published Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Senate committee passes bill that strips bargaining rights from teachers union

NASHVILLE — The Senate Education Committee passed a bill today that would do away with mandatory negotiations with teachers' unions.

On a 6-3 vote that cut straight down Republican-Democrat party lines, the committee approved the bill, which strips collective bargaining rights from the Tennessee Education Association and its affiliates.

Dozens of teachers and tea party activists began filing into the Legislative Plaza this morning in advance of the committee hearing, eventually filling the hearing room to the brink with about 300 people.

TEA Executive Director Al Mance said teachers view Senate Bill 113 as an “unprecedented attack on their rights to have some input into education.”

Conservative tea party members support the legislation, said Ben Cunningham, a prominent tea party activist.

“The TEA is primarily a political organization,” Cunningham said. “This [current law] is a special franchise that gives them even more political clout and they promoted the state income tax. They are invariably in favor of higher taxes and bigger government.”

Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, a Senate Education Committee member, indicated he does not favor the bill, which is sponsored by several Republican leaders in the GOP-dominated General Assembly.

“There’s nothing wrong with negotiating issues about things like classroom size and what we should be doing is figuring out ways to work on these together rather than filing partisan and divisive legislation,” Berke said.

But Lee Harrell, lobbyist for the Tennessee School Boards Association, said the legislation is necessary because the current negotiations process is “so adversarial.”

“There are winners and losers and you’re not looking at what the child in each classroom needs and you’re not looking at what the child in each classroom needs,” Harrell said.

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Times Free Press.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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jpo3136 said...

These Tea Party ignoramuses need to be quiet about education. We're not interested in their Texas textbooks or their nonsense claims about dinosaurs hob-nobbing with cavemen. We insist upon facts in our schools. Stop insulting teachers. They have been right all along; the teachers have provided, and will continue to provide, service worth the community's regard.

February 16, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.
Facts said...

So who represents the children in collective bargaining? The beneficiaries of this practice are the Union bosses, administration & the politicians who carry the water of these two for the purpose of power.

My sister gets the HCEA propaganda as a teacher who chooses to work hard, put the children first and avoid padding pockets of the Union. The issue is not the Tea Party. The issue is the years of activity by the Teacher's Union that has cost our school systems millions of dollars for a substandard quality result and still cries for more. Stop changing the subject and take credit for your failures, Teachers Union.

February 16, 2011 at 12:33 p.m.
captainkona said...

“The TEA is primarily a political organization,” Cunningham said.

No, Mr. Cun*ingham, they're not. They are heroes.

You, however, are a bunch of traitors and corporate shills. A group of anti-American Taliban types who are obviously too stupid to understand the value of education in our society. Teachers are heroes, Mr. Cun*ingham. You are a coward who presides over the Jared Laughner Party. It's no wonder you're so scared of education, it's that much harder to lie to the educated. That's why your Teabagger Party attracts the grotesquely uneducated slime trail of social misfits it does. You lie and they're stupid enough to believe you and Jared Laughner and Ted Nugent and Glenn Beck and the rest of the vermin.

jpo3136 is exactly right. Teachers perform a priceless service to this state and our country. The Teabaggers have no redeeming quality whatsoever.

February 16, 2011 at 12:59 p.m.
captainkona said...

"Facts" (lol) said: "The issue is the years of activity by the Teacher's Union that has cost our school systems millions of dollars for a substandard quality result and still cries for more."

Exactly what "activity", exactly how much money and exactly how does it relate to "substandard quality"?

February 16, 2011 at 1:06 p.m.
Musicman375 said...

The TEA isn't the only option for teachers in TN. I recommend the Professional Educators of TN (PET).

February 16, 2011 at 1:24 p.m.
Facts said...

I'm glad to see the Union apologists typing away while they should be working "for the children".

Let me get this straight. TN has had lower standards than most states & had to go on a PR defensive to prepare parents (I have two kids in public schools with a sister who now teaches at a magnet school) for the surprise of lower achievement when measured with the same testing that other states have been using. In TN, we spell "quality" by lowering the test requirements so our kids are pushed for excellence.

Nice try. Get off the taxpayer funded computers and earn your salary. (I'm home with the flu in case your next attempt is a personal attack on my work situation.)

February 16, 2011 at 1:38 p.m.
actionow said...

What is with all this anamosity? Everyone pointing to the splinter in each other's eye while ignoring the plank in his own. The vote has been made. It is not the vote that I had hoped for, but it is done, nonetheless.

Now, those of you that have won this battle, criticizing teachers and TEA, please listen up. Your initial reactions heighten my worst fears. Your statements sound as though now that you have the brass ring, you will run with it as far as you can from where the teachers/TEA hung it. Nothing other than your pride would benefit from that action.

It is my hope and prayer that you will use this new legislation to "fix" what you view as current flaws regarding education, not as a power to boast and promote yourselves. I challenge you to humbly look to the children and not cause them to suffer jsut because you have a spiteful attitude toward public education. Take pride in serving their needs rather than counting how many feathers you can get in your own hats.

February 16, 2011 at 3:03 p.m.
Facts said...

Actionow, As a parent of two in public school & an active member of my PTO, I see the struggles of teachers and kids for resources in the classroom.

What has been in place with the TEA has not worked. I've been working and will continue to do so. For my kids, going to an elite private school or a magnet school is not an option (we live in the northern end of the county).

My criticism involves zero teachers. It's the politicians who have protected the union and the administrators who choke out the money before it gets to the classroom.

I have no feathers in my hat and I am very committed to public education with no "spite". I am a very angry and fed up parent who sees my kids get crumbs. Save your lecture.

