State Senate votes to strip teachers' union of board appointment power

Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 11:53am

In their first strike against the teachers’ union, Republicans in the state Senate adopted legislation Wednesday to strip the Tennessee Education Association of its power to make appointments to the state pension board.

Sen. Joe Haynes, D-Goodlettsville, complained Republicans “want to cram it down our throat,” before the Senate voted 20-13 along party lines for the bill, which gives the TEA’s appointment authority to the Republican speakers of the House and Senate.

Senate Education Committee chair Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, denied her bill is retribution against the TEA, a traditional political ally of Democrats.

“To have a private organization control seats on a government board is clearly inappropriate, and this bill fixes that,” Gresham told the Senate.

The House has yet to act on Gresham’s bill.

Other Republican legislation this session would undermine the TEA. The most controversial so far is a bill to repeal the collective bargaining rights of teachers. It has passed the Senate Education Committee and awaits a floor vote.

“Bills like these don’t help a single child, they don’t raise a single test score and they don’t help move education forward in Tennessee,” said Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere. “When it comes to education reform, we should be inviting teachers to the table. These bills push teachers away.”

“Teachers should be our greatest allies, and I don’t understand why the majority party is choosing to make them into enemies,” said Sen. Tim Barnes, D-Adams.

39 Comments on this post:

By: treefrogdk on 3/9/11 at 11:02

Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't.
A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."
In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)
Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids.
In Congress, Republicans have proposed a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.
Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.
And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.
Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.
Congress voted on a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.
And if that weren't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can't make this stuff up).

By: revo-lou on 3/9/11 at 12:14

TN repubs showing again how little they care for this state.

By: Submariner 693 on 3/9/11 at 2:06

An average citizen, will ya get over it already?
What a bunch of whiners. We're discussing the TEA, get back on topic. And as far as "how little" you think some groups care about the state, the care enough to know you can't continue to spend money you don't have in hand. Every year more and more money is pushed towards education, seemingly all towards teachers salaries, yet test scores do not seem to be rising. If you pay your garbage man more does the garbage in your can seem better or a smaller amount? No, you are paying for a service. If the garbage is not being picked up to your satisfaction you either go with a different contract/company or you find out what's going on with your existing service.
Too many people are now aware that more money in teacher's pockets is not translating in better education, that's the fact. Teachers in Davidson Cty. are earning over $80,000 for only working 9 months of the year. Let that sink in a bit.
No wonder your state govt is up in arms...

By: revo-lou on 3/9/11 at 2:34

{Teachers in Davidson Cty. are earning over $80,000 for only working 9 months of the year. Let that sink in a bit.}

Somebody is listening to the wrong voices in their head.

By: Ingleweird on 3/9/11 at 3:53

You, sir/madam, are a liar or grossly misinformed. My gf teaches at a MNPS extended day school in the city and she doesn't earn half that amount. She also spends HER OWN PERSONAL TIME organizing the classroom, grading student work, and creating lesson plans AFTER the school day is finished and on Sundays. If anything, she should be earning overtime.

Also, I'm pretty certain that garbage collectors do not need to spend four years earning a Bachelor's degree to qualify for the job.

Take away the financial incentives for qualified teachers to remain at their current schools, and you will achieve no discernible improvements in student achievement. You conservatives are always clamoring for "personal responsibility." The responsibility lies with the students and their parents. Teachers cannot force students to give a damn about their education, especially when the district tends to push them on to the next grade, despite poor performance.

This is nothing but GOP retribution for the TEA not supporting GOP candidates. And why would they? They don't support education; the under-educated keep the GOP in power!

By: localboy on 3/9/11 at 4:25

Hey, this might work out in the long run; when the Dems take back the legislature from those commie pinkos next election, it will be their speakers who have the appointment power....

By: JeffF on 3/9/11 at 5:02

I think we all know by now that voters with college degrees vote Republican far more often than Democrat Ingleweird. Your claim of the under-educated keeping the GOP in power just does not wash.

