Freedom Plaza Packed in Protest of Teacher Layoffs

Union sues to get teachers' jobs back

By Tom Sherwood and Matthew Stabley
|  Thursday, Oct 8, 2009  |  Updated 7:45 PM EDT
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DC Teachers Protest Layoffs

NBCWashington.com

A laid off D.C. Public Schools employee attends a rally protesting the layoffs.

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DC Teachers Protest Layoffs

Hundreds turn out to rally in Freedom Plaza against the layoffs announced by schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee.
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WASHINGTON -- Teachers, students, staff and other supporters gathered at Freedom Plaza in northwest Washington late Thursday afternoon to protest the layoffs of almost 400 public schools employees, including 229 teachers.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Mayor Adrian Fenty defended last week's layoffs saying, that they're necessary to meet budget cuts and that the layoffs largely were based on performance.

Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker told The Washington Post  he believes the cuts were unfair. He alleged principals were allowed to target outspoken teachers and union advocates.

"No. 1, we want respect for our teachers, but we also want to put public back into public education," said Parker. "It's time for parents, teachers and the other educational stakeholders to have a voice in the decision that the chancellor and mayor are making."

The union has filed a lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court to reverse the layoffs. The union has been locked in contract negotiations over job security and worker rights for about two years.

"This makes no sense," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the national parent of the local teachers union. "I've seen school systems across the nation try to plan for being in this great depression/recession that we're in, but here you have six weeks into the school year this major disruption into kids' services, this major disruption to the lives of those who teach kids."

Rhee said the layoffs didn't come before the school year because neither did the specifics about the budget.

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