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NEA Vows To Challenge Superior Court Ruling

Friday, April 30, 2010

 

CRANSTON - The state’s largest teachers’ union is appealing a recent Superior Court ruling, which said it was okay for the East Providence School Committee to unilaterally slash the salaries and benefits of the city’s teachers.

Larry Purtill, the president of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, said this week that the union is “obviously” appealing last month’s ruling by Judge Michael A. Silverstein, which was widely perceived as an enormous setback to the state’s embattled teachers’ unions.

“We’re in the process of doing it right now,” Purtill said of the appeal.

Silverstein ruled in March that the East Providence School Committee had a right to cut the teachers’ salaries by five percent and require a 20 percent contribution to their health care in January, 2009, because it was faced with a deficit and state law requires school committees to have a balanced budget.

The cuts could be made without the cuts without the consent of the teachers’ union because the teachers’ contract had expired and the parties had reached an impasse in negotiations, Silverstein ruled.

NEA Rhode Island also plans to testify against legislation that has been introduced in the General Assembly, which would repeal the law that enables school districts to file an action in Superior Court to exceed the state cap on tax rate increases if they feel it is necessary to fund their school budgets.

At least four bills have been introduced in the state House of Representatives to repeal the so-called Carulo Act.  Purtill said the union understands why the cap was enacted, but it also believes that “in extenuating circumstances” a community may need to exceed the cap, and should have the right to try to do that.

Purtill’s comments came during a busy week for the state’s teachers. On Wednesday, more than 300 teachers packed a meeting at the Providence Hilton to vent their frustrations over the East Providence pay cuts and attempted firings in Central Falls with the state’s new Education Commissioner, Deborah A. Gist.

Also this week, the Central Falls Teachers Union filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Providence, claiming the school district’s attempt to fire all of the teachers at Central Falls High School in February violated their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and due process, among other laws.

 

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