published Saturday, February 19th, 2011

An assault on teachers' rights

Anyone who doubts teachers' claims that Tennessee's Republican-dominated Legislature is leading an "assault" on teachers hasn't been following events. Legislation to strip teachers of their union bargaining rights is now on the table in both the House and the Senate. Gov. Bill Haslam is proposing, by legislative fiat, to tighten tenure rules that were dramatically toughened just last year to help the state win $500 million in Race to the Top funds. And similar fights are going in other states where newly powerful Republican governors and Legislatures now control the agenda.

The Tennessee School Boards Association, regrettably, is solidly backing the bill to strip the teachers' union, the Tennessee Education Association, of bargaining rights. The bill essentially would make it illegal for teachers to negotiate with school boards by voiding the section of the Education Professional Negotiations Act that allows teachers to join or to be assisted by professional employees organizations, and to negotiate through representatives of their own choosing.

A similar measure in Wisconsin is presently wreaking havoc in the Legislature there—Democrats left the Capitol to make it impossible for the Legislature to convene a quorum to help the governor implement the new law—and other union-busting bills are proceeding in Ohio, Indiana and a number of other states.

The common thread in each is not about improving education. It's about scapegoating teachers and denying them the fundamental right accorded other Americans to organize a professional association or a union to represent their interests. And Republicans are doing this for no other reason than political payback and vengeance against a group that they just generally oppose because they're always on the side of business, which typically does everything it can to undermine unions.

Under federal law and the National Labor Relations Act, private employers cannot legally do what the Legislature in Tennessee is trying to do to teachers. Even in right-to-work states like Tennessee, the right of employees to work without joining a union does not negate the right of employees to organize or join a union. President George W. Bush, like his GOP predecessors, did much to cripple unions, but the National Labor Relations Act still stands.

The ideological notion that public employees may not organize or join or negotiate through a union is, at its core, antithetical to the broad public rights accorded Americans to organize and negotiate with their employers. It is a radical and unreasonable act, on its face, for legislatures in Tennessee and elsewhere to act to strip teachers of this fundamental right. The nation's middle class is already being hollowed out and squeezed in every direction. If Republicans cannot honor the common and hard-earned rights of workers, they should at least remember that vengeance can also be had in the next election.

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Echo said...

"The common thread in each is not about improving education. It's about scapegoating teachers and denying them the fundamental right accorded other Americans to organize a professional association or a union to represent their interests."

The problem with public education in Hamilton County and elsewhere in the United States is the "professional association" known as the NEA.

The NEA is the union syndicate that protects the disaffected and under-performing stalactites that hang around within public schools long after their desire to teach has waned.

The NEA also creates the environment for bloated administrators with bloated paychecks and little to offer in leadership.

The NEA is the driving force behind preventing school vouchers that would put equal dollars on every student to be spent where the best education is provided as perceived by the parent, not a self serving bureaucracy.

The U.S. public school system is ranked 4th in the world in spending per student in primary education (behind Denmark, Switzerland and Austria) at $6,043.00 per student. Japan is 8th at $5,075.00. Germany is 13th at $3,531.00.

Where do U.S. 15 year old students score in math performance in 2009 compared to their international peers?** (all U.S. students, including private schools)

U.S. Math - 25th. German Math - 10th. Japan Math - 4th. (close behind the leaders)

Why should the American Taxpayer pay top dollar for education and be satisfied with 25th rank performance? We were beaten in math by the Czech Republic (21st) that spends $1,645.00 per student, about 1/4th of the U.S!

The real cost we pay for public school educational ineptitude is much higher. Our ignorance creates declining U.S. economic competitiveness, a reduced technological capacity to defend our country from aggressors, and a reduced capacity to take care of our aging population. The cost of prisons, courts, crime, and excess law enforcement is pulling our nation down. It must stop.

U.S. Public education is the scapegoat because it lousy overall and We The People want it to improve. This is in large part to union seniority and other roadblocks to real reform. Stop trying to make the students and a democratically elected government the scapegoat. The parents in liberal Wisconsin elected a Republican majority for a reason. The other side is hiding in Rockford, Illinois to escape a vote.

If public school union members want the right to organize as a "professional association", first consider delivering education like a professional.

An public school graduate living in Hixson TN

**SOURCE: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), 2009.

February 19, 2011 at 11:07 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

Echo, you can blame it on the teachers all day long, but if you look around, it is a profoundly deep problem that grows out of many things: the lack of parental responsibility, parental pressure on teachers not to give "bad grades", a culture that deifies excess and demonizes education, a lack of rigorous college education for teachers, economic disparity that segregates the economically disadvantaged into geographic regions of cities resulting in a culture of failure, and the beat goes on, and on, and on.

February 19, 2011 at 3:46 p.m.
una61 said...

Another assault on teachers and the teaching of Science: The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) reports that Bo Watson (R -District 11) has introduced an anti-evolution bill in the Tennessee Senate. Ironically, his resume says that he majored in Biology at UTC.

February 19, 2011 at 8:07 p.m.
Echo said...