February 16, 2011 at 3:09 p.m.
EaTn said...

If folks down at the saw mill want to unionize, that's their choosing, because I don't pay their wages. If someone chooses a public job for their career, that's fine, but some taxpayers don't think it ok to unionize and bargain for taxpayer supplied dollars.

February 16, 2011 at 4:22 p.m.
actionow said...

Facts, I like your username, because that is what I am about. I beg to differ in that my comment was not a lecture but an appeal to the legislators to consider the "facts" at hand rather than taking a political position and blindly running with it purely for the sake of "change".

"Change" is voted for on Capitol Hill, but that "change" ultimately occurs with the people and even the most well-intentioned person doesn't natually react well to change.

Yes, I would have preferred the vote go the other way. However, I do plan to support the decision that has now been made. My prorities are to fix problems not defend political loyalties. My challenge is still this, legislators please open your minds and focus on the actual "facts" and needs of the people, NOT on personal political power.

February 16, 2011 at 4:48 p.m.
PubEducator said...

"So who represents the children in collective bargaining?"

In employment contract disputes exclusively between school districts and teachers?

"The beneficiaries of this practice are the Union bosses, administration & the politicians who carry the water of these two for the purpose of power."

Oh, and the teachers who get more than minimal compensation.

"The issue is the years of activity by the Teacher's Union that has cost our school systems millions of dollars for a substandard quality result and still cries for more."

Again: what specific "activity?" Let's have dialogue not empty fingerpointing.

"The TEA isn't the only option for teachers in TN. I recommend the Professional Educators of TN (PET)."

True, now these and all other unions are equally as ineffective.

"Let me get this straight. TN has had lower standards than most states & had to go on a PR defensive to prepare parents (I have two kids in public schools with a sister who now teaches at a magnet school) for the surprise of lower achievement when measured with the same testing that other states have been using. In TN, we spell "quality" by lowering the test requirements so our kids are pushed for excellence."

I am all for genuine increased rigor in the classroom. It is the goal I strive for daily. What contained in these bills has anything to do with improvements in standards, curriculum, instruction, or education in general? These are only attempts to negate three decades of progress for working people.

"I see the struggles of teachers and kids for resources in the classroom."

Struggling teachers who are now effectively silenced. Without the option to strike school districts had little incentive to listen to teacher input before, what reason will they have now?

"If folks down at the saw mill want to unionize, that's their choosing, because I don't pay their wages. If someone chooses a public job for their career, that's fine, but some taxpayers don't think it ok to unionize and bargain for taxpayer supplied dollars."

All the mental and verbal gymnastics which will need to be employed to extend rights to some workers but not to others. The Chamber of Commerce and the corporations which backed these bills are grinning ear-to-ear knowing that the tactic of divide-and-conquer can still be used to have one segment of the underclass bludgeon another. I hope for parity's sake that same tax-payer outrage will be used when charter schools are expanded and public funds are spent to subsidize yet another corporate industry.

The facts remain that poverty and the apathy it breeds are the two biggest obstacles to academic performance. Until the underlying socio-economic issues are addressed, all attempts at "reform" are window-dressing and snake-oil. The corporate-backed politicians and those who elect them will continue to scapegoat any group which provides usable political fodder.

February 16, 2011 at 4:54 p.m.
actionow said...

EaTn, If it were only salaries that were beging bargained, I would whole-heartedly agree with you. However, that it not the case. One teacher yelling at the top of her lungs for a lunch break, smaller class sizes, or needed supplies falls futile on deaf ears. If you were required to eat your lunch each day while operating your saw down at the mill, with increased production quotas and not given any sharp new blades, would you not seek a louder voice from a united body of co-workers? I believe that bargaining might give some benefit to an unworthy recipient. But it provides worthy benefit far more often. So instead of blindly attacking the bargaining concept in general, just seek to FIX the broken aspects. Salaries are just a spot on the whole plate. So why not just wash salaries off that plate instead of throwing the whole plate in the garbage?

February 16, 2011 at 5:26 p.m.
Facts said...

The facts are that as a taxpayer with a child in a middle school and a high school in northern Hamilton County, we've seen NO new equipment, our classrooms and cafeterias are packed. Then I see the Tommy Brown Academy & see a bus that stops at my son's middle school delivering two, 2 kids from downtown. We're fed up playing by the rules, seeing our tax dollars squandered and hear how much more money the school system needs. The blame needs to go to the leaders of our school system who make a whole lot more than anyone I know that never improve the situation. All these administrators and "communications" people need to do what my family and almost everybody I know is doing. Make tough choices and do what's right, even if it's not popular.

February 16, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.
PubEducator said...

So in order to remedy the current administrative abuses there needs to be punitive and, ultimately futile, reforms directed at teachers.

2 + 2 = 5

February 16, 2011 at 7:55 p.m.
ceeweed said...

Comments being made on this subject are all well said. In fact, this is a rather intelligent debate. My concerns go beyond the recent vote. I see this as an opening salvo in a larger effort to bust, 1. Public Workers Unions, and 2. Unions in general. If squashing the voice of the people, by denying unions the right of collective bargaining, is going to benefit the working class Americans then so be it. I, for one, am not buying it. Multi-national corporations, engaged in global capitalism, have found a way to increase shareholder's profits, but at what cost? As the stock market goes up, more Americans slip into poverty. The middle class continues to be hard to define. When American workers have been effectively stripped of any voice in the process, we will be left to put our trust in corporations. I am sure these corporations be good guardians of that trust.

February 17, 2011 at 8 a.m.
actionow said...

ceeweed, Exactly, thank you.

February 17, 2011 at 10:36 a.m.
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