The under-educated are the reason why Obama is in the White House. I can pull the statistics if you like.

The only way you statement could possibly be true is if the term "educated" were limited to those holding Phds. They are more likely to vote democrat. But they are also seven times more likely to be earning a pay check from taxpayers so they bring a bias with them to the voting booth and the classroom. Preservation of self interest I think it is called.

By: cookeville on 3/9/11 at 5:31

Treefrog, you can't fix stupid. The good citizens have chosen people who care nothing for those who they consider a 'drain on the society', for their society is one of endless money making and power and conducting war. They don't want the poor to bother them. They have always been like this, even when they pretended to be moderates. They are as fundamental as any Taliban ever hoped to be, believing in a dog eat dog world and male domination. It's an age old problem and one that eventually destroys nations. But since those who who despise learning are the ones who voted them into office, it's obvious things are not going to get better. I suppose it would be appropriate if we got rid of Lady Liberty. She obviously has outlived her usefulness.

By: David_S on 3/9/11 at 5:37

"Take away the financial incentives for qualified teachers to remain at their current schools, and you will achieve no discernible improvements in student achievement".

Who, exactly, is arguing that this would IMPROVE student achievement? The arguments for getting rid of TEA-negotiated collective bargaining is that the states can indeed reduce the benefits they offer to teachers without decreasing the overall quality of the students education. That is a budget issue.

By: robewy on 3/9/11 at 5:43

here are the facts:
Nashville, Tn - public "High School" teacher - 10 years experience
Makes "on average" $46,000

Go there and search for yourself, don't believe everything you read or hear.
Everyone should look into the facts, we are on the internet people.

By: govskeptic on 3/9/11 at 6:20

To the whinning treefrog and others, I suspect these legislators are
doing just what their supporters ask them to do. This bill is no big
deal, but the remaining ones are. And for those hoping for a change
in the next election, if those elected last yr. will do what they should,
then next yr's margins will grow even larger! TEA has done nothing
but assist the slide of our system for the last 30 yrs!

By: tpaine on 3/10/11 at 5:36

Let us simply do what our President suggested and "look at the results" of the Tennessee teachers union:

For $62,000/yr in salary AND benefits (for a nine month job), we get:

1) Only 1/3 of our children reading at the "proficient" level
2) Half of the minority students dropping out before they graduate from high school (with the result that half of the 24-18 blacks in this country are unemployed and 2/3's live in single parent homes)
3) Absolutely no way for the teachers to enforce any semblance of discipline
4) Schools that don't teach morals but hand out condoms, and
5) School parking lots that are the biggest drug dens in the city.

I think it's way past time for some serious changes to occur. The "unholy alliance" between Democrats and the public workers unions has only enriched the unions and been an abysmal failure in educating our children.

By: tpaine on 3/10/11 at 5:39

Let us not forget the citizens of Memphis were so impressed with the results of their public schools they voted to disband it and join the county.

Time for school vouchers and letting the parent determine what school they want their child to attend. I'll bet the Catholic schools (where real discipline still exists) are overwhelmed.

By: Moonglow1 on 3/10/11 at 6:42

Moonglow1: 400 billionaires control the drive to snuff out the unions so that middle class Americans have no voice unlike corporations who have lobbyists who represent them. This movement is run by Karl Rove their insane leader. Don't let these rogue 400 billionaires control you. Fight for the rights of the middle class. Scott Walker in WI employed Hitler-like tactics to go against the will of the people and this is just the beginning of a national & possibly global movement funded by these billionaires to break the middle class. And by loosening the gun laws these insane billionaires hope the middle class will fight one another and they will be laughing (union against non union) and continue selling off the United States.

By: mdjarrell on 3/10/11 at 6:44

I have used a bank many times. I have a checking account and a savings account (although I do admit I haven't added anything to my savings account for the past fifteen years since my pay has been frozen.) Nevertheless, the fact that I have made deposits, written checks, and I understand in theory the concept of a savings account makes me uniquely qualified to reorganize your operations.