  1. Union seniority based protection of apathetic educators is the problem.

  2. Union campaign contributions are used to elect politicians who block school voucher legislation is the problem.

  3. The numbers from PISA, how do you explain that? If you think poverty, racism, regressive subculture attitudes toward education and economic disparity are uniquely American, you don't get around too much.

  4. All that B.S. about "a culture that deifies excess and demonizes education". The former is liberal code for saying blacks can't learn, and the latter is a product of class warfare perpetrated by liberals. Why? maintain a culture of government dependency.

The real question is how many Condoleezza Rices, Clarence Thomases and Thomas Sowells and countless others has our nation been deprived of for a lack of education. How many incarcerated men stuck in prisons or buried in their youth have we not brought to full fruition due to a lack of education? How many diamonds in the rough were tossed back into the slurry without the cut and polish needed to shine brilliantly? Who is perpetuating the status quo? Not conservatives.

If the Czech Republic can emerge from the ruinous effect of communism to surpass the U.S. in math education in 2 generations with 1/4th of the money, then it's not the money.

If U.S. teachers are underpaid, where does all the money go? New schools? Not in Hamilton County. Special education? No. Magnet schools? No. It goes to administrative salaries, graft, and waste - made possible by teacher's unions.

The time for unions has come and gone. In 1936 there was a need, in 2011 we need something else.

February 19, 2011 at 11:57 p.m.
Francis said...

Echo, on!

February 20, 2011 at 8:04 a.m.
fairmon said...

Well said echo and I echo your opinions. I do think it is time to abolish public schools and replace them with a voucher system and parents/students choice.

A voucher system would enable teachers to seek employment and compensation based on knowledge, skill and ability. It would result in those that are not capable seeking other employment.

Tax payers have no one effectively representing them in bargaining with public employee unions. In private industry a stock holder can not own stock in a company they think is giving in to unreasonable union demands. Stake holders (tax payers) don't have that option with public entities.

The NEA wants top pay, which is good to attract and hold good employees, but they also demand protection of the incompetent.

School administrators are self serving empire builders.

February 20, 2011 at 8:28 a.m.
Francis said...

The campaign against the voucher system by the NEA and the Democrat Party has done incalculable damage to the black community especially. What are you scared of NEA?

February 20, 2011 at 9:05 a.m.
holdout said...

Whichever side you take on this issue be aware that comparing US student test scores against other countries is not giving an accurate picture. Some students simply score lower than others because they have other interest. The high scoring Japanese and Germans divide the college bound and technical bound students early. The results you see are the students who pursued academic paths rather than technical ones. US scores include everyone because we do not make the divide until much later. It seems that every student in the US is taught college prep and every student is pressured to go to college. An electrician has to learn math during training that should have been taught in the eighth grade when he was instead trying to get around algebra. Our education system needs work. There is no doubt of that. Just chose the targets carefully. We can't all be rocket scientist.

February 20, 2011 at 10:53 a.m.
concerning said...

There is a huge problem in comparing United States test scores with other countries. Other countries only educate the top percentile of their students were in America everyone is entitled to a free education. Don't get me wrong, there are bad teachers out there but there are more good ones who are getting tired of hearing that they are the problem. Oh, and the comment Gov. Haslam made about other "professionals" like doctors and lawyers laughing at the thought of tenure. Well, doctors and lawyers get paid if their clients win or lose or the patient dies. Teachers lose their job based on the test scores of kids, but even putting that aside. I'm sure if you took a poll teachers would gladly give up tenure and unions and their 35,000 a year salary for 100,000 like other professionals

February 20, 2011 at 2:42 p.m.
fairmon said...

As a person hiring several hundred people over time and the recipient of hires by others I tend to believe the validity of the test scores. I don't worry about comparing with other countries I am more concerned about what our educational system is producing. I have witnessed how out of touch mich of the educational community is with the world of work and how business system operate.

February 20, 2011 at 6:34 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

Excuse me, but educators are not out of touch with the working world. We work, remember?

The problems with schools are complex, starting with a society that does not value education. My job is challenging, and I have spent decades learning and developing my craft. But I work at a private school, which does not have the problems that public schools face, such as a top-heavy administrative structure, parents that don't accept the authority of the teachers in disciplinary matters, curriculum determined by school boards rather than teachers that are content-based, shallow and irrelevant, exit exams that stifle creativity and love of learning, poor facilities, little equipment and supplies, classes that are too large, special ed students mainstreamed into classes that they are not ready for, tenure (that's right-it's a problem. I'm on a one-year contract and I must work to prove I am worthy to keep my job). I wouldn't survive a week in public school.

Add to this the attitude by many folks that because they were once students, they KNOW how to fix schools. No one tells doctors how to do their jobs, or lawyers. But everyone "knows" how teachers must teach. I have never run a business, but neither have many professionals I know.

February 20, 2011 at 8:29 p.m.
concerning said...

Well, Harp 3339. I would just like to point out if you were being graded as a student in a writing test you have one run on sentence, a misspelled word, and a subject verb agreement problem. You would fail and must not be competent to do your job. So apparently your teachers failed you.

February 21, 2011 at 2:17 a.m.
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