assurance for school districts that they can’t have wholesale cuts to the education budget,” Duffy said.

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