By Ashleigh Costello
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers is fighting back after state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist threatened legal action against any school that assigns teachers based on seniority.
In a four-page letter sent to superintendents across the state Friday, Gist said she will take severe action against districts that use seniority, job fairs or bumping to assign, keep or lay off teachers, reports the Providence Journal.
Gist who began her career in education as an elementary school teacher in Texas, and later in Florida, has spearheaded a number of education initiatives in Rhode Island – most notably, increasing accountability for teachers and principals.
In the letter, Gist threatened sanctions “up to and including the loss of certification,” withholding state aid and legal action in court if school districts do not comply, according to the news site.
The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers accused Gist of bullying and said the letter “demonstrates a continued lack of respect for professionals, who on the local level, can determine the best way to staff their schools.”
How interesting that the teachers union supports the concept of local control only when it protects the jobs of union members. If education reformers ever propose school choice for Rhode Island families – the essence of “local control” – it’s a very safe bet that the unionists would quickly abandon its support of the concept.
The union also is also opposing Gist’s efforts by claiming that state education policy does not supersede collective bargaining rights.
Gist, who has made it a priority to put student’s first, is not backing down.
It would appear that this showdown over seniority protections will end up in the courts.