Shuck and Jive

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Teachers Under Attack

UPDATE 2/25: Johnson City teachers will not be able to attend demonstration in Nashville. Story in JC Press.

UPDATE: Join us Saturday from noon to two p.m. on North Roan as we publicly support our teachers.
Details here!

In Wisconsin, Ohio, and now Tennessee, teachers are targeted as scapegoats.

Republican lawmakers in Tennessee have proposed some incredibly backward and mean-spirited legislation that will not only hurt teachers but education in general.

Teachers and those who support public education are going to Nashville Saturday March 5th. Join them at the Bicentennial Mall from noon to three. Wear red. Here is that story.

The Tennessee Education Association is urging all teachers to take part in the march to Legislative Plaza on Saturday, March 5 from 12 p.m. until 3 p.m. They're meeting at the Bicentennial Mall in Downtown Nashville, and asking everyone to wear red.

The TEA said "Several bills have been introduced to the 107th Tennessee General Assembly that attack public school educators and the Tennessee Education Association. It's obvious these bills have nothing to do with ‘education reform' in Tennessee."
Here is the article in yesterday's Johnson City Press.
After 28 Republican-backed bills were proposed in the state Senate this month concerning public education in Tennessee, the educators who make up the Johnson City Education Association said there is more at risk than just collective bargaining.

The elimination of collective bargaining, proposed in one Senate bill, would remove teachers’ rights to negotiate as a group for salary, benefits and working conditions.

A Jan. 26 Johnson City Press article discussed the concern that Johnson City teachers held over the potential loss of collective bargaining.

Four members of the JCEA spoke with the Press Tuesday about further implications of the wave of education legislation.

Among their concerns was a bill that would eliminate the requirement for licensure among teachers, principals and school supervisors. Under the proposed bill, the current requirements of a degree in education and the passing of numerous standardized Praxis tests would no longer be needed in order to teach.

“I don’t think any parent would want their child taught by an unlicensed teacher,” said Jennifer Gaby, UniServ coordinator for the Tennessee Education Association, which includes the JCEA.

Another bill would lengthen the number of years required before a teacher could receive tenure. The JCEA said misconceptions are prevalent concerning the actual meaning of tenure in the Tennessee public school system.

“All it does is provide due process,” said Gaby. “It provides you a hearing if you think you’ve been unfairly dismissed.” Tenured teachers can still be dismissed if they are found by the administration to be inadequate. Tenure allows those teachers to appeal the dismissal if they feel it was not justified.

“That’s the public misconception — that tenure is a lifetime guarantee of a job,” said Joe Crabtree, JCEA president. “I don’t know a single teacher who thinks that. Especially here in Johnson City, every teacher here is frankly working their butt off to make sure that we stay at the top.”

Another frequent misconception, according to Karen Anderson, a JCEA member and secondgrade teacher at Lake Ridge Elementary, is that any group associated with TEA holds the same political leaning as the National Education Association. While TEA is part of the NEA, Anderson said the teachers who make up the TEA have no obligation to support the NEA’s views.

“There isn’t an outside entity called TEA that is telling teachers what to do,” said Anderson. “TEA is teachers. It is the voters, the people who live in the state, who pay taxes who are members. Our president is a math teacher from Sevier County. All the board of directors are teachers, principals or supervisors across the state.”

Two-thirds of Johnson City teachers are members of TEA.

Some legislators have implied a difference between teachers and the TEA, such as State Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, who said the TEA had “outrun its usefulness,” then added, “I want teachers to know this (legislation) is a pro-teacher thing.”

“What’s happening is they’re trying to silence the voice of the public school teacher,” said Crabtree.

Misinformation — such as the discrepancies presented in the current proposed legislation — Crabtree said, only supports TEA’s argument that the teachers’ unified voice needs to be preserved in order to present the educator’s side.

“Every time we mention collective bargaining, everyone goes to the money,” said Crabtree. “But it’s about the working conditions, the length of the student day, the length of the teacher day.”

One example of the product of collective bargaining was the inspection and renovation of the Science Hill High School Tech Center.

“We filed a grievance, and that’s what got the technical building worked on,” said Deidre Brown, TEA member and math teacher at Science Hill High School. (Read More)


  1. How dare those greedy teachers want collective bargaining when there are needy corporations out there who need their cash.

  2. Lots of parents have their children taught by "unlicensed teachers"; they're the parents of kids in private schools, many of which have teachers who've never taken any courses in Education, only the subject(s) they teach. They don't have to be certified/licensed to teach in parochial schools, either, only provide FBI and local/state police background checks and proof of being TB-free.
    Even elite schools like Choate or Portsmouth Abbey don't require state certification/licensure, only recommendations and background/medical checks.
    Why make public school teachers jump through all these hoops to teach if private/parochial schools have no more problems with their teachers than public schools do?

  3. Yeah, NiL! Why have standards? They only exist to, you know, standardize things. And standardizing is just one step down the sewer pipe to socialization, isn't it?

    Seriously, though, there are a couple of issues I can see, right away. First, when you have taxpayer subsidized education, it's pretty important to make sure that we do what we can to make sure the quality of education in different school systems, with different tax bases, is as egalitarian as possible.

    Second, this is more about chipping away (with a pretty big chisel) at public education as a whole. It is the old Grover Norquist rationale - they don't want to do away with public education; they just want to make it useless so we the people will want to do away with it. Then it's our fault, not theirs.

  4. @snad you say: "it's pretty important to make sure that we do what we can to make sure the quality of education in different school systems, with different tax bases, is as egalitarian as possible."

    I think you have touched on a core problem although not related to the question at hand. Because education in most areas are supported by property taxes areas in which the tax base is low means that there will not be adequate education in that area. I think we need a broader tax base. State wide moneys divided up by number of students would provide better education in lower tax base areas.

    As to the question of collective bargaining, I think the attempt to prevent teachers from joining unions to seek better conditions in their schools and adequate pay is insane. While there are many fine teachers doing their best to provide decent education the fact is that teaching simply does not provide the financial reward that should go with the job. So those who can often seek jobs that pay better.

    Still states have to wrestle with the question of how to deal with their deficits. Many states simply do not have the funds to pay for public employee pensions. The states foolishly spent the money! Given that fact states now find themselves in a terrible position because of past errors. How DOES a state deal with its deficit and where does it cut?

  5. And a quick comment on tenure: tenure can be a problem if the nature of that tenure is too broad. In NYC there are a lot of teachers who sit in rooms for over a year as the school district investigates charges against those teachers. Some certainly are there because students lied about them. Others are there because there are truthful allegations of sexual misconduct or other charges. The nature of tenure in some areas is too broad. That does not mean that tenure should not exist.

    My greatest concern about abandoning tenure is that school districts might do what private businesses are doing: lay off older teachers because they are paid more than younger teachers. The idea that older teachers are not as faithful to their task is in most cases erroneous. Quality of teachers is not based on age but on competence and willingness to do the task at hand. Some of my worst teachers in high school were young and some of the best were old and vice versa.

  6. Robert -

    States can deal with the deficit by taxing corporations fairly. Tax Incremental Financing is a lure that companies use to get into cheap labor markets. They often bail as soon as their TIF period ends, leaving massive debt for the state to absorb on top of potentially huge increases to unemployment.

  7. @snad We see that here in Philly. If the city raises taxes the corps. bail for the suburbs. So now the city is either in massive deficit or choosing between libraries and police. It sucks.

    States and municipalities think they can deal with the problem with casinos. It doesn't work.