Bill abolishing teacher collective bargaining goes to governor

NASHVILLE - Senate Republican leaders today are celebrating the final approval of legislation abolishing collective bargaining powers for teachers.

The GOP-controlled House passed the bill late Friday night on a 55-40 vote, repealing a 1978 law that allowed the Tennessee Education Association and its affiliates to engage collective bargaining.

Earlier Friday, senators passed it on a 19-12 vote.

"It matters who governs," Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker, in a news release. "For years upon years, one union has thwarted the progress of education in Tennessee. Reform after reform has been refused or dismantled."

Ramsey said "the barrier that has prevented us from putting the best possible teacher in every classroom will soon be removed."

The bill, now on its way to Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for his consideration, would replace collective bargaining with what Republicans are calling "collaborative conferencing."

Rep. Harry Brooks, R-Knoxville, said it move from a "combative concept" to a "problem-solving and issue-based approach."

It would allow school boards and approved teacher representatives to meet and discuss wage, limited benefit and working condition issues and enter into legally binding memoranda of understanding.

But Democrats and some Republican opponents argued on the House floor that the bill is meaningless because school boards don't have to enter into the memoranda of understanding.

Hundreds of Tennessee Education Association members watched late Friday as the bill was debated and ultimately passed.

"Shame on you!" some shouted afterwards, the Associated Press later reported.

Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said after the Senate passage of the bill that "at a time we should be talking about kids, we're talking about political payback. Last year, we had a Race to the Top in Tennessee education. This year, we have a Dive to the Bottom."