Teachers strike back: BISD educators rally at Rogers Park
A group protesting the reduction in force (RIF) currently underway in the Beaumont Independent School District rallied at Roger’s Park on Wednesday, June 4, to try to bring a stop BISD administration trying to address the current school district deficit by eliminating roughly 300 educator jobs.
It was a peaceful, quiet demonstration, said BISD teachers Karen Neild and Caron Holt. While the teachers may have been peaceful, the corner of Gladys and Dowlen where the group congregated in the rain was not quiet as motorists cheered and honked their car horns in support of the group of educators and their supporters.
Irene Lopez, Texas American Federation of Teachers (AFT) organizer, said her organization is also protesting the RIF proposed by BISD Superintendent Timothy Chargois and supported by the BISD school board majority. In a letter dated Wednesday, June 4, Lopez asks that BISD administration come up with different ways to find money rather than put teachers out of work.
“It does not appear to Beaumont AFT and its members that this reduction in force has been as carefully considered as it should be,” Lopez contends. “Many questions remain as to the need to make such drastic cuts, particularly given the inevitable adverse impact of such cuts on the quality of education available in Beaumont ISD.
“Additionally, even if such cuts are indeed necessary, we have not heard the board discuss a complete set of alternative ways to achieve a reduced teaching force. More specifically, we have not heard the board discuss the possibility of implementing a voluntary resignation incentive program. Such a program would provide a cash incentive to employees who choose to tender a resignation. Such programs have been implemented with great success in other school districts, such as Dallas ISD. The district saves money in the long run by not having to engage in costly and time-consuming litigation over the RIF-related terminations and ensures that the money goes to the deserving teachers and other employees who choose to leave the district, rather than to district lawyers.”
And Lopez’s organization is but one voice among many.
The Beaumont Teachers Association asked the state education commissioner to block layoffs Tuesday, June 3. In a petition filed with Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams, the Texas State Teachers Association, acting on behalf of its Beaumont affiliate, said the Beaumont ISD school board violated state law in declaring a financial exigency, or emergency, to carry out the RIF.
“There is no legitimate basis for declaring a financial exigency,” said Greg Sholl, president of the Beaumont Teachers Association. “Beaumont ISD’s financial problems are the result of mismanagement, but the district leadership is trying to make educators and students pay for the district’s mistakes, and that is not right.”
The teachers’ petition said the Beaumont school board, in declaring the financial exigency, violated the Texas Education Code by failing to demonstrate that Beaumont ISD has experienced a decrease of more than 20 percent in unassigned general fund balance per student in weighted average daily attendance over the past two years and for failing to meet any of the state education commissioner’s “minimum standards concerning school district financial conditions that must exist for declaration of a financial exigency” as set out in the Texas Administrative Code.
“The proposed layoffs would hurt more than BISD employees,” Sholl said. “Eliminating these jobs would force students into more crowded classrooms and harm our local economy.”