According to The Providence Journal, "[s]chool and city leaders said they were forced to issue the mass dismissal notices because of a state law that says teachers must be notified about possible layoffs or terminations by March 1." In a statement, Mayor Angel Taveras said that because the deadline for informing teachers about employment changes came before the budget for next year could be determined, the move was necessary.
"Providence faces significant challenges in getting its financial house in order," Taveras said in the statement. "Spending reductions are inevitable. It is also inevitable that some portion of cuts will come from the school budget. This is why we faced the difficult decision of sending letters to all teachers: we do not yet know what actions will be required and believe it was only fair to let all teachers know about the severity of the situation."
Taveras told the Journal that there would be fewer schools open, and fewer teachers teaching, in Providence next year -- he just couldn't yet say how many.
I hope to have a post up later today on the economics and logistics of hiring and firing of teachers. One of the relevant sub-topics here is the highly compressed hiring season. It is difficult and terribly disruptive (particularly for the students) to make staffing changes during the school year. Unlike most fields where employer and/or employee has the option of deciding that a position isn't a good fit, a teaching assignment represents a decision that all parties will have to live with for the next year.
The result? Take a year's worth of staffing for a labor-intensive industry, up the stakes, then squeeze the whole thing into eight or ten weeks. That's the reality of managing the education workforce. Any viable reform proposal based on changing the way we hire and fire teachers has got to either work under those constraints or fix the system.