Senate Dems Denounce ‘Attacks on Teachers’

Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, Feb. 16, 2011:

Teachers are allies, not enemies in education reform

NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats expressed their frustration with legislation in the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday that attempts to silence teachers while ignoring children and their education.

“These attacks on teachers don’t help a single child and don’t raise a single test score,” said Caucus Chairman Lowe Finney (D-Jackson). “Lawmakers should be focused on putting Tennesseans back to work and making sure our children receive a quality education. This legislation does neither.”

Senate Bill 113, which bans teachers from negotiating salaries as a group, passed out of the Education Committee Wednesday on a party-line vote. Discussion on the bill lasted less than an hour, mirroring similar committee discussions on issues like voter photo ID requirements and the fate of Memphis schools.

“This is major legislation that keeps getting rammed through committees with little to no discussion,” Minority Leader Jim Kyle (D-Memphis) said. “The public should have a voice in these conversations, but Republicans aren’t listening.”

Wednesday’s vote came the same day that a Chattanooga Times Free Press story revealed that Republican leaders had pressured teachers for more political contributions before last year’s elections.

Taken together, the various proposals attempt to ban teachers from salary negotiations, state boards, political contributions and unions. The attacks come a year after teachers worked with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to increase accountability and training funds as part of Tennessee’s First to the Top legislation.

“Teachers are our allies in education reform, not our enemies,” said Sen. Andy Berke (D-Chattanooga). “A teacher’s work environment is a child’s learning environment, and these bills make both worse.”