House Dems Vow to Fight GOP on Teacher Bills; Wonder What Happened to Haslam’s ‘Jobs Package’

Press Release from the Democratic Caucus of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Feb. 17, 2011:

First initiatives of the Republican Legislature and administration would cut teacher pay and benefits

(Nashville) – The House Democratic Caucus openly will oppose and work to defeat an attack on Tennessee teachers, said Chairman Mike Turner Thursday.

“This is about children, their public education, the classroom, teachers and their families,” said Turner (D-Old Hickory). “They’ve made the first attempt to the strip rights from working people.

“Teachers are doing more and more in and out of the classroom. We need to honor and support our teachers by allowing them the ability to have input in their careers, their students and their schools.”

Gov. Bill Haslam announced Thursday that current tenure law would be stripped and not available until five years of probationary work was reached by our teachers. The current probationary time is three years, after which a teacher can’t be fired without probable cause. Even after tenure is obtained a teacher is still subject to disciplinary action or dismissal for incompetence, inefficiency, insubordination, neglect of duty or unprofessional conduct.

Another anti-teacher bill, which takes away the rights of teachers to negotiate a contract covering their salary, benefits, working conditions, school safety, class size, planning time, time to teach, length of the school day, scheduling and other priorities, passed the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

“We will have a problem with recruiting our students into the education field if this passes,” said Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley). “This ‘Education Reform’ is being used as a keyword for tearing down the walls that protect our teachers.”

Teachers signed off on “Race to the Top” legislation last year imposing stricter standards on themselves. That agreement has been broken, in that, more standards are being suggested, while Race to the Top guidelines have yet to be implemented, Fitzhugh said.

“Where is the ‘jobs package’ we heard about from the Republican leadership and administration?” Turner said.

“We plan to develop a package to bring more jobs to Tennessee in the coming weeks and that will include preserving quality jobs and rights for our teachers and all working families across the state. The people were promised jobs not an attack on working people and those that seek to enter the teaching profession.”