NASHVILLE - The Tennessee Education Association's president is urging Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to veto GOP-backed legislation that strips the 52,000-member teachers' union of its collective bargaining powers, saying teachers "feel totally demoralized and disrespected."
"The Tennessee Education Association is completely dismayed that this entire legislative session has been an attack on teachers and our association," TEA President Gera Summerford, a Sevier County math teacher, wrote in a letter to Haslam. "At the top of the list is HB 130/SB 113, legislation which repeals the 1978 Education Professional Negotiations Act (EPNA) and replaces it with a process of 'collaborative conferencing.'"
The bill passed in the waning days of the General Assembly. GOP proponents say the teachers' union has been an obstacle to reform. TEA officials and Democratic lawmakers - and some Republicans - say the bill was political "payback" for the TEA's support of Democratic candidates.
While the bill did not originate with Haslam, he told reporters on Saturday he would sign it. Haslam spokesman David Smith on Tuesday indicated Haslam has not changed his plans.
As outlined in the bill, school boards would be required to engage in "collaborative conferencing" with teacher representatives if approved in votes to be paid for by groups seeking such recognition.
The bill permits legally binding memoranda of understanding to be entered into between school boards and teachers' representatives.
School boards, however, don't have to enter into such agreements.