Our country is at a crossroads. What we do now will determine the future for our children. I'm sure you want to do what's best for our future, right? We are in a Race to the Top. From now on, we need for all banks to do their part in winning that future. I've seen how you do things from my place in line, and frankly it's not good enough. I have noticed that there are many bad bank tellers who simply aren't cutting it in my opinion. Many times when I've been standing in line, there are empty teller stations not even open. I see you bankers taking lunches, a luxury we teachers had to forgo many years ago. I see you even getting bathroom breaks. What is that about?

Based on my vast experience of standing in line at the bank, I'm hereby declaring myself an expert of all financial institutions and their operations. In a program I will call NDLB (No Depositor Left Behind) all banks will from this day on be ranked and given a grade based on their average customer bank balance.

Grades will be posted weekly in every newspaper in the country, along with individual names of bankers who are underperforming. We will be asking suggestions from other people we find in the line at the bank in order to help you to make AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress.) If you fail to meet AYP, your bank will be rated as failing and will undergo sanctions.

In order to win the future, it is my belief as a self-stated expert that ALL depositors must hit certain benchmarks by 2014. Your bank will be monitored for progress towards these goals.

Here are the benchmarks:

By 2011, 60% of your depositors must have at least $100,000 in their savings accounts.

By 2012, 75% of your depositors must have at least $500,000 in their savings accounts.

By 2013, 90% of your depositors must have at least $750,000 in their savings accounts.

By 2014, 100% of your depositors must have at least $1,000,000 in their savings accounts.

We believe these are reasonable benchmarks that will ensure all depositors our constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We the people standing in line at the bank reserve the right to increase these benchmarks any time we feel we don't have enough money.

If you fail to meet these benchmarks your bank will undergo sanctions including, but not limited to:

Having your failing grade posted in the newspaper along with directions to the nearest successful bank.

Cutting the number of workers in your bank in half and doubling the workload for everyone else who is left.

Meeting every Thursday before the bank opens with experts randomly chosen from the drive through line to discuss any data about why your bank is underperforming.

Closing underperforming banks and reopening them with better performing workers from successful banks that have hit the benchmarks (or people we find in line at the unemployment line), whichever we find easier.

A percentage of the banks' deposits will be set aside for randomly chosen experts to meet to figure out how the heck to get your depositors to their benchmarks. Since we anticipate that will be a very difficult job, we experts may have to meet in places like Hawaii where it is a known fact that it's easier to think.

This is not meant in any way to be punitive. We realize that in some areas of the country it will be tough to get your depositors to the stated benchmarks due to unemployment, and poverty. But we must stress that there are no excuses. We believe in you as bankers and we believe in depositors' innate ability to grow their bank accounts. No matter how tough it gets, you must remember that our future is at stake. This is for the pride of our country. It is simply unacceptable to let America's depositors fall behind depositors in other countries. We know you will join everyone in happily doing your part to win that future.

In order to get this new plan up and running, we will have to freeze your pay (and bonuses) for the next fifteen years. You will also be giving eight to ten days of your wages each year to help meet the new benchmarks. We have tried these methods with teachers and it's worked pretty well for the past several years to help balance the state budgets. We are now ready to expand these methods to other professions. I'm sure you would agree that you want to do everything in your power to meet these benchmarks for the sake of our future and our children.

By: ibpromos on 3/10/11 at 6:45

Outstanding! Finally, one step toward common sense in a system so broken for so long most everyone thinks 'broken' is the way it should be.

Bottom line: Unions have NO PLACE in government! Every government employee should serve at the whim and direction of the tax payer, not some arm-twisting union organizer.

By: imdyinhere on 3/10/11 at 6:50

If TN Republicans get to appoint the person overseeing teachers' pensions, I have no doubt all the controversy about these pensions will go away in a hurry, as the money leaves the Tennessee fund and winds up in the hands of Republicans' campaign contributors.

