The state House of Representatives today set up a possible fight with the Senate over how much power to strip away from the Tennessee Education Association.
By a largely party line vote, the House passed a bill that limits the reach of the TEA in negotiating pay and benefits, but doesn’t forbid school boards from collective bargaining with the Union.
The Senate bill completely shuts down any collective negotiations by the union.
House sponsor Debra Maggart had promised to support the softer House version until the bill goes to conference committee – where she has made no commitment. She says her bill benefits students.
“We’ve all worked very hard on education reform, and I know that many of us believe that getting rid of collective bargaining, and getting the roadblocks that the union has placed traditionally in the way of reform, would be a good thing for our students.”
Nashville Representative Brenda Gilmore tried to limit the changes to Maggart’s home county. She got a smattering of applause before the speaker hammered the House back to order.
Gilmore: “I think most of us would appreciate if it was just narrowly defined legislation that would address the issues in Sumner County, and not the entire state of Tennessee …”
(applause builds as Gilmore finishes)
“…and for that reason I renew my motion…”
Speaker Harwell: “QUIET!”
That’s Speaker Beth Harwell, a former college teacher, calling the room back to order with a teacher’s command.
A conference committee to hash out the differences between the two versions could report back something totally different – but Democrats expect that the harsher Senate version will be offered, rather than a compromise.
Representative Mike McDonald of Portland, in Sumner County, says his constituents in the school system oppose the bill.
“They understand that our good teachers are demoralized and insulted by House Bill 130, and the parents are concerned about the long-term effects.”
Former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh read an e-mail from a teacher:
“As president of my local association, a bargaining local, I signed off on Race to the Top – all the paperwork – I feel used and, sadly, discarded…You have used us teachers, and are now abusing us.”
But other representatives – all Republicans – say that teachers in their own districts want the bill passed.
The collective bargaining bill is SB 113 Johnson/HB 130 Maggart
The bill passed in the Senate in a form that bars collective bargaining by the teachers’ union altogether.
The version passed by the House allows collective bargaining to continue but puts several items, including possible differing levels of pay for teachers, beyond the reach of the negotiating table.