David Upegui is a second-year science teacher at Central Falls High School. Last year, David helped his students nab first place for “Anatomy & Physiology” at the Rhode Island College Science Olympiad, making them the first students in their school’s history to do so. His students and colleagues alike agree he’s a talented teacher.
But this month, David received a pink slip—one of hundreds sent in the past few weeks to teachers across the state. That’s because current law requires districts to guess how many teacher layoffs they must make before they even see their budgets, forcing them to issue pink slips by March 1st to teachers like David. Every year for the past several years, communities in fiscal distress such as Providence, Central Falls and most recently, Woonsocket, have been forced to send layoff notices to their entire teaching staff because of this outdated policy.
The March 1st notification law is just one of several antiquated staffing policies keeping us from prizing our talented teachers. Fortunately the Rhode Island General Assembly is considering a law that would reform these policies and make sure every child has a great teacher like David.
Once a child steps into the classroom, their teacher is the single most important factor affecting what they learn. We need staffing policies that prize talented teachers like David and keep them where they belong: in the classroom, helping kids achieve.
Maryellen Butke is the executive director of RI-CAN: The Rhode Island Campaign for Achievement Now. Find out more about RI-CAN and their 2012 legislative campaign, The Rising Tide, at www.RisingTideRI.org.