Way to go!

By: Moonglow1 on 3/10/11 at 6:54

Moonglow1: teachers in TN DO NOT earn 80K. You have their salaries confused with NES. And if they did so what? These idiots in power want you to hate public employees. They want Americans downtrodden so they can pay us next to nothing like in a third world country. Which we are becoming due to tea party tactics. I hate tea. Drink the coffee. Stay away from all things tea.

By: TerribleMaldonado on 3/10/11 at 7:03

"For $62,000/yr in salary AND benefits (for a nine month job)"

Where do you people get your ideas about how much teachers are making? Does every commenter live in Franklin or something?

In Nashville, where I live, a teacher has to have an Education specialist (Ed. S) or doctorate, and fifteen years behind them, in order to make anything near $62,000. MNPS salaries top out (meaning 25 years experience plus a doctorate) at $66,000.

And this 9 months a year business. I can't cite specific numbers on this so much as vast anecdotal evidence that teachers get to work at 6:30 to 7 a.m. (or earlier) and stick around, every day until 6:30 or 7 p.m. That's a 60-hour week. So, all right, 40 x 52=2,080. 60 x 36 (9 mos.)=2,160.

That much work, for typically $32K-$36K per year. And these people ALL have college degrees.

Meanwhile, apart from your taxes, which are among the lowest in the country taken altogether, you don't have to pay them anything to babysit your monstrous children all day. Also, teach them to read.

By: TerribleMaldonado on 3/10/11 at 7:23

How many careers require a PhD plus 15 years in order to make a salary equivalent to the current U.S. median family income? I can think of poet.

By: treehugger7 on 3/10/11 at 7:34

Great posts, mdjarrell and Maldonado! I don't know when teachers became the enemy. They are some of the hardest working and dedicated people you could find. Teachers keep up the good work! Hopefully in two years, we'll have a legislature that appreciates teachers. That is, if we can get the ballots counted right. Since we are doing nothing to work toward verifiable election results, I have little hope.

By: on 3/10/11 at 8:38

Collective Bargaining is not a "Right." It is but a Political Demand. Someone show me in the US or TN Constitution where it states that Collective Bargaining is a "Right." We're dealing with a generation of "Spoiled Brats," who think they're "owed" anything they want.

By: TerribleMaldonado on 3/10/11 at 8:57

Well, like nearly all Tennessee law, it's not explicitly in the State Constitution (which is, after all, merely an ideological/legal framework to be used to craft state code), but Article 1 Sec. 23 does say the following: "That the citizens have a right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances, or other proper purposes, by address or remonstrance," practically a definition of union-type activity (though I'll admit I'm not familiar with the interpretation of this in case law, but the judicial branch isn't supposed to be messing with the constitution, right?).

And the phrase "collective bargain rights" does indeed appear in TN Code, 7-56-102.

By: howelln on 3/10/11 at 9:02

Teachers work ten months, not 9. And during the two months off we pay our own money to go to school and workshops to become better. or we work summer jobs to make ends meet.

By: pswindle on 3/10/11 at 9:41

I can't believe what the GOP is doing to our state, and we have no power to stop them. I wish everyone would go back and read what hapened in Germany that caused World War II. It was business take-over and the rights of people were stripped away. Every state that has republican conrol is doing the same thing to its people. This will come back to bite them because all republicans are not rich . They may need a pension, SS or medicare one day, and if they have their way, all of this will be put in private hands and you know what happens then. I do not want the GOP to take my funds and put in the private sector. Our life as we know it will disappear. The GOP has been brain-washed by someone, and could it be the Chamber or rich business people. They would sell their souls to be re-elected.

