Senate Republicans say repeal of collective bargaining presents historic opportunity

Tuesday, May 3, 2011 at 12:44pm

Senate Republicans hailed it as a historic opportunity for education reform, but Democrats accused the state GOP of “demonizing public school teachers” with legislation to repeal their right to negotiate contracts with school boards.

“We have dealt with a lot of bad bills regarding teachers this session, but this may be the worst,” Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said after the Senate voted 18-14 Monday night to repeal collective bargaining by teachers. “Teachers were deliberately ignored and deliberately targeted by the sponsors and supporters of this legislation.”

But Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said, “Union contracts have hamstrung our local school boards for too long. 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.”

The bill would repeal the collective bargaining law enacted in 1978. That gave teachers the right to form unions and negotiate contracts with school boards. The bill calls for school boards to hold so-called collaborations with teachers on pay and benefits, but no agreements are necessary.

“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, R-Brentwood. “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.”

“We have a historic opportunity to make this session of the General Assembly a landmark for the cause of reform,” Johnson said. “This bill creates a collaborative environment between teachers and their local board, which will ultimately result in putting a quality teacher in every classroom.”

The companion House bill prohibits collective bargaining on merit pay and other issues but continues to allow it for base pay and benefits. House leaders have said they will change their bill to the outright repeal in the Senate version.

Republicans denied they are trying to bust the teachers’ union to dry up a source of campaign cash for Democrats. That is the contention of the Tennessee Education Association, which represents 52,000 teachers. In a press release, Senate Democrats said Republicans were “demonizing public school teachers.”

“All of these bills are about one thing: political payback,” said Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere. “None of this legislation is going to raise a single test score or improve a single child’s education. A teacher’s work environment is a child’s learning environment, and both get worse every time one of these bills passes.”

39 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 5/3/11 at 12:20

Teachers should not take this sitting down. We are looking more and more like WI. What is wrong with the legislative body in their desire in destroying teachers and their familities? Just go back and look to where teachers were before Unions. They have worked since 1978. All the GOP wants to do is take away any competition that may stand up to them. They want one party rule, and this never works. Go and read about Germany.

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 1:22

So I guess they were not working before 1978?

Doom and gloom, Doom and gloom, everyone is a Nazi, doom and gloom.

By: revo-lou on 5/3/11 at 1:41

If any republican is re-elected in the next election, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

By: pswindle on 5/3/11 at 3:57

Oh, they were working but you should know about the conditions. There were thirty or forty kids in a room, and the salary was so low that a single person could not live on a month's wage. There were no benefits. This is just a start. Teachers taught because they wanted to make a difference as they do today, but you have to have a decent working conditions and salary. Jeff you have no idea waht you are talking about. I hope you are not married. I know because a neighbor of my parents had to live with her parents because she was so poor. Unions help make it a more level playing field.

By: jock on 5/3/11 at 5:33

I consider myself a moderate independent. I'm a public school teacher who has never joined the union because I found their politics a little too liberal for my tastes. Now, because of the blatant political attack in the guise of educational reform on my profession. I will work to defeat any republican who voted for this.

By: JeffF on 5/3/11 at 7:17

You know there were a bunch of people alive and aware before 1978? No class sizes were not 30-40. Salaries were low but of course everyone's were. Anyway, we have not really seen any increase in results with increase in pay have we? Whole lot of investing has been happening in teachers but not really any pay off. Probably time we quit investing in what the TEA has been selling for over three decades.

By: pswindle on 5/3/11 at 7:54

You still do not get it. It is not the teachers. You can't stuff cotten where God forgotten. If the parents would take an interest that would help in many ways.

By: asdfgh on 5/3/11 at 9:54

I taught in 1974. I had 72 kindergartners. There were 144 kindergartners in all. Two teachers had to share one room. We had 36 each in the morning, and 36 each in the afternoons. There was an accordion pleated wall down the middle of the room. All I had to teach with was
crayons and newsprint. I started out teaching for under $10,000. The legislature is made up of a bunch of bullies. So easy to pick on a group of mostly females who entered the profession because we are idealistic and want to make a difference in the lives of children. I am an independent, but I will never vote for another republican in my life. As God is my witness.

