The House Education Subcommittee approved a compromise on the bill that originally halted teacher collective bargaining with an amendment stripping out the bill’s ban on bargaining and would:

  • Allow negotiations to continue between local school boards and teacher associations on base salaries, benefits and limited other issues.
  • Give boards authority to enact differential, merit and incentive pay not subject to negotiations.
  • Limit bargaining on “working conditions” — a broad range of topics in current contracts — to matters affecting employees financially and their relationship with the school board.
  • Removes principals from the bargaining unit with teachers. They are currently covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The amendment leaves teachers with the power to negotiate through unions, but it also lets districts pay teachers more based on their performance or if they teach in hard-to-staff schools or subjects. The amendment also removes teachers’ ability to appeal their evaluations, and it gives administrators the ability to transfer or lay off teachers without regard to seniority.

The amendment also would lower the threshold for reorganizing teachers in districts that have a union. Under current law, foes of the union would have to collect signatures from 50 percent of the teachers to dissolve the union; the amendment cuts the requirement to 30 percent.

The House bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Debra Maggart, said she supports the amendment, Rep. Jack Johnson states “My only initial reaction is it will allow for collective bargaining in certain instances, and I would prefer complete repeal. We’ll take a look at it.”  Gov. Bill Haslam endorses the compromise and the TEA is pleased.

However the City Paper is reporting State Senate leaders rejected the compromise and vowed to press ahead with their attempt to repeal the collective bargaining rights of public school teachers.

Lt. Gov. Ramsey stated “Last November, Tennesseans issued a mandate to the Republican majority to institute bold and meaningful education reform.  Senator Jack Johnson’s bill to outlaw locking taxpayers into funding union contracts is a prime example of the kind of reform Tennesseans have requested. The Senate remains committed to answering the call of the voters and hope[s] to ultimately see this reform reflected in the law.”  (Read More Here)

It is sad to see the GOP in the House failing to stand for the children of Tennessee by ending collective union bargaining of teachers.  This bill is not busting the teachers union as many are implying.  Teachers are free to join any union or organization they choose.  In fact by allowing the sharing of information it will bring more choices to teachers.  It merely ends monopoly control of the union in employment negotiations and gives it back to the individual teachers-treating them like professionals.

We remind everyone of the Cato study which, in part, states:

Teachers unions became an institutional player in public education with the advent of mandated collective bargaining.  Through this process they acquired considerable influence not only over wages, benefits, and conditions of employment but over the educational program of school districts as well.  Their financial and organizational resources permitted them to influence the election of sympathetic school board members and members of state legislatures.

While collective bargaining appears to offer minimal returns within the public school sector, unions nevertheless provide a valuable service to their members: protecting them from having to compete in the educational marketplace. The unions spend large sums on political lobbying so that public school districts maintain their monopoly control of more than half a trillion dollars in annual U.S. K-12 education spending. That monopoly, in turn, offers a more than 40 percent average compensation premium over the private sector, along with greater job security. And since both the U.S. and international research indicate that achievement and efficiency are generally higher in private sector—and particularly competitive market—education systems, the public school monopoly imposes an enormous cost on American [Tennessee’s] children and taxpayers. We are paying dearly for the union label, but mainly due to union lobbying to preserve the government school monopoly rather than to collective bargaining.

In Losing Their Bargaining Rights won’t send Teachers to the Poorhouse Michael Petrilli points out:

Teachers in non-collective bargaining districts actually earn more than their union-protected peers–$64,500 on average versus $57,500.

On the other hand, there is some evidence from the NCTQ data that non-collective bargaining districts drive a harder bargain when it comes to health care: Just one-third of those districts offer free insurance to employees, versus one-half of those with bargaining rights. As Governor Scott Walker reminds us today, that’s what the Wisconsin fight was largely about: reining in the out-of-control costs of health care.

All of this sheds a light on what the unions are really about: protecting benefits and seniority–not pushing for higher pay. If you’re a young teacher earning a lousy salary and paying union dues, that’s something to be very angry about.

Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey wrote An open letter to conservatives on Senate Bill 113:

I am writing to you today regarding a time-sensitive matter on which I need your support.

The state legislature is debating Senate Bill 113/House Bill 130, a proposal that would prevent government employee unions from locking taxpayers into long-term union contracts that we cannot afford. You have seen a version of this same debate play out in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and other states. Now it’s Tennessee’s turn.

As a conservative, I believe leaders should treat every dollar that comes into state government as carefully as we would treat our own. We should spend money frugally. We should tax minimally. And we should take conservative budgetary actions to avoid crises before they happen.

That is exactly what the Senate Education Committee has done in passing Senate Bill 113. It would classify teachers and other educators as essential government employees — much in the same manner as we classify law enforcement professionals — and end the use of union contracts in that field. I am a strong backer of this legislation for both financial and philosophical reasons.

First, we must take this step to avoid serious state financial problems down the road. For many counties in Tennessee, the union contract process is non-controversial and collegial. But in many of our larger counties, the process exposes the taxpayers to long term risks. And as we have seen in other places, financial risk for Shelby County, Davidson County or Rutherford County is a danger to every taxpayer statewide.

Secondly, I am convinced that ending the practice of factory-style, iron-clad, union contracts in education is essential to meaningful reform of our schools. The union lobbyists who benefit from union contract laws are the same lobbyists who strangle every attempt to pay our best teachers more — and reward them for their great performance. A one-size-fits-all union contract will always penalize the most talented educators and prevent us from ensuring the best results for our children. I have great respect for our state’s talented educators. I believe they deserve to be treated and compensated like the professionals they are and that’s why I am working hard to bring our laws into the 21st century.

As Republicans, we worked very hard to win the trust of Tennesseans and the responsibility of governing as the majority party in the State Capitol. We must honor the trust of the Tennesseans who sent us here by implementing the common-sense, conservative philosophy of our state’s people. Stand with me in this cause to make sure we as Republicans are who we say we are. Let your voice be heard in Nashville today.

TNSC thanks Lt. Gov. Ramsey for having the courage to fight to improve education for Tennessee’s children.

To read more:

Commercial Appeal:  Compromise would limit collective bargaining for Tenn. Teachers

Tennessean:  TN Republicans back off ban on collective bargaining for teachers

City Paper:  Compromise would limit collective bargaining for Tenn. teachers

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