Senate Votes to Remove Teacher Bargaining Rights

The Tennessee Education Association lost a round Monday night as the state Senate passed a bill to take away their collective bargaining rights.

Senator Jack Johnson of Williamson County was clear that his intention is to do away with the TEA’s ability to negotiate.

“This bill will if passed repeal the Education Professional Negotiations Act of 1978 and eliminate mandatory collective bargaining between boards of education and one single union.”

Johnson fought off an amendment that would have allowed local school boards to “opt out” of the system and keep dealing with local TEA chapters.

Hemming in those local school boards, says Dresden Democrat Roy Herron, reminds him of George Orwell’s “1984.”

“It’s more Big Brother, more big government … it prohibits school boards, it prohibits teachers from working together in ways that they have for over three decades.”

The measure won through the Senate 18 to 14 on a mostly party line vote.

The House companion bill is on the agenda of the House Finance Committee Tuesday afternoon.

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The bill is SB 113 Johnson/HB 130 Maggart.

Only one Republican – Senator Doug Overbey from Maryville – joined Democrats in opposing the bill.

On the Senate floor Monday night, Kerry Roberts, the Republican elected from Robertson County to replace former Senator Diane Black after her election to Congress, seemed to foresee a kind of “free agent” system in which teachers would be empowered to individually wangle higher pay.

“If you are an excellent teacher, principals everywhere want you to be in their school. And yet, excellent teachers don’t have the freedom to negotiate a higher pay based on their performance. They’re restricted by their collective bargaining agreements.”

But TEA President Gera Summerford says the bill robs teachers of their only hope of influencing the local school board – a school board with a thousand teachers can’t hope to talk to each one, she says.

“Teachers feel like that this takes away their voice.”

Senator Andy Berke, a Democrat from Chattanooga, characterized the entire effort as a political push to punish unions.

“If we are to achieve a better future for our children, we must hire, train and keep our best teachers. Demoralizing them by targeting them with political gestures serves the opposite purpose.”

The Senate speaker immediately sent out a press release:

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R – Blountville) emphasized his ongoing support tonight for Senate Bill 113, a crucial piece of education reform legislation sponsored by Sen. Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) which passed on the floor of the Senate by a vote of 18 to 14.

The bill has now cleared the Senate committee system two times after being amended to make explicit the increased collaboration the bill fosters between teachers and their local school boards.

“Union contracts have hamstrung our local school boards for too long,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey. “More than a year ago our state raced to the top and planted our flag as a beacon for education reform in the nation — but our journey is not over.”

“In 1978 the General Assembly gave a monopoly to one government union and allowed that union to strangle the hope of education reform in this state,” said Sen. Jack Johnson. “This bill rectifies that mistake and gives power back to locally-elected school boards and teachers. The passage of this measure is necessary if we mean to continue on the path of education reform we have embarked upon.”

Our most recent story on the issue is here:

New Collective Bargaining Proposal Gives Management Job of Crafting Teacher Protections

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