Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Open Letter: HB130: Collective Bargaining

Speaker Harwell,

I’ve been forwarded a purported email from you to a constituent. If this portion is accurate:
We need to protect education, employers and jobs as best we can during these very tough economic times, and I am confident that we will reach a meaningful compromise that is good for our state and education.
"...compromise." I'm quite disappointed that you've apparently chosen to side with continued union control over our schools in an effort to come to a non-confrontational solution. This is an injustice to the students and taxpayers you've been elected to serve. Now is not the time to give ground. HB130 must be passed as is for maximum benefit to the students and for the taxpayers of this state.

I've spent some time on a school board. Nearly had a union rep come across the table at me because I dared to try and hold that 'professional organization' accountable for the status of the students. I've been in the meetings where we learned how tied our hands were because of the union employment contract. I've been in the union halls and seen how confident they are in their power over the system. You, and every legislator on the hill has experienced their muscle flexing as you dare to question their right to control the education system in this state. THAT should give everyone of you adequate reason to vote for this legislation. Voters sent you to the House, in part, to make this very change. You cannot compromise on that charge by them now. 

I have experienced the frustration of trying to improve a school only to have the union declare that an unsubstantiated number of their membership voted against the efforts. School board members who win are more often than not, greatly funded by unions and their volunteers. We even further accommodate them by holding these elections during the summer months when those teacher/staff volunteers are most available. The deck is so stacked in their favor that it's nearly impossible to overcome. One real way to level things is to remove from the playing field the requirement of collective bargaining. We're completely at the mercy of unions regarding their authority to be the bargaining agent. HB130 is our best hope at cleaning house and bringing freedom to these classrooms for both students and teachers. 

Beyond my concerned about the freedom of school districts to operate out from under the control of these unions I point out that we are in exceptional economic times and while the quote seems to indicate a  concern about jobs...taxpayers have been hit hard also. We're out of work. We're doing with less. We cannot afford to employ anyone who isn't pulling their fair share. Collective bargaining and unions do their job all too well and protect deadwood. Taxpayers can hardly pay for the necessities, let alone deadwood. It's an abuse of children to allow that deadwood to remain in classrooms--or anywhere in the system, frankly. The largest budget item in any school system budget is manpower and their benefits. Collective bargaining makes it nearly impossible to make changes to any portion of those budget items.

Finally, this is a right to work state. That should mean the right to hire and fire. If the firing is unjust, we have a court system to work it out. We don't need to tie the hands of good administrators and principals out of fear of being entangled with the union in a show hearing that unnecessarily consumes resources at a voracious rate. Are we hiring good administrators? Then free them up to administrate their schools and systems and dump collective bargaining.

I strongly urge you, as one who has been inside the system, to stand firm and pass HB130 without amendment. This bill is good for the children in Tennessee. It's good for the taxpayers. It's even good for teachers who are excellent at what they do. 

Most sincerely,

Kay Brooks

P.S. To the House Education Committee Republicans: Don't go wobbly. Stand firm. This bill needs every one of your votes. This IS an important issue. Give the full House the opportunity to vote on it themselves and vote this out of committee and on to the House membership for their action. 

Other posts on this topic:
Teacher Tenure
We Dismissed a Teacher
Thanks for the memories--NOT