Dropping a bombshell on the teachers’ unions, state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist ordered school superintendents to abolish the practice of assigning teachers based on how many years they have in the school system.
Gist, who sent a letter to superintendents on Tuesday, is upending tradition and taking on two powerful unions, the National Education Association Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals (RIFT), who together represent 12,000 public school teachers.
On Friday, the unions said they were blindsided by Gist’s announcement, adding that the commissioner made no attempt to confer with labor before going public with the decision.
“We’re going to court,” said Marcia Reback, president of the Federation of Teachers. “I’m startled that there was no conversation with the unions about this. I’m startled there were no public hearings, and I’m startled at the content. This narrows the scope of collective bargaining.”
Gist says she has the authority to do away with seniority under the new Basic Education Plan, which the Rhode Island Board of Regents approved in June and which takes effect July 1.
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