By: revo-lou on 3/10/11 at 9:48

{By: pswindle on 3/10/11 at 9:41
I can't believe what the GOP is doing to our state, and we have no power to stop them}

I am not sure if more repubs voted than ever before, or if dems stayed home, but if the gop remains in power after the next election, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

By: Captain Nemo on 3/10/11 at 9:53


Even if they do go back and read what happen in Germany, they will not see it for what it is.

By: Ingleweird on 3/10/11 at 10:07

Well, today should be fun.

By all means, PLEASE, pull the statistics on your first and third sentences on your 5:02 posting. Your statements might hold true in Tennessee, but nationally, I call shenanigans on your claims.

Who, exactly, is arguing that this would IMPROVE student achievement? Republican House Speaker, Beth Harwell, for one, said, "This is not an attempt to hurt a teacher. This is an attempt to help the student learn in the classroom." However, it can be easily argued that this legislation does NOTHING to bolster student improvement, but EVERYTHING to penalize and dissuade teachers from wanting to teach in Tennessee. Read the NCP article , "Senate committee votes to make teacher tenure tougher to achieve."

On your points:
1) TN's base standards are below the national standards. It is past time to raise them.
2) How is that the teachers' or union's faults?
3) The administrations don't provide enough support to teachers. In my partner's instance, she is NOT ALLOWED to send problem children to the principal; she must make them stand in the corner. Clearly, the principal does not want to deal with this issue. She also calls parents of problem children; at least one mother SHUTS OFF her cell phone during the school day, likely in anticipation of these repeated phone calls.
4) What do you want, more condoms or more welfare mothers? You can't have it both ways. Clearly, sex-ed as a parental responsibility is a failure.
5) Dealing drugs in a school zone has additional risks and consequences for the outlaw. Any problem schools in particular you care to identify?

Let us not forget that the decision to surrender the charter of the Memphis City Schools was made by the school board, PRIOR to the city voters' consent.

By: Radix on 3/10/11 at 10:37

Great start for the Senate! Keep up the good work for our kids!

By: Wonder Bear on 3/10/11 at 11:31

The inherent conflict of interest, that of members of the public unionizing against itself, is partially offset by this ruling. Eliminating public sector unions in their entirety would be the overall fix for this unnatural condition.

The personal attacks from those that be opposed to such reform are as predictable, and oddly comforting in their predictability. As they say: if you have the truth, you pound the truth, if you have the facts you pound the facts, if you have neither, you pound the table.

Pound away.

By: revo-lou on 3/10/11 at 12:13

And your view of the facts are what?

By: Wonder Bear on 3/10/11 at 12:24

The fact is that public unions constitute a conflict of interest, given that they are populated by members of the very public they are unionizing against, period. They themselves pay their own salaries in part, and themselves vote themselves benefits, in whole.

That's the fact of that.

Add to that that the TEA is not a citizen entity, as citizens are counted in the country at large, and as such deserves no political positioning of its own, as such political positioning is supposed to be concentrated in the citizenry, which in this case has unionized against itself.

That's the fact of that.

My "view", as with yours, has nothing to do with it.

By: spooky24 on 3/10/11 at 12:31

Nicely put WonderBear. So much of this is desperation that has now turned to personal attacks, which of course, as you said, is totally and sadly predictable. The huge mistakes of union officials at the national level is where this anger should be directed. The decision to expend enormous amounts of money with payed protesters in a state in which the conclusion was never in doubt was, and still is, an epic mistake. The tactics of the payed protesters (very few teachers-or even union members) in trying to incite state officials to create a spectacle just reeks of all the things about unions in general that people arbor. Once, in an act of desperation, phony polls about support for the protesters, began coming out that was the end of any pity for their plight, from persons such as myself who could really care less.
If anger is to be directed in any direction, it should be aimed at the White House. It is the current administration who not only cowardly muted the issue they also set the stage for GOP takeovers with forced socialist issues that are no part of the American mainstream.


