Anti Collective Bargaining Bill: Can Tennessee Afford the Status Quo?

March 25, 2011 at 6:43 pm Leave a comment

There is much on the plate of Tennessee legislators right now, particularly in the category of education reform. I think the question on the minds of many is, “Are these bills – especially HB0130/SB0113 – really about the students? Hmmm… First of all, be assured that it is not about political retribution (for campaign contributions to opponents), which has been repeated over and over and over from the pro-union members in the TN House of Representatives and Senate. It’s such a ridiculous thing to say, and it reveals how weak their pro-union argument is, which may simply be because they don’t care enough to do any real research on the topic. And, perhaps, they don’t care enough to research the topic because they don’t have to be convinced of their support for the teachers union. TEA (Tennessee Education Association) convinces them with a check. Come to think of it, the argument of “political retribution” may be the words of a guilty conscience projecting. It is certainly plausible that those Democrats and few Republicans receiving contributions from TEA are resentful of the position those contributions put them in. Regardless, let it be known that the political retribution argument is shallow. So is the bill about the students? Legislation that abolishes collective bargaining is not going to raise test scores or graduation rates. If this bill passes, there will likely never be a direct link between it and the improvement of our public schools. This particular bill is about stripping the union of its control. It’s about removing the one obstacle that stands in the way of any and all meaningful education reform, from either side of the aisle. And because of that, it is the gate that will open up the world of possibilities that is discussed by all political candidates. Republicans and Democrats alike speak of shaking up the public education system. We all agree that we are in a sad place and our children are not being equipped to compete in this world. We may have different views of how to get there, but we have the same dream. No progress can be made while the union has a mandated seat at the collective bargaining table (more to come in a future post about how utterly wrong a bargaining table is in public sector). The union is against change, and change is the one thing we can agree must occur. The road being traveled is not getting us where we need to go.

The notion that the teachers union needs to be removed in order to bring meaningful change to our schools is not a new one. And it is not solely a Republican one. Yes, the Republican-sponsored bills currently in the TN legislature that focus on collective bargaining, tenure and charter schools have passed with votes straight or largely down party lines, but that’s an example of TN Democrats lagging especially behind the rest of the country. Playing into the rhetoric that anti-union legislation is a Republican charge is buying into the message that the union is heavily putting out. But it’s not the truth. Most are probably familiar with last year’s documentary Waiting For Superman, which was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed An Inconvenient Truth, for which Al Gore won an Oscar. Superman and a host of other liberal-directed documentaries helped shine a bright light on the ugly truths of teachers unions. And while Superman thrust the union-enemy onto the national stage, it was not the originator of the rift between the union and Democrat Party. That relationship has been wilting for some time, and the Obama Administration put the nail in the coffin with Race to the Top.

The National Education Association (NEA) and its affiliates (TEA, SCEA, etc.) thought that it was powerful enough to denounce those Democrats one by one and carry on with business as usual. The list of Democrat Union-Traitors is not a short one:

  • The 5th Mayor of Washington D.C., Anthony Williams—largely based on his promotion of vouchers
  • The 6th Mayor of Washington D.C., Adrian Fenty
  • Newark Mayor, Cory Booker
  • Ray Romer, former Gov. of Colorado: “In the Democratic Party you have to be realistic about some coalitions that are wedded to the past on education. Let’s not be wedded to somebody’s union rules. … An adult agenda wins too often in our present union situation.”
  • Many, many State Legislators including MO State Senator Jeff Smith (great video), NJ State Senator Ray Lesniak, LA State Rep. Austin Badon, FL State Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, GA State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, WI State Rep. Jason Fields
  • Uber-liberal U.S. Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein supported the 5-year pilot of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, the first and only federally-funded voucher program. At the pilot’s close Feinstein, along with Democrat Senators Joe Lieberman and Robert Byrd, supported a 5-year extension of the pilot. NEA responded with a letter to every Democrat in the House and Senate, which stated, “Opposition to vouchers is a top priority for NEA. We expect that Members of Congress who support public education, and whom we have supported, will stand firm against any proposal to extend the pilot program. Actions associated with these issues WILL be included in the NEA Legislative Report Card for the 111th Congress.”
  • Bill Maher (although he should in no way be considered a reputable source on anything)
  • Rev. Reginald Jackson
  • The infamous Michelle Rhee, former Chancellor of D.C. public schools and creator of StudentsFirst.org
  • Mort Zuckerman, editor of U.S. News and World Report
  • Another uber-liberal, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano received immense education association backlash as Gov. of Arizona for signing a voucher law, which was taken to court by said associations, claiming the law is unconstitutional
  • Best of all is the group Democrats for Education Reform. The union responds to the group by dismissing them as Republicans, despite years of large Democrat campaign contributions by its members. A creepy website that is no doubt union-affiliated is just waiting for a misstep by the group.

