After an acrimonious two-hour debate, state House Speaker Beth Harwell cast the deciding vote Wednesday to save legislation to curb collective bargaining rights for public school teachers.
The House Finance Committee voted 13-12 for its compromise version of the bill, sending it to the House floor for a final vote as early as next week. But Republican leaders refused to give assurances they won’t switch to the hard-line Senate bill later. Harwell made a rare appearance at the meeting to vote. It was the second time this session she has been forced to vote to keep the bill alive.
Three Republicans joined the committee’s Democrats in voting against the bill. Another Republican — Rep. Jim Coley, a school teacher from Bartlett — abstained because he said it’s a conflict of interest that he belongs to his teachers’ union. Asked later whether he would have voted no, which would have killed the bill, Coley said, “In my heart that’s what I wanted to do.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Senate speaker, said GOP senators will keep fighting to eliminate the 33-year-old collective bargaining law should the measure go to conference committee.
“While I remain open to working to resolve concerns about this bill, there can be no compromise on the meat of the measure: the full repeal of the 1978 law,” Ramsey said.
House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, said he personally favors scaling back teachers’ collective bargaining and not eliminating them completely.
Three Republicans voted with Democrats against the bill, including Rep. Scotty Campbell of Mountain City, Rep. Mike Harrison of Rogersville, and Rep. Dennis “Coach” Roach of Bartlett.
Republican Rep. Jim Coley abstained, telling reporters later that he felt a conflict of interest because he belongs to the Tennessee Education Association. His urge, he said, was to vote against the bill, which likely would have killed it. Coley said he hasn’t decided if he would vote on the measure on the House floor.
There are two competing bills the General Assembly is considering. The House version would limit the issues teachers unions can bring to the collective bargaining negotiating table. A bill that has already passed the Senate would eliminate collective bargaining entirely by repealing the 1978 Professional Education Negotiations Act that currently requires school boards to negotiate labor contracts with one recognized teacher union in 92 Tennessee school districts.
TNSC thanks Speaker Harwell for casting her vote allowing the House collective bargaining bill, HB13o, to go to the House floor for a full House vote. However, we need the constituents of the following four Republicans to contact their representatives and ask them to fight for Tennessee’s children by voting to end collective bargaining, the first step to education reform:
Further contact information for the entire House is available Here. The vote will most likely happen next week. Please take a moment to call your House Representative and ask them to vote to end collective bargaining. Calling is best, but if not, send an e-mail.
As we said yesterday ending collective bargaining is imperative because:
- Collective bargaining creates an adversarial environment between teachers and school instead of working together for the benefit of students and improving performance.
- Ending collective bargaining would allow teachers to be paid based on their performance and skills, treating them as professionals, allowing districts to better value and compensate top quality teachers.
- It is through collective bargaining the teachers unions prevent any meaningful education reform.
- Union influence and power has resulted in exponentially increasing the cost of education for taxpayers yet providing virtually no improvements to the quality of education.
- Ending collective bargaining will serve to break the anti-trust power brokering between politicians and the teachers union and return control to the tax payers, individual teachers and their employers and parents and away from teachers unions and the politicians beholding to them.