By: FredFlintstone on 5/4/11 at 3:54

(1) Collective bargaining is negotiation between a group of employees and management. While that requires an organization on the part of the employees, it does not require a Union; professional associations have been successfully used this way by other professions for years. (2) How is it cheaper & less time consuming for any employer to hold a seperate negotiation with EVERY employee, than to hold one bargaining session with the group? (3) Public schools want teachers to have a Master's Degree. That's the same level of education as a Lawyer or Nurse Practioner, and often leaves the recent graduate with 100K or more in student loan debt. That's a mortgage! (4) The person handling the register at your local grocery store makes more money than a teacher. So collective bargaining for teachers has NOT been used by teachers or their union to gain unreasonably large salaries. (5) Teachers normally fight for things like small class room sizes and an increase in the ratio of resources per student. So instead of fighting for more money for themselves, they've historically fought to get more money for their students. (6) What have they done that we don't agree with? (7) Would you work under these conditions?

By: HokeyPokey on 5/4/11 at 5:21

And yesterday was the anniversary of the day Hitler abolished labor unions in Germany.

Tennessee GOP have a lot to learn.


By: spooky24 on 5/4/11 at 5:44

The pro-union gloom and doom gets old and moldy after every single cost cutting measure is applied to it. I, for one, graduated from Metro schools in 1977 and I sure never saw "40 kids in a classroom". Our entire senior class was 128 students. Class sizes were 15 to 20 max and most of the teachers I got to know loved their job.
True, kids then were simply held to higher standards, I know I was, and granted, the Union may have a point here. I have little doubt that the product they must work with is quite inferior-in terms of study habits and responsibly-that my senior class was.
Unions-in all areas-have a tactical problem in that they only have one answer to every challenge-attack. The largest and most powerful union-the UAW-has gone from 1.6 million members to just over 300,000. You wonder if they ever considered why this has happened? No I doubt they ever will other than to attack some group to blame their own woes on.


By: govskeptic on 5/4/11 at 5:52

The sky is falling and Hitler is rising, oh what a bunch of sore losers we have
across the state. One party rule was alright as long as it was within the
Democratic Party and the schools were doing such a good job under that
rule? I suggest the majority of citizens across this good state decided
that "dependency" is not such a good thing for our future when they last
did their voting. The true test of the voters will must now be followed up
in the State House of Representatives with passage of the Senate Bill!

By: Blip on 5/4/11 at 5:59

Keep this up, you won't have teachers. You will be sending your students to concrete holding pens to be guarded for the day.

By: nash615 on 5/4/11 at 6:47

Claims about political revenge are just a red herring. The repeal of collective bargaining is onerous, but not primarily because teachers vote and donate Democratic.

The attack on the coherence of teachers as a negotiating body is intended to weaken teachers' general opposition to teaching a radically conservative Christian fundamentalist viewpoint in the classroom.

The ideology which spawned the Scopes trial is still very much alive and well across Tennessee. There are a number of political actions (including direct bills in the state legislature to change what can be taught in the classroom) intended to bring Gawd, Jeebus, and a moronic pseudo-science into the curriculum. This is one of them.

It's important to keep your eye on the ball, it's just that it's not where the politicians want you to believe it is.

By: LizzyD on 5/4/11 at 7:03

BINGO! nash615

By: Cookie47 on 5/4/11 at 7:03

Tennessee schools should have a policy of paying good employees the better pay. Remove collective bargaining then pay each teacher by the merit of their work. The best should make better money and the bad teachers will be weeded out in the review process. It's a WIN-WIN. Good teachers get the pay they deserve and our children get the education they need.

That being said, teachers are NOT the problem of the public school systems in Tennessee. Parent MUST be involved. Parents MUST partner with their kids teachers to make sure the teachers can TEACH rather than babysit or act as warden. Of course, to make this happen, you have to have parents who give a damn. I was fortunate. My parents did and I had a great bunch of teachers.

By: HokeyPokey on 5/4/11 at 7:06

Why is it that when our military has trouble fulfilling a mission, it gets more training, more equipment, and continues to pursue the mission.

Why is it when our system of education has trouble fulfilling a mission, we attack the teachers?


