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Tennessee Trumps Wisconsin: Kills Teacher Collective Bargaining. Dead.

From Big Government:

To fix public schools, you have to control public schools.

And there’s little control when teachers unions, with their self-serving agendas, question every cost-cutting proposal and reform on the table.

That’s why so many state governments have taken swift action to limit the power of organized labor in public schools. Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Idaho and Michigan were the first, and Tennessee added itself to the list on Wednesday.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam affixed his signature on House Bill 130 and Senate Bill 113, ending collective bargaining and giving local school boards the full authority to operate their districts in the manner they choose.

That doesn’t mean the unions are shut out of the discussion. The new laws create a process called “collaborative conferencing,” where the school board, administrators and union officials will be forced to sit and discuss many of the normal issues, including salary, insurance, grievance procedures and working conditions.

If the two sides agree on any number of issues, they can sign binding “memorandums of understanding,” that will serve the same purpose as collective bargaining agreements. But any issues that are left unsettled will be the sole domain of the school board, with no appellate procedure available to the unions.

 

School boards will also have the option of not entering into any sort of agreement with the union. In that case they would have full authority to deal with all issues in an arbitrary manner.

Nobody elected the unions

Tennessee lawmakers were careful to leave a few key items off the discussion table, including personnel and staffing decisions, how to use grant money, the evaluation process for employees and whether or not payroll deductions can be made for political purposes.

That means the end of the road for the treasured union concept of seniority, particularly when it’s applied at layoff time.

Basically, lawmakers allowed the unions to keep their bark, but wisely took away their bite. And if school boards get tired of the barking, they will be allowed to close the windows, pull the shutters and go about their business.

Democrats in the legislature, outnumbered in both chambers, have been fuming about the legislation.

“This bill does nothing except take away every part of professional negotiation, every single part,” House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh told knoxnews.com. “Don’t be fooled.”

Actually, we’re not fooled at all. And we kind of like the unique process created by collaborative conferencing.

There are certainly thousands of great teachers in Tennessee, and they’re the soldiers on the front lines. School boards would be stupid to ignore their input when making major decisions.

On the other hand, it was necessary to take away veto power from the teachers unions, due to their stubborn opposition to money-saving contract concessions and education reform efforts.

School boards are elected by the public to run public schools. Nobody elected the unions.

Wisconsin judge strikes down collective bargaining law – why do we vote anymore???

From WrapYourHeadAround:

A Wisconsin judge, Maryann Sumi, struck down the legislation that repealed most collective bargaining for unions on the basis that proper notice to the public was not given before the vote was taken. The bill was passed on March 9th – three weeks AFTER the vote was scheduled. The vote had to be delayed because the Democrats fled the state to avoid voting for it.

Meanwhile, while the Democrats weren’t doing the job they were elected to do, protestors converged on the statehouse and trashed it with litter and graffiti, clogged up the halls so it was difficult to move, and create a serious stench . . . not just a stench from the disgrace of it all, but an actual, bad smell in the statehouse. As a result, security had to close down all but one of the entrances in order to keep control of the mob coming in and out.

GOP lawmakers figured out a way to move the bill forward without the Democrats participation by revising the bill so it only needed Senate approval, and proceeded to just that. On March 7, they discussed creating the committee and on March 9, it was all said and done. Since that time, 3 lawsuits have been filed and just recently, Judge Sumi ruled that the vote was taken illegally.

So let’s compare this to a real life situation, since politicians seem to operate on rules far outside of reality. If I left my job for three weeks (I’d be fired, but we’ll put that aside for the moment), and then my boss decided, business has stalled and I can’t tolerate the impact anymore, the job has to be done, wouldn’t I be laughed out of court for suing when my employer actually got the job done? If my boss said he needed me to accomplish X, and I didn’t want to accomplish X so I left, and three weeks later, X gets accomplished, isn’t it kind of ridiculous for me to take him to court?

This is the left’s tactic – throw up every roadblock possible (lawmakers leave, disgusting mobs converge), and then when the Republicans get around those roadblocks, sue because they didn’t have enough time to put up more roadblocks. The Republicans controled both houses and this bill was going to pass regardless. So the Democrats turned to the only means they had to get what they wanted, the new legislative branch, aka, the judicial branch.

Why do we have elections anymore??? If the people say they want Republicans, Democrats go to the court and the result is the Democrat agenda, contrary to what the people voted for. If the people say they want Democrats, Republicans take the high road, do their job and are outvoted, and the result is the Democrat agenda. Either way, Democrats get what they want. So why do we vote?

The truth of the matter is, as long as the court system has the power they do and continues to operate the way they do, voting Republican only means enacting the Democrat agenda at a slower rate than had they been voted in directly.

This issue should be especially disturbing for Hoosiers, because we’re right behind Wisconsin. (Remember, Indiana Democrats went to Illinois for a month and the Republicans still ended up getting what they set out to get). Our issues will end up in the courts, and given the recent controversy concerning the 4th amendment, I’m afraid I don’t have faith that actual justice will prevail.

