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Gist calls for change in layoff deadline

February 24, 2012

RI Education Commissioner Deborah Gist says the practice of laying off large numbers of teachers to meet a state deadline is “a ridiculous exercise that has to be stopped.”

The comment comes in response to mass teacher terminations in Woonsocket, where school officials say they need time to figure out their budget. In explaining the decision, Woonsocket officials cited a state law that requires notices to go out by March 1st for any teacher who could face a layoff in the coming school year.

The law regularly leads to layoffs that are later rescinded as school districts finalize their budgets and staffing needs. Commissioner Gist says the practice must change.

“The current state law that sets a March 1 notification deadline may be well intentioned, but it has led to unintended consequences,” Gist said in a written statement. “Laying off hundreds of educators because of an imposed notification deadline leads to undue stress and anxiety and can disrupt the process of teaching and learning.”

Gist is supporting a bill at the General Assembly that would move the teacher layoff deadline back to June 1st. She said the later date would give school districts more time to plan and reduce the number of teachers who receive unnecessary pink slips.

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