Collective bargaining rights of state’s teachers targeted
Posted: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 9:18 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee school districts would no longer have to engage in negotiations with teachers’ unions under a bill introduced by House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart.
Tennessee Education Association lobbyist Jerry Winters on Monday called the proposal to do away with collective bargaining “an insult to every teacher in the state.”
Maggart, of Henderson-ville, said her bill would provide for more flexibility as the state works to improve education standards. She said that none of Tennessee’s neighboring states require collective bargaining with teachers and noted that the negotiating rights for teachers are unique among public employees.
“No other group has collective bargaining in this state, whether it’s police, firefighters or anyone else,” she said.
Maggart said the contracts hamper schools’ efforts to reward good teachers — or to penalize poor ones. But Winters disagreed.
“It does not tie the hands of school districts if they want to look at various ways to do teacher compensation,” he said. “The contract does, in fact, set minimum standards, and it allows school boards to exceed them.”
Winters called it “absurd” for Maggart to characterize her proposal as aiming to reform education.
“It’s really just an anti-employee bill,” he said. “To try to run a school system without teacher input would truly be a mistake.”
The Tennessee Education Association represents 55,000 teachers and other educators in the state. The organization is a traditional ally of Democrats, who suffered historic losses in the Legislature last year.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he has not yet examined Maggart’s proposal. But he said lawmakers “need to look at all possibilities.”
New Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has made education a top priority, but has yet to reveal any specific proposals as he conducts a national search for a permanent education commissioner.
“I can understand why he’d want to move slowly and methodically,” McCormick said.
Haslam said that his proposals will likely seek to make it more difficult for teachers to achieve tenure, lift a cap on the number of charter schools in the state and focus on using more student testing data to improve schools.
But the new governor said school vouchers would not be part of his initial education agenda.
Winters said teachers are upset at what they see as some of the more aggressive proposals being introduced in the earlier weeks of the legislative session.
“It’s not a good way to get this new Legislature to begin its relationship with the teachers of this state,” he said. “I think there are few people up there who are really almost intent on declaring war with the TEA.”
Read HB0130 at: http://www.capitol.tn.gov/
Published in The Messenger 1.25.11