By: JeffF on 5/4/11 at 9:12

Fred the schools were not the ones who initiated the masters degree requirements. Many schools have been trying to hire subject matter experts for decades only to rebuffed by the teachers union who wanted them to only hire teachers with educational masters degree. It was never meant to be a plus in the educational system, it was instituted to be a barrier to entry to keep "non-teachers" out of the education world and reduce competition teachers may have other learned professionals.

and Hokey, the schools have been getting more equipment, training, technology, and pay for three decades and the results have been declining. The only response we get from the NEA/TEA/MNEA is that pay has to increase and class size has to be reduced, but they cannot be held accountable because of all the lack of good parenting. Eliminating the requirement that school board representatives must deal with a handful of charged up union representatives rather than the employees themselves is a great way to simplify and reduce costs and teachers will have the ability to take home more money and answer to fewer bosses.

By: BigPapa on 5/4/11 at 9:12

I think it's hilarious how the term "conservative" and "progressive/liberal" have flip flopped when it comes to education. The teachers union and Dems are VERY conservative - they want no changes. "Nothing to see here.. keep moving.. everything is just fine.." While the GOP is the one looking at this system and finally stating that thing have GOT to change.
Hey, "Change you can belive in." Has a ring to it doesnt it???

By: JeffF on 5/4/11 at 9:26

In the end, what the union is most afraid of is that they will lose paying members once the state turns the union into an optional social club. I think they know that there was a sizable portion of their membership that really did not like paying a lot of money into an organization that sometimes did nothing for them and other times may have acted in a way they did not politically or morally believe.

I would place the percentage of true believer foot soldiers in the TEA at about 10% to 20% of the teaching population. The zealots will remain and pay their dues and may even work the political campaigns. But honestly, I have never interacted with a public school teacher that shared the political beliefs and leanings of their own union. Many of these teachers I have known were sitting in the pews of the churches the left-wing mouth breathers come on here regularly to hate on. The same churches that are anti-infanticide, pro-family, pro-marriage, and other causes many of you detest.

Good luck if you think the teachers will rise up as one and defeat the Republicans in the next statewide election. You have decades of decline in the Tennessee Democrat party that will continue no matter what the unimportant, wealth-hating slums here in Nashville and in Memphis do on election day. Can't wait to see the redistricting plan to see if Nashville will be split between 4 Republican districts, thus eliminating our out-of-touch politics from discussion for decades to come. The red areas grow big and think big, the blue areas do the following:

Doom and gloom, Doom and gloom, everyone is a Nazi, doom and gloom

By: BigPapa on 5/4/11 at 9:34

So funny that the 1st person to post on here sited nazi germany... hilarious. Have you people not heard of Godwin's Law?

By: trtay2004 on 5/4/11 at 10:08

I will donate to a Teachers Strike Fund. If it weren't for my teachers I wouldn't have anything. They worked their butts off early in the morning to late at night for very little money.


By: jdekornfeld on 5/4/11 at 10:09

While they are at it, the Republican majority should take this "Historic opportunity" and bring back the segregated lunch counters and drinking fountains Nashville enjoyed before the liberal meddling shoved down their throats in the 60's and early 70's. I'm sure they can spin it to sound as though they are doing us all a favor and just bringing a little common sense to the discussion.

By: BigPapa on 5/4/11 at 10:22

yes yes yes.. that's right because they dont want teachers unions they MUST be terrible segregationist too!! And Nazis! they worship adolf hitler AND bin Ladden!!
If the people that post on here are teachers my god please please leave the classroom because you are too ignorant to teach anyone anything.

By: HokeyPokey on 5/4/11 at 11:38

Alls I knows is that pretty soon after someone mentions Hitler or Nazis some geezer trots out "Godwin's Law" on a leash as if it actually meant anything relevant to the discussion.

And you can cite me on that one.


By: Ingleweird on 5/4/11 at 12:52

Amen, HP and Nash615. The GOP wants to discourage qualified teachers from considering a career with Tennessee's educational system. The teachers that remain will be more than happy to indoctrinate the captive audience of students; extolling the merits of creationism, anti-womens rights, and anti-religious freedom. The result may well be a new generation of non-critically thinking nimrods who are working-class, who see no problem with so-called smaller-government advocates from the GOP telling them how to live their own goddamned lives, and continuing to vote these fundamentalist Christian extremists into office.

By: JeffF on 5/4/11 at 1:03

I would rather give money directly to a teacher rather than a union. Teachers are awesome but it appears that the union is working overtime to create a link that what you do to the union (48% or less participation) you do to a teacher.

