Arizona Education Association

Summer 2021

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LOCAL PERSPECTIVE 14 ADVOCATE | SUMMER 2021 discuss the process, answer questions, and provide updates, in addition to exchanging extensive information and documents by email with affected members. AEA counsel engaged in discussions with GPS counsel related to public records requested, concerns about violations of law and policy related to the RIF, the grievability of the RIF decisions (that is, whether a RIF decision was grievable under the grievance policy), grievances to be filed by members, the potential for a resolution, and negotiated modifi ations to the deadlines and process for filing grievances. Aer undertaking extensive legal research and a review of Governing Board policies, the RIF rubrics, contracts, and other documents, AEA counsel and staff dr ed and revised an eight- page grievance template that all affected members could use to address the policy and legal concerns raised by the RIF. While the template included arguments that applied to all affected members, it was also designed to be readily customized by affected members in numerous ways. AEA staff nd AEA in-house and outside counsel jointly represented members in the grievance process and in multiple personal conferences with the GPS superintendent held for the purpose of discussing the grievances. The esult e grievances requested that the District issue new contracts to affected members for the 2021-2022 school year. While the grievances were pending and personal conferences with the superintendent were taking place, the District agreed to consider teachers who had been on the RIF list for new openings at the District for the next year (the District had been posting openings externally rather than looking at teachers who were to be laid off s candidates) and ultimately agreed to offer new contracts to 78% of the AEA/ GEA members who filed grievances related to the RIF. Th s is in addition to other members who were offered new contracts in the days following the RIF decision, when concerns about the legality of the criteria used in the RIF rubric were raised with the District. Tips on How to Anticipate, Prepare for, and Avoid a RIF Be Prepared. Familiarize yourself with your district's policies on RIFs and grievances and with what your meet-and-confer agreements or individual contracts have to say about RIFs. Review AEA AdvoBar's Advisory on Reduction in Force and Advisory on Suggestions for RIF Language (available from your Organizational Consultant). Stay informed on major education funding developments at the federal and state levels and on the potential impacts on schools. Be Vigilant. Attend your district's governing board meetings and keep track of your district's budget situation. Pay special attention to any budget presentations given when your district is facing declining enrollment or other loss of revenue. Keep an eye out for any proposed changes to board policies on reductions in force or grievances. Such changes may presage a RIF. Bargain. Negotiate with your district regarding when and how any RIF determinations are to be made, the process, and opportunities for reappointment. Keep the grievance process open in the event of RIFs. Review AEA AdvoBar's Advisories for information and RIF language suggestions and consult with your Organizational Consultant. Be an Advocate. If your district is considering a RIF, (1) make sure the district has sufficiently and accurately gauged (and offer to assist with gauging, via surveys, etc.) anticipated resignations and retirements in determining the necessity and extent of a RIF; (2) ensure that your district has fully considered the possibility of transfers as a means of meeting the needs of the district based on changing enrollment while limiting the impact on educators, students, and the community; (3) test your district's assumptions and estimates as to any projected loss of revenue and suggest steps that may be taken to mitigate any loss; (4) identify the existence and extent of other available or anticipated funding that may be used to cover any budget shortfalls (e.g., carryover, ESSER funds, new funding streams at the state level); (5) organize and mobilize internal and external stakeholders to address the proposed RIF and its impact on students and the community; (6) encourage, if a RIF must take place, the district to be transparent about the process, rubric, and timelines for any RIF and to proceed in a manner that recognizes the dignity of employees and the value they bring to the district; and (7) ensure that the reductions will not be exclusively or disproportionately experienced by career educators/non-administrative staff (i.e., administrators and personnel referred by third-party contractors should not be held harmless). If your district proceeds with a RIF, analyze whether the RIF was carried out in a manner consistent with district policies and the law. If it was not, consider filing a grievance. AEA can help.

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