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Teacher contract laws set for hearing on Smith Hill

March 20, 2012

The House Labor Committee will consider three bills today that affect teacher contracts.

The first measure would delay the deadline for teacher layoff notices from March 1st to June 1st. Similar legislation has come up in prior years but has never made it through the legislature. Many school committees and superintendents have called for the later teacher layoff date, saying the current system results in large numbers of pink slips that are often rescinded after budgets are finalized.

A second bill would make membership in teachers’ unions voluntary. The so-called “right to work” provision is sponsored by North Kingstown Republican Doreen Costa. It would also allow individual teachers to negotiate their own salary and working conditions with school districts.

The last bill on the docket calls for all school-related collective bargaining agreements to be approved the city council. The measure would also take away school committees’ ability to sue municipal leaders for additional funding if they feel they cannot operate legally within their existing budgets.

In the past, school officials have defended their right to request additional funding, including through the courts, as they seek to carry out federal and state education requirements. However, city leaders complain that it makes little sense for one branch of city government to sue another, racking up legal bills rather than making structural changes to reduce the budget.

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