Why are all you people hating on teachers by standing up for the TEA? After all this is said and done the majority of teachers will not belong to the union if they are not required or baited to do so. Why protect a union when its own membership will stop sending it money when given a chance?

Doom and gloom, doom and gloom, everyone that disagrees is a Nazi, doom and gloom

By: BigPapa on 5/4/11 at 2:26

Teachers have been brainwashed by the TEA. They dont realize that this could usher in GREAT things for GREAT teachers. However, it could be bad if you're a bad teacher.
Imagine a really really good teacher being able to (gasp!) make more money than the terribly performing teacher down the hall, or perhaps being paid a bonus for teaching in an area of high demand and high degree of specialty? How about principals being able to offer different things in order to recruit great teachers to their school, school systems doing that sytem wide!
Nahh.. better to all be paid the same based on time served right?

By: Cookie47 on 5/4/11 at 2:45

IngleWeird, your name says to all. you're getting WEIRDER and WEIRDER, if that's possible. After reading what you wrote above, I do believe it is.

Well said, BigPapa. I guess it's a strange idea to some of the people on here that if you do a good job you'll make better money. If the way you do your job sucks, you'll get fired. Hmmmm. if I'm not mistaken, that's the way it happens in the real world.

By: HokeyPokey on 5/4/11 at 7:28

I wonder if Papa was asleep when the union thug teacher was yelling at him about how to use apostrophes.

By: budlight on 5/5/11 at 6:43

So in the other article when Democrats take away the welfare check from drugged up parents (which hurts the children), it's "tough love".

And when the Republicans do away with unions, unions that get even bad teachers higher pay, it's wrong.

Sounds like you people are biased.

BigPapa on 5/4/11 at 3:26
Teachers have been brainwashed by the TEA. They dont realize that this could usher in GREAT things for GREAT teachers. However, it could be bad if you're a bad teacher.
Imagine a really really good teacher being able to (gasp!) make more money than the terribly performing teacher down the hall, or perhaps being paid a bonus for teaching in an area of high demand and high degree of specialty? How about principals being able to offer different things in order to recruit great teachers to their school, school systems doing that sytem wide!
Nahh.. better to all be paid the same based on time served right?

I agree with you BigPapa. Let's start paying people based on job performance. And if students do not have parents who participate in their education, let's figure out a way to "involve" parents.

By: wasaw on 5/5/11 at 3:43

TN students will br no brighter or dumber if the teachers aren't unionized. I worked in Davidson County schools the last fifteem years of my career. I worked hand in hand with principals and assistant principal. Their primary complaint was always that they could not replace or fire a poor teacher. I've spent much time at school board meetings where the union reps whined more about pay issues than anything else.

Everyone knows that unions support Dem candidates while the real working folks support the 'Pubs. Why are unions members surprised when their guys get beat at the polls? The taxpayers who are paying the bills are sick and tired of poor performance, at high pay. Teachers who are union members, get real. Start teaching and stop whining. Better yet, go find a job that will pay you a twelve month wage for twelve months of work.

By: Moonglow1 on 5/5/11 at 11:13

Moonglow1: the "historic" opportunity is defined as the chance to completely dismantle PUBLIC education. The Race to the Top also finances Charter Schools & other such alternatives to PUBLIC education. The Tea Republicans hate the PUBLIC. They want to bust unions and bust PUBLIC education. They use Nazi tactics to get their way. Shove legislation down our throats. Actually, since salaries are so low and jobs are outsourced, our children can remain ignorant. A job at MacDonalds does not require an education. The wealthy children will be educated at very private exclusive schools while the poor shall be taught creationism & revised history & un truths. What a horrible world with the Tea's in charge. The teacher's union is NOT the problem. The problem is Tea ideology and the harm it brings to our culture.

By: Moonglow1 on 5/5/11 at 11:33

We need some news media here (come on down Ed from MSNBC) to expose Haslam as MSNBC has done with Walker. Frankly, these bum's (TN legislature & Haslam) are in many ways worse than Walker. We must stand up for our rights. Do not let these bum's take away a God given right to have the voice of the common man be heard. Corporations have lobbyists. We have unions and union folks vote for Democrats. And my friends that is one reason why the Tea's want them abolished. Stand up TN. Let your voice be heard.