WCP Responds to Full-Page Attack Ad on Jim Banks

This Letter to the Editor is being submitted to local newspapers in response to the full-page attack ad on Jim Banks, published March 29, 2011 in the Post and Mail.

To:  Editor

From:  Whitley County Patriots

Dear Editor:

A March 9 article in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel by State Senator Jim Banks, District 17, entitled “Breaking teachers unions does not mean unfair teacher evaluations” prompted what amounts to a March 29 attack ad in the Columbia City Post & Mail.  “State Senator Banks, Stop Listening to the Wrong People!” was “Paid for by Whitley County Republicans, Democrats and Independents.  Sponsored by Whitley County Democrat Central Committee, Marty Shipman, Treasurer.”

There are issues that should be clarified within this ad.  Rational and intelligent discourse from numerous schools of thought expands understanding and raises awareness.  Senator Banks was addressing concerns about education and labor expressed in thousands of letters and messages received by Indiana legislators from teachers, principals and superintendents.  Education is one of the few mandated services required by the Indiana State Constitution.  Based upon the length of the senator’s column and the many thoughts he penned, his concerns and support regarding educators and education should be obvious.

Boldface notations are inserted in the side margins of the WCDCC ad.  One mentions Dr. Morgan Reynolds, former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor.  His discussion referred to by Jim Banks was written in the 1980s.

Another notation cites The Reason Foundation which is based upon the principles of liberty and freedom for all.  Ideas and concepts are precursors to change, sometimes feared, but which often can result in improvement.  How else to get there other than by listening to speakers from various schools of thought?  Schools.  Thought.  Words to keep in mind when discussing improvement to our children’s education.

Third note:  Dr. Charles E. Rice, Professor Emeritus of Law at Notre Dame, was co-founder of Ave Maria School of Law in Ann Arbor, Michigan and was “fired” when he would not agree with moving the school to Florida.

The final boldface marginal note highlights “Rasmussen Reports” and concerns across America about public schools having become worse over the past decade.  If a poll indicates a possible trend, should that not be a wake-up call?  Shouldn’t the truth be sought rather than letting emotions rule over reason?  The WCDCC ad focuses on negatives, not upon the future or solutions to the union issues and their costs.

Recent figures indicate 98.2% of Indiana teachers are unionized although joining now is optional.  Most educators work hard with dedication and commitment to shaping future generations.  Unions should not, however, protect those who would abuse the system — any system.  The “rubber rooms” in New York where hundreds of incompetent teachers spend their days “not fired” while drawing full pay is an example of the absurd.  No one disputes rewarding exemplary teachers, but many question the reason for involvement of unaccountable financially interested private operations, i.e. unions.

Visualize the swing of a pendulum, if you will.  There was a point when it was far to the left, with inadequate wages and dismal, unsafe working conditions.  Unions with proper goals for the people did help swing the pendulum back to the center.  With increasing power and politicizing of unions over the last few decades, the pendulum has swung too far the other way where excessive wages, benefits and lower production levels are demanded.  Businesses are forced to raise the cost of products, and in many cases move or outsource jobs to foreign countries in order to compete.  Our nation is hurt economically and we find ourselves in a predicament where changes must be made to bring the pendulum back to center.

WCDCC infers that Senator Banks wrote that teachers had failed.  His reference is actually to “a dynamic” that attracts “the mediocre and the misplaced” as he discussed concerns expressed in “letters on my desk” about Indiana’s educational system, union involvement and expense.  His intention to empower individual schools and local leadership, and seek reform for the betterment of education in Indiana is honorable. As he said, “We have only begun to summon the courage to dip so much as a toe in the waters of reform.”  Well said by
the conservative Constitutionally aware freshman senator from Whitley County.

Whitley County Patriots, Inc.
Please visit us at www.whitleycountypatriots.org

We Should Have Broken the Union

EDITOR’S NOTE: An excerpt and link to this article has been previously published on this website.  Due to recent events, the entire article (including sources) is reposted here.

From the Indiana Policy Review

By State Senator Jim Banks

Indiana legislators have received thousands of letters and email messages from concerned teachers, principals and superintendents. Many are politically generated by special-interest groups. Most, though, are from dedicated educators whose passion for the classroom is made clear in every word.

Yet, I disagree with almost all of their conclusions.

As a new member of the legislature, it surprises me so many of these writers, some personal friends, believe I would leave them vulnerable to an unfair evaluation system developed and managed by state bureaucrats.

I am working every day to keep that from happening.

Many express a fear that I would “break” the teachers union and end mandatory public-sector collective bargaining.

Yes, that’s exactly what I would do, what we should have done. There’s no good reason for public-sector unions to exist — for teachers or for students.

“There never was a ‘labor problem’ in government for unions to solve,” writes Dr. Morgan Reynolds, former chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor. “Government has always been a model — read generous — employer, lavishing good pay, the eight-hour day, fringe benefits and civil-service protections on its own.”

