Tennessee’s teachers work hard to educate their students. They deserve to have a voice in their working conditions, wages, and how their students are educated. That’s why state law has allowed teachers to engage in collective bargaining for more than 40 years. But now, state Senators are trying to eliminate collective bargaining altogether, and state Representatives are moving to severely restrict teachers' abilities to negotiate.
Without the collective voice that bargaining provides, teachers will lose their seat at the negotiating table. Legislators are trying to turn back the clock to 50 years ago, when teachers had no rights. Many could only make ends meet if they were married and their spouses had decent paying jobs.
Tell Tennessee’s legislators that we must care for our educators in the same way they care for our children. We should always be looking for ways to better reform our educational system. But taking away teachers’ rights to collective bargaining silences some of the most important voices we need to determine what is best for students. Attacking teachers' rights will not improve students' education.
While recent amendments to the House version of this bill claim to preserve collective bargaining, they in fact take away some of the most productive features of negotiations. For example, these amendments don't allow teachers to have any say at the negotiating table over salaries and benefits when they relate to educational reform. But teachers' unions have already been working collaboratively with boards of education to implement educational reforms, such as the collaboration between Memphis City Schools and the Memphis Education Association to obtain a massive educational reform grant from the Gates Foundation.
Tennessee's teachers deserve respect from our legislators, not attacks. Teachers' unions in our state have already shown a willingness to compromise at the negotiating table in order to tackle needed educational reforms. I urge you to care for Tennessee's educators in the same way they care for our children by preserving their right to collective bargaining.