Dem Chairman Turner: Republicans ‘Don’t Want Public Education to Exist’

Press Release from the House Democratic Caucus, May 19, 2011:

Bill would strip the ability of Tennessee teachers to effectively negotiate contracts

(Nashville) – The Tennessee House of Representatives passed an anti-teacher bill Wednesday that continues an effort to strip teachers of their ability to effectively negotiate for better classrooms for students and better working conditions for their profession.

“This bill is a dishonest effort to reach an agreement with the Senate that will destroy all rights of more than 52,000 Tennessee teachers to negotiate for better classrooms, wages and learning environments for Tennessee students,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner (D-Old Hickory). “This is an attack on Tennessee teachers; nothing less.”

The anti-teacher bill, which is expected to pass the full Republican-controlled legislature in another form, will decrease the rights of teachers to effectively 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.

“This is a political game; the Republican majority is calling it a ‘reform,’” Turner said. “They simply don’t want public education to exist in this state at all. This is a vote to take away our teachers’ ability to better their careers, their family life and most importantly the learning environment of Tennessee students.”

The bill will now head back to the Senate and subsequently a conference committee with the House. The conference committee is expected to fully strip the rights of teachers to better their careers and the learning environment for Tennessee students.

Opponents of the bill argued that the brightest college students will simply choose professions other than teaching, or move out of Tennessee.

“We’re asking all citizens, especially our teachers, their families and their friends to call the state legislature and ask their House and Senate members to vote against the final form of this bill.”