The unions support a dynamic that drives our best teachers out of the classroom while attracting the mediocre and the misplaced. They push up costs by increasing staffing levels. They oppose the use of budget-saving volunteers. They create a bureaucratic and inefficient workplace, discouraging bold innovation.

Again, the letters on my desk, heartfelt and sincere, offer no good reason for teachers unions to exist.

Educators in a dozen other states go to class every day without any collective bargaining whatsoever. Twenty-two states have “right-to-work” laws that free workers from being forced to join a union or pay union dues.

Some argue that Indiana is being outpaced by those states.

“Unionism seems to coincide with poor state government management,” argues Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. “States with higher public-sector union shares tend to have higher levels of government debt. And the states with higher union shares do more poorly on grading by the Pew Center regarding the quality of public-sector management.”

The laws of economics cannot be suspended by decree. What some of my letter writers think of as their “rights” inevitably translate into fewer opportunities, lower pay, less job security and certainly less freedom for all teachers, especially the accomplished.

For taxpayers, collective bargaining adds an estimated eight percent to the cost of state government. And there are other apposite bits of information missing from the public discussion.

First, the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 establishing a “right” to collective bargaining does not apply to teachers or any other workers in the public sector. There are so many legal, political and economic differences between public-sector unions and the private-sector model they shouldn’t be called “unions” at all.

And please know that Indiana’s Collective Bargaining Act was a political compromise, not an assertion of constitutional right. It was passed into law only a generation ago with the blessing of a Republican governor in exchange for property-tax reforms. Former Lt. Gov. John Mutz, then a state senator, played a key role in that decision. He now says it was one of the worst mistakes of his career.

The property-tax reforms were subsequently undermined but collective bargaining lived on. Its unintended consequences mount. Its disincentives are reaffirmed each session by Democrats and Republicans alike. We created a professional class of politician dependent on the teachers union, actively or passively, for their Statehouse employment.

Which brings me to my core objection. No, it is not because Indiana government is under financial stress. Indeed, I agree with the protesters that teachers should not be singled out in balancing a state budget.

Nor could I name a state superintendent who could command teachers to do a better job or do it more efficiently. Nor would I withhold full reward from those who now do it so successfully.

I object because public-sector unions corrupt our state government and the democratic process.

The Indiana State Teachers Union is allowed to use its statutory privilege as a political machine. It controls the full range of policy debate in Indianapolis. We would abide such power in no other privately controlled organization.

Dr. Charlie Rice, former dean of the Notre Dame Law School, explains why:

“Mandatory collective bargaining for any employees of government involves multiple distortions of sound policy and practice. It confers on an unaccountable financially interested private entity — the certified union — a portion of the lawmaking authority of the state. In the process, the interests of the public employees are subordinate to the interests of a privileged union. This is compounded when the bargaining unit is the public school and the ‘products’ of the enterprise are not nuts and bolts but vulnerable school children.”

The writers of the letters on my desk should know that none of this necessarily means lowering education standards or even providing less money for public education — not a single dime less.

Rather, it means recognizing that no coherent rationale for public-sector bargaining has ever been offered.

It means allowing workers to freely choose whether they want to belong to a union and pay its dues as their sole bargaining agent.

It means moving the decision-making process away from the Statehouse or even the superintendent’s office and toward principals and teachers deciding what is best in their particular school buildings.

Last week, a legislative study group heard Lisa Snell of Reason Foundation explain how all that is happening in Louisiana under Gov. Bobby Jindal. There, school funding can be attached to the student and not the administrative district. Individual teachers and principals are thereby freed to design curriculum to fit the needs of students. Such true systemic reform is happening throughout the nation.

I must tell you, though, it is not happening enough in Indiana — even under measures proposed this session by my own political party.  We have only begun to summon the courage to dip so much as a toe in the waters of reform.

This is true even as a Feb. 27 Rasmussen report found that although Americans generally believe public education is a good investment, 61 percent say public schools have become worse over the past decade. Another 17 percent say they are unsure whether it has gotten worse or better.

Think about that. Despite spending levels that threaten the financial solvency of so many states, and despite government’s full power to license, regulate, consolidate and monopolize, less than a quarter of Americans can say public schools have improved.

My disagreement with the letters on my desk carries with it the responsibility to change that — at least for Indiana.

The unions had their chance. They failed.

Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) represents state Senate District 17.


Resources

Arthur Laffer, Stephen Moore and Jonathan Williams. “Rich State, Poor States: Alec-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index.” The American Legislative Exchange Council, April 7, 2010.

Chris Edwards. “Madison Protests: Unions Are Angry — But Wisconsin Should Go Even Further.” The Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 18, 2011.

Edwards. “Public-Sector Unions and the Rising Costs of Employee Compensation.” Cato Journal, winter 2010.

Scott Rasmussen. “Americans Agree That Public-School Quality Has Fallen.” The Rasmussen Reports, Feb. 27, 2011.

Charles E. Rice. “Fixing Public Schools.” The Indiana Policy Review, spring 2010.

Morgan Reynolds and Craig Ladwig. “Why Collective Bargaining Is no Bargain.” The Indiana Policy Review, winter 1991.

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