Over the objections of Democrats, Republicans on the House Education Committee adopted legislation Tuesday to curtail the collective bargaining rights of public school teachers.
“I see what you’ve done here as just pure, raw politics,” Rep. Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, said.
The committee voted 12-6 for the so-called compromise version of the proposal that still allows the Tennessee Education Association to negotiate with school boards on base pay and benefits, but not on performance pay plans or personnel decisions such as school assignments, transfers and layoffs.
Also, the bill makes it easier for teachers to decertify the TEA as their bargaining agent, requiring the signatures of 30 percent rather than 50 percent of those covered by an agreement.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, pointed out collective bargaining is against the law for all other public-sector workers in Tennessee. He painted Democrats as enemies of education reform.
“Our firefighters don’t have it,” Dunn said. “Our police don’t have it. Our state employees don’t have it. It’s not the end of the world for them. They’re seen as professionals.”
“The biggest enemy of public education is the status quo,” said Dunn, adding that collective bargaining “ties the hands of principals.”
“There are private schools and home schools springing up everywhere,” he said. “When people are willing to pay $10,000 for something they can get for free, it should make you sit there and wonder if the status quo is good.”
Critics have accused Republicans of playing politics with public schools, punishing the teachers’ union because of its traditional political alliance with Democrats.
“This bill is punitive and it’s politics,” Rep. Lois DeBerry, D-Memphis, said. “It’s wrong what we’re doing to our teachers here in Tennessee.”
The House bill started as an outright ban on collective bargaining by teachers. The Senate version still offers that ban, and Senate leaders have said they will press ahead with their bill. It already has cleared the Senate Education Committee and awaits floor action.