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Providence, R.I., teachers union protests firing

By the CNN Wire
  • Hundred of Providence teachers union supporters demonstrate against terminations
  • Providence mayor sent termination letters to 2,000 teachers and staff last week
  • Actual layoffs won't be known until mayor and city council decide how to balance budget
  • Union leader: Mayor demoralized and disrespected teachers

(CNN) -- Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Providence, Rhode Island, Wednesday to demand that Mayor Angel Taveras take back the termination letters he sent to every educator in the city last week.

The protesters carried placards and chanted "We'll never be defeated," in support of the Providence Teachers Union.

In a 4-3 decision, the Providence City School Board, voted last week to adopt Taveras' plan to fire 2,000 teachers and staff to give budget writers more flexibility to make cuts. A final decision on how many of them will end up losing their jobs won't be made until the board and the mayor decide specifically how to fill a multimillion-dollar budget gap.

The move has outraged veteran teachers and union leaders.

Taveras "has done more to demoralize and disrespect teachers in 30 days than I think anyone could possibly do in the history of teaching," union President Steve Smith told CNN affiliate WPRI.

Taveras, however, said his mind is made up.

"People will have their voices heard -- however my resolve has not changed," Taveras told WPRI.

Taveras has insisted that he values the city's "gifted teachers," but felt compelled to give notice to municipal employees of "potential changes to their employment status" prior to a March 1 deadline.

The mayor cites budgetary problems for the layoffs, not quality of the teachers. The U.S. Department of Education, has twice singled out Providence for its educational reform initiatives, according to Smith.