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.”