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Teachers Under Attack in TennesseePosted Tuesday, September 6, 2011, at 9:52 AM
Simple, but true!
There's a button in my office that says "if you can read this, thank a teacher." It's a simple, but true statement. Each and every one of us has benefitted from the knowledge and nurture of a quality educator. These teachers often work long hours for little pay, going above and beyond the call of duty because they are dedicated to seeing our students succeed. Now, unfortunately, these dedicated men and women have come under attack in Tennessee.
This legislative session became an attack on teachers when we stopped talking about education reform and instead focused on politics. Nowhere was this more evident than HB 130, the repeal of the Professional Negotiations Act. The PNA, which had been in place in Tennessee since the 1970's, allowed teachers to participate in the political process, join professional associations and negotiate collectively with school boards. Now, under HB 130, our teachers no longer enjoy these rights.
This legislation attacked our teachers and public education on three fronts.
First, teachers have been stripped of their right to participate in the political process. Under HB 130, teachers cannot deduct dues from their own paycheck to a professional association if that association is involved in the political process. Besides being extremely vague, this new provision is grossly unfair to teachers when compared to the rights enjoyed by other professions. In no other line of work can the government mandate to the individual what they can or cannot deduct from their own paycheck. This is a massive overstep of the state government and a truly unnecessary mandate.
Second, this legislation robbed teachers of their right to effective professional association. In almost every line of work, employees are encouraged to join a recognized professional association to advocate for their issues both in the workplace and in the government. I, for instance, belong to the Tennessee Bankers Association who represent my interests as a banker in Nashville. Every profession in Tennessee from farmers to home builders to lawyers to truck drivers to doctors has a united professional association looking out for their interest--except teachers. Under this new law, teachers no longer have a united professional association. Rather they have been broken up into a multitude of smaller associations to dilute their collective voice.
Finally, Lt. Governor Ramsey and his friends have taken from our teachers the right to negotiate on behalf of our children. The Lt. Governor and his allies want you to believe that professional negotiations are just about benefits to teachers, but this simply isn't true. Our teachers negotiate for things students need to be successful. They have negotiated for smaller classroom sizes, usable chalkboards, new text books, increased security measures and access to classrooms for student extracurricular activities. Alternative schools are a product of professional negotiations in Sullivan County, while teachers in Hancock County had to use professional negotiations to get basic janitorial services to keep students safe from flu and lice outbreaks. Now, under HB 130, teachers can't negotiate for these basic classroom necessities.
I opposed HB 130 and the repeal of the Professional Negotiations Act because it is ill advised legislation motivated by politics, not good public policy. Despite what its proponents want you to believe this law did nothing to further education reform. It didn't put one more teacher in the classroom. It didn't put one more student in college. It didn't help one more graduate get a job. All this legislation did was punish teachers because they didn't send a campaign check to certain legislators last fall. Our teachers work hard and they deserve to be treated better than they were by the General Assembly.
As always, if you have any questions about this new law or would like to hear more about another issue, please contact my legislative office and we'll get your questions answered as soon as possible. Have a great week!
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