By: revo-lou on 3/10/11 at 12:36

{ unionizing against,}

Interesting terminology, though misleading, wouldn’t you say. I am not pro-union, nor am I anti-union, but, there is no issue in a group coming together, a group of similar/same members, with the same needs, to put forth those needs.

{They themselves pay their own salaries in part, and themselves vote themselves benefits,}

So? Are they not also part of the representative public? Do they check their “governing rights” at the door because they are paid by the public? They DO NOT approve their submitted request, so what you are questioning is the integrity of those that grant the request. Put the blame where it belongs.

{Add to that that the TEA is not a citizen entity,}

So recent USSC rulings notwithstanding, only single entities/persons get to petition the government?

By: Wonder Bear on 3/10/11 at 12:44

C-o-n-f-l-i-c-t o-f i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t. Get out both eyeballs, give them a bit of polish, and read the whole thing.

If public union members were voting themselves benefits from exclusively themselves and not their fellow citizens, that would fine, and they wouldn't need a union, because they would be a PRIVATE enterprise. But since they are essentially taxing their fellow citizens, which tax is being levied without any associated representation of those 'other' citizens, such taxation is unlawful, as the benefits public unions confer on their members do not represent the state of the citizenry at large.

I'm done with you for the moment.

By: revo-lou on 3/10/11 at 1:00

{C-o-n-f-l-i-c-t o-f i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t. Get out both eyeballs, give them a bit of polish, and read the whole thing.

If public union members were voting themselves benefits from exclusively themselves and not their fellow citizens, that would fine, and they wouldn't need a union, because they would be a PRIVATE enterprise. But since they are essentially taxing their fellow citizens, which tax is being levied without any associated representation of those 'other' citizens, such taxation is unlawful, as the benefits public unions confer on their members do not represent the state of the citizenry at large.}

I bet you HATE to be told you are wrong, no? No matter, I'll be happy to tell you, that indeed, you are wrong. But you are entitled to your OPINION still, which I know is comforting to you.

By: JeffF on 3/10/11 at 1:16

Here you go Ingleweird:

With the exception of the 2008 Obama anonaly (soon to be recitified), people with college degrees and "some college" trend Republican. The dumb high school dropout ALWAYS votes Democratic. Curiously the high school dropout patter matches that of the East geographic pattern and the poor and working-poor economic groups. The middle class and higher groups are consistently deciding that the Democrats only look out for the high school dropouts and not for them.

The Democratic strategy of creating more poor people seems to be keeping them in the game. Once more than half of this country are too poor to pay federal taxes and are dependent on the confiscation of wages from the minority, the Democrats will rule the world!

By: revo-lou on 3/10/11 at 1:18

So WB, to further this topic, since the TEA doesn’t vote as an entity but is made up of entities that do vote, yet the TEA as you state is in conflict with those that they negotiate with, individually those entities (the ones that DO vote) wouldn’t be in conflict?

Or, to put it in easy terms for you to comprehend, ANY public service employee, whether in a union or not, would have a conflict of interest with any person they vote for, due to the fact that that person, directly or indirectly, sets their salary?

I’ll bet you are one of those type that states, upon being pulled over by a police officer, that you pay his salary and therefore he WORKS for you and to leave you be!!

By: Ingleweird on 3/10/11 at 2:38

Thanks for the charts. I'll admit, what I said about the "under-educated" was a touch incendiary. I guess the point I meant to come across was that there are a lot of people who vote Republican for financial reasons, yet, in practice, the Republicans are no more likely to significantly reduce their tax burden or the size/scope of the gov't as a whole (see Reagan + Bush 1+2 admins) than are Democrats.

I realize the main difference between dems and repubs is this: Republicans will tell you to your face they are going to screw you, then proceed to do just that. Democrats will deny up and down that they are going to screw you, then proceed to screw you anyway. Either way, we're screwed! Regardless, I still have more faith in an entity, however bloated and over-funded, beholden to workers and their living standards, than I do in GOP politicians, beholden to corporations' shareholders and their profits.