Ramsey wants to end teachers' collective bargaining rights

Thursday, March 3, 2011 at 2:21pm

State Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey said Thursday he favors ending collective bargaining by public school teachers but acknowledged he is open to compromise with the House of Representatives.

“It’s extremely important that we don’t have public employee unions negotiating union contracts that tie local governments into these contracts. I’ve been up here 19 years and I’ve never hidden my sentiment on that,” Ramsey said.

The Senate Education Committee has approved legislation to overturn the 1978 law that gave the teachers’ union the right to negotiate contracts with school districts. But a vote on the Senate floor has been delayed while lawmakers work on a compromise with House Republicans, some of whom oppose an outright repeal of the law.

House Speaker Beth Harwell said this week she wants to end collective bargaining for merit pay, leaving open the possibility that she would go along with union negotiations on base pay and benefits. Other lawmakers are discussing giving school boards the option of deciding whether to negotiate contracts with their teachers.

“We’re going to forge ahead in the Senate,” Ramsey told reporters. “But obviously a bill has to pass both houses in the same form. So if the House comes up with an amendment that 17 senators can agree on, we’ll pass it in that form.”

27 Comments on this post:

By: trtay2004 on 3/3/11 at 1:54

Why can't we do the same for our Senators and Representatives. They get all their benefits (healthcare, PTO plans, etc) in excess of the average private business employee. I think it's time we really reign in the government spending and start with ALL government employees, not just those that are represented by unions.

By: AmyLiorate on 3/3/11 at 2:00

It seems like if the state drops this 30 year old law on collective bargaining, then each school district will have the flexibility to choose. Can't they continue collective bargaining (CB) if they like it? Or they can also go with other options.

It's not like the TEA is losing all it's power. They can still do what they do when and where they can show their idea is the best. Not all districts will be forced to go with CB by default.

I think that's a concept we call competition, and I like competition because it seems to serve us all in the most fair manner.

By: gdiafante on 3/3/11 at 2:11

Competition? Isn't the problem that teachers get sh!t on in regards to pay right now. Are you going to take a significant pay cut in the private sector to become a teacher?

I didn't think so.

Stupid GOP.

By: AmyLiorate on 3/3/11 at 2:32

Teachers I know seem to be pretty well paid. Over $40K a year.

Wait, make that over $40K for 3/4 of a year. They get about 3 months off. They can relax, or some go work a seasonal job.

So $40K for 9 months is the same pay rate as $53K for 12 months.

Maybe I'd take a $10K cut in my pay if I got to travel all summer. That would be nice for a change.

By: BigPapa on 3/3/11 at 2:53

Teachers need to get down off the cross and stop acting like a martyr. Its a job, a tough job, but certainly not impossible. Inviting more competition into the field of education would be a HUGE benefit to teachers. They're just soo timid and scared that they cant see it.

By: greystone on 3/3/11 at 3:02


I am in mid-TN and the teachers at my child's school start at $23k and don't get the $40k for some time. We only get 2 months off and I know the teachers do in-service during that time. You must be a graduate of Bush's No Child Left Behind because a seasonal job will not pay that $40k you are proposing.

By: AmyLiorate on 3/3/11 at 3:10

I welcome your point about starting pay. But just how long does it take to get to $35K, and $40K?

Oh, and thanks for trying to paint me as a Bush fan, quite the contrary.

By: delltechkid on 3/3/11 at 3:24

I have teacher friends who have been teaching in Davidson and Williamson county for a long time (at least 15 years) and they are just now making $50k. To get that kind of money, in addition to tenure, they had to go back to get a masters degree and then go back and get masters +xx hours.

So you're right that they eventually make 50k, however, they have to keep going to school to ever reach those kinds of dollars.

By: Antisocialite on 3/3/11 at 3:47



It's from George Will, so please don't trot out the 'liberal bias' canard.

Midway through it says:

America’s per-pupil spending is higher than that of the 34 OECD nations except for Luxembourg. “Students in Estonia and Poland,” Duncan says, “perform at roughly the same level as those in the U.S., even though Estonia and Poland spend less than half as much per student.” But many higher-performing countries emphasize higher teacher salaries rather than smaller class sizes.

How do you think stripping collective bargaining will affect teacher pay?

Not all government spending is created equal. Tax cuts (which are basically spending, since they amount to forfeited revenue) given to wealthy Americans certainly benefit those individuals, and maybe the vendors that they frequent. Trickle down is a failure, and anyone still pushing for it is being willfully ignorant. On the other hand, money spent attracting high quality teachers gives us a sizable return on investment, in the form of educating the next generation.... unless you think living in a country full of illiterate fools sounds like a great idea.

By: Bridgett Weisser on 3/3/11 at 6:02

Amy Liorate - If teaching is so wonderful, I mean WOW! the benefits: high pay, 200 days of work a year, great insurance, never have to stay late, no problem EVER with students, parents, administrators, NEVER taking work home, pay keeps up with cost of living - WHY AREN'T YOU JUMPING AT THE CHANCE TO TEACH????

I am currently teaching in Giles County. The local BOE has NOT given educators a pay raise for SIX years!!! No, you are right....our heat, gas, food, medical expenses, insurance and general cost of living just doesn't go up like 'regular people'.

Try reading the Tenure Law - if a teacher taught you how to read - IT MEANS DUE PROCE

I currently have a Master's Degree +30 with 34 years teaching experience - my 'base pay'
$47,000. Hello?? Master's Degree +30.....yep, we are talking SIX PLUS years of college.

Amy, why don't you substitute in any public school in TN on a regular basis. You 'might' just see the light.

Oh, and DITTO to you BigPapa! It's time PapaBear came out of hibernation and got in the 'real' world.

By: Wompcat on 3/4/11 at 6:51

Teachers, quit the whining, you sound like the children you teach. If you don`t like your job then quit.

By: FCMullins on 3/4/11 at 7:55

I don't understand. Doesn't Tennessee still have some of the lowest paid teachers
in the country? Now you want to make their pay even lower! And the one comment
about them only working 9 months a year, there are several school systems that
go year round now isn't there?
More importantly how many extra hours are teachers putting in every week. It's also
not like teachers can get to those larger salaries by just showing up to work everyday, they must continually work at bettering themselves.
I don't have a problem with any govt employee being able to collectively bargain.
I do however feel it should only be for their regular pay. State employee benefits
and pensions should all be the same regardless. I also believe that it should be against the law for state employee to strike.
Of course it doesn't matter what I think because republicans are always on the sides
of business and against any kind of unions.

By: treehugger7 on 3/4/11 at 8:58

Teachers are saints-not the enemy. Remember the teacher that fipped out in his classroom? Look for more of that as teachers get less and less repsect. To all you teachers and assistants out there--THANK YOU! You are valued in the community, just not by the general ass-embly.

By: negiti on 3/4/11 at 9:14

Any government worker that is also a member of the general population has an inescapable conflict of interest if they belong to a work union for that government job. The fault for ignoring this basic bit of rational logic belongs to the public and legislators that allowed things to get to where they are.

TWO THIRDS of Wisconsin eighth graders (for instance) cannot read at their grade level.

If you look at the Wisconsin Public Education website (for instance) you will see that the average benefits package for a teacher there exceeds $100,000/year.

If you look up ANY NEA report on schooling, you will NOT FIND ANY information on student performance - only statistics and graphs on pay, attendance, etc. Go ahead - prove me wrong.

Parents that can't make time for their child's education except to complain when little Jane or Jonny gets a well deserved failing grade are just as culpable as anyone else in the mix, and should not get a pass, as they do now. How can teachers do their job (at any level of pay) when there is no effective partnering going on at the home level?

In short: teachers are public servants, and no one forced them to go into the profession. Parents can't expect strangers to do for their children, what they themselves will not do. Teachers, as with ALL government workers, have no business being in a union in the first place, as they are a members of the very public those unions are in the business of fleecing as effectively as possible.

By: negiti on 3/4/11 at 9:22

Dear delltechkid:

I don't get tenure, and neither should teachers. I used to make into the low six-figures based on my abilities alone. Now, I have to have a degree (minimum $40K investment) just to apply for a job that pays half that amount. Nobody really cares - if you can get them to admit it - that an educator has to get an education in order to educate others. Honest. And becoming an educator is not a form of mandatory societal punishment. If enough -excellent- educators refuse to enter the system, society will get the message pronto, and something will be done about it. Not like the current landscape, where government employee unions are sucking the life out of every state in which they operate - a condition that has up until now, been masked by Federal subsidy. Now that Uncle Sam's teets have dried up, the floodlights are on, the party's over, and the bartender is hollering for everyone to go somewhere else.

By: Antisocialite on 3/4/11 at 9:47

I don't get tenure, and neither should teachers.

And there it is.... the motivation behind so many of those that would break up unions. Does it not strike you as an extremely juvenile argument? Maybe you should join a union to lobby for better benefits within your own profession negiti, rather than attacking those that have already done so.

It's true that Uncle Sam's teats are dry, but that could be remedied if we followed the wishes of the 81% of Americans that agree we should raise taxes on millionaires (according to the most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll). Think about that number for a second, and then ask yourself which party is the one who thinks tax cuts should be extended to these millionaires, is it also the party the gets hyperbolic about budget deficits created by (gasp) teacher salaries?

By: Wonder Bear on 3/4/11 at 12:52

Dear Antisocialite:

Thank you [sincerely] for correcting my spelling of the word, "teat". I presume that, from your perspective, you are well acquainted with sucking on that very item, and so it makes extraordinary sense that you would know both the physical and grammatical aspects of that particular dispensing nozzle. Careful, uninterrupted use of the Gteat can result in one's lips growing into the external skin on the teat, inducing the possibility of ripping one's lips off should said teat be forcibyly removed.

If you take the time to download an IRS-generated spreadsheet (for free, as I have done for many years now) and open it in any current version of Excel, Open Office, whathaveyou, you will see that the top 1 to 10% wealthiest Americans already carry some 3/4 of the ENTIRE personal tax load.

I guess you have never seen a golden goose, after it has been summarily butchered and reduced to 'meat': a once beautiful and rewarding beast, now just so much flesh on an anonymous butcher's block.

You my friend, are an idiot of the maximum possible caliber. More accurately, you are a saw, intent beyond all reason on severing the otherwise perfectly sturdy limb on which you are standing. That is of course your choice, so choose away. But save that choice for yourself; 81% of us might not mind the rapid descent that comes immediately after the limb snaps, but we sure don't want to know about the sudden deceleration once the ground reaches our faces.

By: Antisocialite on 3/4/11 at 1:47

Dear Wonder Bear:

Thank you [sincerely] for showing what an extremely pompous ass you are. Your entire first paragraph is nothing more than one verbose and frankly boring ad hominem attack. You do a disservice to your own argument by opening with such pettiness.

Your condescending tone continues in the next paragraph. You assume that I do not know the very basics of our progressive tax code (and basic computing as well), while only making one seemingly good point. According to the 2008 figures the top ten percent of taxpayers paid 69.94% of the nation's tax burden, so you weren't too far off saying 3/4... but this only seems high until you learn that those same ten percent of Americans have 73% of the nation's total net worth, and 83% of the financial wealth in the country, now it seems like they might not be paying their fair share after all, doesn't it?

Calling me an idiot is perhaps a fitting conclusion for your comment, which is as vitriolic as it is vacant of meaningful content. However, it is curious that you would choose to belittle the opinions of 81% of Americans, as if your 'expert' opinion should be heeded above all others... and they call liberals 'elitist.'

By: GUARDIAN on 3/4/11 at 2:22

GUARDIAN-Just give the children in our schools TEACHERS. NOT left wing communist union thug cockroaches who force their socialist views, evil sexuality, revised history and liberal ways on their students. Keep good teachers and run the bad ones off.

By: Loretta Bridge on 3/4/11 at 4:13

If you would give teachers a decent salary in the first place you wouldn't have to worry about unions and collective bargaining. Give teachers decent pay, the tools they need to teach our children and support them in every way possible. Why don't we think about using collective bargaining for politicians......would love to see them on the same pay scale as teachers.

By: SittyC on 3/5/11 at 12:48

According to a New York Times/CBS News telephone survey, most Americans believe that public employee unions should have the right to collective bargaining. Poll results also indicate that a vast majority oppose cutting pay to lower state spending budget deficits. The countrywide poll surveyed 984 adults, the most of whom did not have a union member in the household.

By: govskeptic on 3/5/11 at 8:43

NY Times poll, who would believe that? It's disappointing the Lt. Gov
is willing to go along with the Speaker on these bills. She is all for
the continued increasing of many expensive benefits for all these
public service unions which is exactly what the taxpayers are
complaining about. Private Sector Unions are one thing, but the
continued march and cost of Public Sector Unions needs to be
curtailed by the Governing body that has let this get out of control!

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