Maggart on Education: More Focus on Kids, Less on Adults

House Republicans who believe their education reform ideas have been given short shrift for years want to flex their new-found political muscle and are looking to tussle with the state’s teachers’ union.

“You’re going to see some of us file some legislation that probably the old guard’s not going to like,” Hendersonville Rep. Debra Maggart, the lower chamber’s GOP Caucus chairwoman, told TNReport Monday. “I think that it’s an opportunity to try to look at things in a different light and try to do what’s best for kids and maybe not focus so much on the interest of the adults.”

Maggart kicked things off last week by filing a bill that would eliminate collective bargaining between teachers unions and school districts, repealing the Education Professional Negotiations Act. The legislation is geared toward freeing up school districts to find better ways to improve education standards, Maggart told The Associated Press.

If passed, existing bargaining agreements between the unions and school districts would stay intact, but unions would no longer be able to negotiate new contracts, under the terms of Maggart’s bill, which Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, in carrying in the Senate.

The Tennessee Education Association wasted no time trying to mount a counterattack. Union leaders shot out an email to members Monday urging them to demand their local legislators vote against the bill, saying the proposal would “turn back the clock” on school employees’ privileges.

TNReport recently sat down with Maggart to talk about her philosophy regarding education reform and what the public should expect to come out of the House GOP this year.

Maggart said she doesn’t know the full scope of Gov. Bill Haslam’s promised education reform package, but that she herself is interested in helping facilitate a freewheeling, unrestricted discussion on education reform in Tennessee.

“Everybody needs to step back — both sides about this issue — and say, ‘OK, wait a minute. You know what, that’s not working,’” she said. “Just let go of the things that we know don’t work and try something else. Hey, and if those things don’t work, have an open mind. Let’s try something else until we get it right.”

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  • Margaret Todd

    The single most successful factor in a child’s education is a good quality teacher. This is proven time and time again. If they get rid of bargaining power and teacher tenure, who is going to WANT to teach. They already are begging people to teach now!!!!!!

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  • Jim

    Exactly how does making a teacher more uncertain about his or her future help the students of Tennessee. If you want to go to a doctor, don’t you want a doctor who loves his job? If you need a lawyer, don’t you want to find one that loves being a lawyer? Why would an unhappy teacher be more desirable? By taking away our teacher’s right to negotiate, aren’t we in danger of making education a dead-end career choice? Again, exactly how does that help?

  • Twila

    Just because teachers want to feel safe, and protect what is already in place doesn’t mean they want to take away from students! Believe me I am not getting rich, sitting around enjoying all of the wonderful benefits that I already have. I just would like to be able to eat lunch for 15 minutes, maybe get paid for time I put in, how about be protected when unfair/unforseen situations arise. Maybe having insurance is a good thing too. Our school board only looks at numbers and how they can keep voters happy with spending on athletics and new buildings. I have yet to hear our board fight for educational supplies, programs to help our ELL students, after school programs. It is we need new athletic fields, or lights. Elementary schools don’t even get playgrounds when opened the teachers have to beg for fundraising money for that! We deserve to have a voice that can represent us just as YOU were voted in to be the voice for the people who cannot show up at the capital and speak to our governor. Tell me, besides being educated in a school what is your experience in education and conditions? How many inner city schools do you spend time in? Do you work with students who can’t speak English? How often do you get up at 4 in the morning to organize the day ahead? Do you spend your vacation, time with your kids working on paperwork. Before you make judgements as to what is really wanted/needed I would like to see you in the middle of education not sitting in an office? Show up at our heated board meetings across the state and listen. Ask teachers, administrators what is needed. Even if we are not part of NEA/TEA we still want the same things -rights, process, working conditions, pay that we can feed our families on. I love teaching. I wouldn’t want to do anything else but I may not be able to afford teaching in Tennessee and I did not have someone fighting for me that is in education then I would not have the insurance that I have today.

    Think before making sweeping changes. I understand that you want to show up big! But what you do affects a huge portion of the families in the state – teachers and their families!

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