Press Release from the Senate Democratic Caucus, May 2, 2011:
Legislation to silence teachers on negotiations passes Senate 18-14
NASHVILLE – Senate Democrats continued to fight against legislation demonizing public school teachers Monday night as Republican lawmakers voted to prohibit collective bargaining between teachers and school boards.
“We have dealt with a lot of bad bills regarding teachers this session, but this may be the worst,” said State Senator Andy Berke of Chattanooga. “Teachers were deliberately ignored and deliberately targeted by the sponsors and supporters of this legislation.”
Senate Bill 113 would prohibit teachers from collectively bargaining with school boards on issues including class size, school schedules and pay rates. The approved version of the bill calls for a policy manual regarding negotiation terms to be developed by school superintendents.
Teachers would have limited input on matters regarding pay, benefits and working conditions, but local school boards would have the final say on all such issues. Teachers would have no input on a wide range of topics, including where they are assigned, how they are evaluated, and how grant money is spent in their schools.
“There are parts of my district where teachers have to use 10-year-old textbooks because their schools don’t have the funds for new ones,” said Chairman Lowe Finney of Jackson. “We should be helping solve those problems instead of blaming teachers for them.”
The Senate approved the legislation 18-14, with all Senate Democrats voting against the bill. An amendment by Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis to allow local school boards to decide whether to continue to permit collective bargaining failed along party lines.
The bill is the latest in a long line of teacher-targeting legislation this year that has included bills removing teachers from state boards, a new law changing tenure requirements and efforts to prohibit payroll deductions for teacher union dues. The Republican-led initiatives began after GOP leaders complained that teachers didn’t contribute enough to their campaigns last year.
“All of these bills are about one thing: political payback,” said Sen. Eric Stewart of Belvidere. “None of this legislation is going to raise a single test score or improve a single child’s education. A teacher’s work environment is a child’s learning environment, and both get worse every time one of these bills passes.”
The House version of the bill is scheduled to be heard Tuesday in the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee.