TNSC would like to give a rebuttal to a few comments made by state Rep. Mike Stewart in an article in Asheville’s “Citizen-timesPurely political bill gets in way of beneficial reform.

First up:

“For some reason, policymakers can’t avoid the temptation to constantly “reform” the schools. Whether or not something is broken, we feel the need to “fix” it over and over again, often creating needless distractions for principals, teachers, parents and, most importantly, our school children.”

Is Stewart seriously implying Tennessee’s education system is not broken?  US News & World Report 2009 ranks Tennessee 36thTennessee’s composite ACT score ranks it fourth from the bottom of the nation; In the 2009 SAT Scores Tennessee students rank 38th in critical reading, 36th in mathematics & 42nd in writing.  As if being 36th isn’t bad enough, keep in mind the United States ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science, and 25th in mathematics.

Next:

“House Bill 130 is driven by a political agenda that has nothing to do with education.

The teachers union represents a powerful political force in elections. If you’re a candidate you want the votes and campaign contributions from the teachers union. The problem is after the candidate wins office they then sit down to collectively bargain over the pay and benefits with the unions who elected them.

Then:

“…the evidence is overwhelming that interfering with teachers’ contract rights has no positive impact on school performance.”

It is through political patronage, not collective bargaining that the teachers unions protect their members…from competition. The unions enjoy a monopoly on government education spending.  By blocking all reforms to protect their monopoly on spending they are preventing improvement in Tennessee education.  There are so many statistics, studies, and real world models that it can only be willful ignorance to deny the positive impact of school choice on education.  Breaking the union stranglehold of collective bargaining is an important step in reforming education in Tennessee.

Give us a break:

“Not only did the TEA support Bredesen’s bill [Race to the Top legislation], numerous teachers in my district personally lobbied me to pass it.

Enough with the adoration for union support for RTTT!  While we are glad they did give their support, let’s not miss a major reason:  they supported it because it got more money for education, which prevented teacher layoffs, which meant more money for unions.

Then Stewart trots out the usual union propaganda:

“With very few exceptions our teachers are hard-working, dynamic leaders who are driving innovation, accountability and overall improvement. The contrary view embodied by the Republican leadership’s bill is largely promoted by people from outside the state, who cite anecdotal evidence from highly dysfunctional districts that bear little relation to what is happening here.”

This fight is NOT against teachers.  We all know and love a teacher.  This fight is against the teachers unions.  The battle being waged by the unions and their political supporters is all about union power.  There is no concern for improving education in Tennessee or what Tennessee’s education failures mean for our children.  The unions aren’t even really concerned about teachers beyond the dues the unions risk losing.  Teachers deserve to be treated like the professionals they are, not as cash cows for the unions.

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