By: Cookie47 on 5/6/11 at 6:31

It always amazes me how liberals scream against religion and God then, when they think their rights are being taken away, they suddenly become "a God given right to have the voice of the common man be heard."

They also scream they hate the Constitution but yet it's the very document that gives them the right to scream, bitch, and moan without fear of reprisal from the government. In other words, the "right to have the voice of the common man be heard."

The level of stupidity and immaturity as well as the lack of critical thinking skills and common sense in some Americans is truly, truly a very sad thing in this country.

By: Moonglow1 on 5/6/11 at 11:23

Moonglow1 to Cookie47. I am so tired of the usual drivel from the Tea. You assume liberals are godless. Ok, only the Tea prays. Only the Tea understands the Constitution, and yes, the only Americans allowed to participate in public life are the Teas. The Teas are so highly educated as they are taught creationism. Do the Teas know the meaning of critical thinking? Of course not, they spew the talking points of their heros like Beck and Limbaugh.
The following is some information about your hero Paul Ryan: “ But a closer look at Ryan's voting record reveals a single eyebrow-raising exception when it comes to labor unions: Ryan has consistently broken with his party to defend a law protecting the wages of unionized construction workers. His stance on the issue has earned him the support of a handful of unions back home, setting them apart from the majority of Wisconsin's labor community, which who has cast Ryan as public enemy No. 1. What explains this break in GOP orthodoxy? Ryan's family owns a construction firm that relies heavily on union labor—and the company could suffer if the law were repealed.”

By: Cookie47 on 5/6/11 at 11:58

Moon, I simply could NOT care less if you or any other liberal, Dem, Marxist, or progressive is tired of the drivel from the Tea Party. Why? Because I'm not a member of the Tea Party. I've never been to one of their meetings and have no intention of going anytime soon or in the future. What I am is a free-thinking conservative that's fully capable of listening to both sides and making my own decision.

I'm not for collective bargaining for teachers because I have had to deal with a teacher that was so burned out she should have been gone years before she taught my daughter. Unfortunately, she couldn't be fired due to tenure and the union stepped in to protect her. The clear message I got was protect the teacher at all costs and to hell with the kids. I moved my daughter to a private school to protect her from the public school morass brought on by a bad system and an even worse union.

I don't care if you're religious or sleep in every single Sunday. That's between you and your god. You may understand the Constitution but you obviously don't like or respect it unless it goes along with your way of thinking, at least that's the impression you've given here.

It's obvious you're a liberal and I was simply pointing out how it amazes me how people like you scream against religion, God, and the Constitution then, when they think their rights are being taken away, they suddenly become religious and a strict Constitutionalist.

Again, the level of stupidity and immaturity as well as the lack of critical thinking skills and common sense in some Americans is truly, truly a very sad thing in this country. If this upsets you, Moon, then I suggest you grow up and educate yourself with something other than liberal talking points. If not, then you have nothing to worry about but this is my free-thinking conservative opinion and I REALLY don't give a damn if you or anyone else likes it or not.

By: Moonglow1 on 5/6/11 at 2:18

Moonglow1 to Cookie. While your personal dealings with one teacher was traumatic there may have been a good reason why that one particular teacher was not fired. You call me a liberal because I am pointing out that the actions of the TN legislature are the exact positions of the Tea Party and based on your comments so are you. Don't be embarrassed. If you believe in tea party principles so be it. It is your right. I believe they are wrong for America and for our prosperity.

By: Cookie47 on 5/6/11 at 3:03

Moon, the only thing I'm embarrassed by politically is the present administration in the White House, not the TN legislature. I have no idea what the Tea Party's position is because I've never been much of a follower. As stated before, I'm a free-thinking conservative. Whether you believe me or not, it matters not.

The only thing a person should be embarrassed by is if they blindly follow a party line out of stupidity or immaturity or don't have the common sense to think for themselves. You're certainly entitled to believe conservative principles are wrong for America. I believe the opposite.

One day soon, conservatives will once again govern this country and we will bring it back to prosperity, 180 degrees from where it's heading now. I know it's not easy for you to understand, Moon, but your beliefs are wrong. I get the impression you aren't very old and still idealistic. If you've hit 40 and still believe the crap the Dems are shoveling, it's my sincere hope you do some introspection. If you're under 40 and believe that same garbage, you just haven't grown up enough yet. I just hope you don't learn the hard way.