Setting the record straight on collective bargaining

March 30, 2011 1:09PM

This morning, the House Finance Subcommittee voted 7-6 to pass HB130, the bill to limit collective bargaining by teachers’ unions. Speaker Beth Harwell used her prerogative to cast the tie-breaking vote, keeping the measure alive. Tennessee Center for Policy Research president Justin Owen issued the following statement on the issue, which has received a tremendous amount of attention in the past few weeks. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research has worked since its founding in 2004 to bring about meaningful education reforms in this state that will give parents a seat at the table and children a chance to succeed. As a part of those efforts, since 2009, we have called upon the Tennessee General Assembly to reform our state’s system of teacher collective bargaining, allowing teachers to be paid based on their performance and skills like the professionals they are. We are therefore grateful for Speaker Beth Harwell’s leadership today in voting to send HB130 to the full House Finance Committee, which ensures that the important discussion of placing limits on collective bargaining continues. But for Speaker Harwell’s tie-breaking vote, we would be talking about the collective bargaining bill that died on the operating table. Fortunately, we still have the opportunity to return control to individual teachers by limiting the teachers union’s ability to stake its claim as the monopoly negotiator in school districts across our state. This is a very important issue for anyone interested in bucking the status quo that has failed our teachers, our parents, our taxpayers, and most importantly our children, for decades. Collective bargaining is the main weapon used by teachers’ unions to thwart meaningful education reforms in our state. The Tennessee Education Association—the chief lobbying and political arm of the teachers’ unions—has consistently stood in the way of improving our education system. The TEA has frequently urged lawmakers to press for more “parental involvement” in education. Yet, when a parental choice scholarship bill was proposed just last year to allow parents to choose where to send their children to school, the TEA characterized such measures as “destroying public education,” further attacking school choice advocates like Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, saying they “would be perfectly happy to turn public schools over to some corporation and just let them run them.” This empty rhetoric in defense of the failed status quo has become all too common with the teachers’ unions. But don’t think the unions oppose every cause on Capitol Hill. While they are always on the wrong side of effective education reforms, the unions believe strongly in other things, such as imposing a state income tax on Tennesseans, a measure they supported during the income tax battle a few years ago. Rather than spend their members’ hard-earned dues on improving education for both teachers and students, they are wasting these resources on a radical political agenda that the vast majority of Tennesseans diametrically oppose. Our education system is in desperate need of reform, and the collective bargaining legislation voted out of subcommittee today will pave the way for reforms that benefit our teachers, our parents, our taxpayers, and above all, our children. Meaningful education reform should not be left to the whim of one political organization more interested in its own posterity than that of Tennessee’s children. The Tennessee Center for Policy Research applauds those, including Speaker Harwell, for keeping the education reform dialogue open with their votes today.   Justin Owen, TCPR President