News & Event
“This court decision does not change the fact that NEARI will still proudly represent our educators, education support professionals, higher education faculty and staff, and our state and municipal workers. Through the collective bargaining process, we will continue to fight for our students, our schools, our paychecks and our benefits,” said National Education Association Rhode Island Lawrence Purtill. “Our members will still provide a quality learning environment for our public-school students, continue to safeguard the health of Rhode Islanders, and continue to ensure that we have one of the best public college systems in the nation.
“Unions remain the most effective way for workers to advocate for their rights and secure a better future for themselves and their families. For those who believe this decision is a setback, we believe our members understand the power of collective action and that their continued union membership and involvement will make us stronger.”
February 23, 2017 - National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI) President Larry Purtill today released the following statement with regard to President Trump’s revocation of guidance for public schools allowing transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity put in place by former President Obama:
“We’ve been told since the election that the LGBTQ community had nothing to worry about with a President Trump. Yet at his first opportunity he chooses to attack LGBTQ youth. It’s offensive and disgraceful.
It is important to note that Rhode Island state law bans discrimination with regard to public accommodations – including public schools – based on gender identity or expression. Transgender students are today and should always be protected and NEARI will aggressively fight any efforts to roll back policies that keep all children safe from intimidation and harm.
Rescinding federal guidance does not undo legal protections for transgender students. Transgender students are protected by the Constitution and Title IX’s prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex. This includes when using restrooms and other school facilities.
We will do everything possible to protect, welcome and embrace our transgender students. Every, and I mean every, student deserves that and I will be asking RIDE to take this opportunity to recommit to the existing state law and guidance already in place.
We will not turn our backs on these students. In fact, we’ve got their backs! Politics among adults is one thing, but not protecting every student is outrageous and will not be tolerated.
All students yearn to feel comfortable in their skin and find their place in this world. This holds especially true for LGBTQ youth. It’s easy sometimes when using acronyms to really remember their meaning. The “T” stands for transgender and today and every day we will stand with our transgender students.”
If educators, administrators, parents and students see any act of discrimination or witness bullying or threatening behavior, please report it immediately to your local officials, NEARI (401-463-9630) or GLBTQ Advocates and Defenders (GLAD: 617-426-1350).
An equally divided U.S. Supreme Court delivered its decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, affirming that public employers have a compelling interest in having strong and effective collective bargaining. The 4-4 decision leaves intact the sound law of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that has been working for nearly four decades.
At issue in Friedrichs was whether non-union members could share the wages, benefits and protections negotiated in a collectively bargained contract without needing to pay their fair share (agency fee) for the cost of those negotiations. The case was brought by the Center for Individual Rights, an organization funded by corporate special interests that are pushing their own agenda. The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union with more than 3 million members, and the California Teachers Association, are two of the union respondents in the case in addition to the state of California.
“The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a political ploy to silence public employees like teachers, school bus drivers, cafeteria workers, higher education faculty and other educators to work together to shape their profession,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “In Friedrichs, the court saw through the political attacks on the workplace rights of teachers, educators and other public employees. This decision recognizes that stripping public employees of their voices in the workplace is not what our country needs.”
The case was thinly veiled attempt to weaken collective bargaining and silence educators’ voices. In response, hundreds of amici curiae or “friends of the court” briefs weighed in to support the union respondents. Twenty-one states, dozens of cities, nearly 50 Republican lawmakers, school districts and public hospitals rose in support of the value fair share fees provide in terms of the effective management of public services. During oral arguments, lawyers for the respondents argued that the current fair share system is a good compromise and common sense solution. Rhode Island is an agency fee state. The court’s decision today left that system in place nationwide.
The Friedrichs case provided a vivid illustration of what’s at stake when it comes to the highest court in the land. It also was an example of how corporations are using the Supreme Court for political agendas rather than what the court was intended: interpreting and upholding the Constitution.
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate approved the nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education. Below is a statement from NEA Rhode Island (NEARI) President Larry Purtill:
"Betsy DeVos is the most exceptionally unqualified cabinet nominee in history with zero experience in public education, administration or even as a parent of a public school student. Unfortunately, the Senate chose to ignore the thousands of voices from across the country who joined together to clog phone lines and flood inboxes in opposition to her and the Trump-DeVos agenda.
"The DeVos confirmation does not magically silence our voices. The massive nationwide public outcry by educators, administrators, parents, students, civil rights groups, special education advocates and others is just the beginning. The level of activism we have seen is incredibly encouraging and we will continue to resist policies detrimental to public education and work together to protect our students and educators.
"On behalf of our 12,000 members, I’d like to thank Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressmen Jim Langevin and David Cicilline who, with their Democratic colleagues, fought tooth and nail to quash this nomination.
"They never gave up and neither will we."
(July 19, 2017) “We are disappointed that Governor Raimondo turned her back on classroom educators and Rhode Island public employees who were seeking respect and fundamental fairness in the bargaining process,” said NEARI President Larry Purtill. “It is no surprise that a politician who made her bones on Wall Street is incapable of understanding the needs of working Rhode Islanders. Clearly, ‘Gina from Smithfield’ has lost her way. We respectfully urge the Assembly to override this thoughtless veto.”
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