NEA did not sugarcoat its dissatisfaction with President Barak Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Race to the Top. At their 2010 National Convention, NEA voted in favor of a resolution of “no confidence” in Race to the Top. The President of NEA, Dennis Van Roekel, summarized the Obama Administration’s influence as causing “the most anti-educator, anti-union, anti-student environment I have ever experienced.” Some even saw Obama as the leader of the anti-union movement.

So what happened? Why the sudden change of heart regarding Democrats? TEA even uses their “collaboration” with First to the Top as an example of how supportive they are of education reform. A couple of things happened, not the least of which were the elections this past November. Thanks to healthcare reform and an exponentially-increasing deficit, Republicans swept the elections, from Governors to State Legislators to U.S. Congressmen. Anti-union rhetoric from the Democrat Party is the key component to the Republican-backed legislation that threatens the union’s relevance. And after blacklisting Democrat after Democrat, the NEA found itself without the allies they bought at the price of $56.2 million in campaign contributions during the 2008 elections. Turns out words are easy to swallow when you realize the end is near:

“A big test will come this November, when mid-term elections will take place all over the country. Will teachers’ unions use funds and resources to help elect Democrats, after tens of millions were wasted to elect Obama and his Race to the Top cohorts in Congress?

Some union leaders will argue, “Yes, we will support good Democrats.” Fair enough, but a good Democrat is not someone that simply says, “I support unions and teachers.” A necessary condition for teachers’ unions to support politicians must be that they condemn Obama’s Race to the Top, while declaring allegiance to the job security of teachers, and thus they must refuse to cooperate with the corporate-inspired scheme to make teachers’ evaluations based on students test scores, so as to create more charter schools.” (the story)

So a big thank you to the Democrats motivated by true education reform (even though many of you are beginning to sell out your ideals–surprise, surprise). Without you, the national movement to ban collective bargaining, eliminate tenure, and incorporate competition in the form of charter schools and vouchers would not be possible. ‘Tis a shame that the Republicans will be taking most of the credit. But perhaps that’s fair. Without Republicans like State Rep. Debra Maggart (Hendersonville) and State Senator Jack Johnson (Franklin), TN would be watching Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Ohio, and the likes take on the union while we continued to be stifled by them. It would be nice if our Governor and Speaker of the House had that kind of courage. But instead they have supported the watering-down of the bill in the name of compromise. The TEA claims to be no happier with the “compromise”, so I have to question the wisdom of that move. Luckily the Senate isn’t ready to undermine true reform with faux compromises. Here is an open letter from Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey, so hope abounds that the original bill will pass.

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Entry filed under: collective bargaining, Education Reform, First to the Top, HB0130, National Education Association, NEA, Race to the Top, Ramsey, SB0113, SCEA, sumner county education, sumner county public education, sumner county public education blog, sumner county public education blog, sumner county education, sumner education, sumner public education, TEA, Teachers, teachers union, Tennessee Education Association, Uncategorized, union. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

A Snapshot of Student Achievement and Student Growth

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