Rep. Maggart’s Speech on Collective Bargaining Bill Revision

Here is the prepared text of House Republican Caucus Chairman Debra Maggart’s speech to the House Education Subcommittee on the amendment to her collective bargaining bill:
I thank the Chairman and the Committee for giving me the opportunity to speak on this Amendment, offered by Rep. Dunn, and the environment we find ourselves in with education.
First off, let me state–unequivocally–Rep. Dunn’s amendment is well thought out and helps us advance this important legislation.
It is an amendment that takes into account all perspectives on this issue and incorporates the best ideas so we may move forward. I am confident this amendment ensures victory and allows us to build even greater consensus in presenting this reform to the Governor.
At the end of the day, this bill will remove politics from the classroom and the put the focus of education policy where it always should have been: on student achievement.
I am happy to support this amendment and ask all my colleagues, both those on the subcommittee and those in the General Assembly, to do the same.
Given that, I think it helpful to remind Members how we arrived at this point.
Last fall, a historic opportunity to lead was ushered in by voters.
They gave us a Governor committed to reform, not just in education, but throughout government. They strengthened our conservative hold in the Senate and gave us a Majority in the House that has never been seen before.
Because Tennesseans are fed up with politics as usual in Nashville.
This is especially evident in education where reforms are desperately needed for the long-term health of our State. For years, Tennessee has languished in the lower bracket of States in education. We know there are too many failing schools across our State and our citizens look to us to fix these problems.
For too long, under the old order, selfish political interests–unions–have been allowed to dominate the discussion when it comes to setting the course of education in our State.

Instead of discussing actual classroom policy and curriculum, our local school boards have constantly been dragged into debates that serve to build union influence and power, not the children we’re all supposed to be concerned with.
This isn’t a mere political failure–it is a moral failing.
By not leading for the next generation, we do a disservice to the future of our State.
That is why I appreciate the Governor’s calls for reform and the opportunity we finally have to lead.
From the outset of his campaign and now at the beginning of his Administration, Governor Haslam has been a tireless advocate for transforming the way we conduct affairs in our government.
He imposed a top-to-bottom review of the entire State. He froze all new regulations.
On Monday, he laid out a vision to re-make our government in the mold of a lean, efficient, and accountable business.
Arguably, his main focus for reform has been education and rightfully so.
He’s done this because he knows how crucial achievement in education is to the long-term success of Tennessee.
He understands that attracting and retaining the best teachers for our children will better prepare our children for the challenges they will face in tomorrow’s workforce.
He advocates for greater access and empowerment of teachers because he knows the key to success in education lies with ensuring our teachers are equipped with the resources and tools they need to lead.
Beyond the Governor, we are led in this Chamber by a Speaker whose legacy is tied to education reform.
Speaker Harwell has long been a voice for common sense reforms in our State’s educational system. She has seen, firsthand, the detrimental effects on children when progress is not made.
Whether it is on the issue of charter schools or providing the funding needed to make education a priority, the Speaker is a veteran of education reform battles.
The good news is: She’s no longer alone on those front lines.
With a Governor and a General Assembly poised to transform education, we now have the unprecedented opportunity to institute a game-changing reform that will forever tilt the balance in education back to individual teachers and the students they serve.
This amendment, by Mr. Dunn, empowers every teacher to be in charge of his or her own career.
It removes politics from the discussion and ensures the State’s number one priority is student achievement.
It opens up direct lines of communication between educators, principals, administrators, boards of education, and education organizations with no need for any middle man to dominate the discussion.
It allows for a collaborative effort to help lead our children in the classroom, instead of the one-size-fits-all approach we parents and students have to currently endure.
Contrary to those who are trying to defeat this legislation, it does not outlaw unions nor does it take away their ability to be at the negotiating table. At no point have I or anyone else pushed for that.
Instead, it says Tennessee will protect each and every single teacher’s right to be at the negotiating table if they so choose.
In lieu of a partisan political organization only concerned with power, this grants every teacher in the State to have the same authority.
Why is this so groundbreaking?
Because in those districts that aren’t under the thumb of the unions, teachers are rewarded at a higher rate for their hard work and student achievement is higher.
That is the standard by which all education policy should be judged by and that is the direction I believe this amendment will take us.
Let me end by saying this: Many observers and pundits have tried their hardest to compare this reform effort to those taking place in other States.
They see Wisconsin where a Governor has made it his personal mission to end the negotiating authority of unions. They see Indiana where the effort goes back and forth. They see other States where this is part of a laundry list of reforms.
Unfortunately, when trying to make comparisons to Tennessee, this fails to capture the unique moment we have in the Volunteer State.
This is not part of some personal vendetta or partisan agenda.
This is an essential moment of leadership our Majority and our Governor were granted by Tennesseans to rescue our State from the unimaginative doldrums we find our education system in right now.
Instead of settling for the status quo that benefits the few, this amendment allows for us to reach higher for the benefit of all.
It gives us a distinct Tennessee solution to the hurdles we face.
This legislation promotes accountability in our education system because it encourages and promotes the highest-performing teachers and rewards them for the amazing work they do with our children.
It is consistent with the Governor’s call and Speaker’s legacy to transform education. It answers the challenge given to us by voters.
Most importantly, the Empowering Educators with Equal Access Amendment will forever enshrine in the Tennessee Code that promoting student achievement and rewarding teacher excellence are the guiding principles of this State’s education policy.
Thank you for your time.

6 thoughts on “Rep. Maggart’s Speech on Collective Bargaining Bill Revision

  1. Marie Thompson

    As a lifelong citizen of Tennessee, a woman, a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher with 18 years of experience I have never been more discouraged about the shape of education after reading the above misguided piece of back slapping.
    One question: Since we, as teachers can no longer have input as a group but are prohibited from using our personal days for political reasons (look it up!) will you please pass a law that says we all get a 15 min. break in the morning and a 15 minute break in the afternoon so we can use the bathroom and get a drink of water? It is time we are given the same breaks as all county and state workers…plus an hour for lunch. Anything less is not right. Plus make sure that all buildings are tightly locked at 4 pm, because everything is “closed!”

  2. Larry Proffitt

    Representative Maggart says this will promote collaboration. How does giving all power to the bosses promote collaboration? She says it removes politics, but the vote was 8-5. Guess how many republicans there were. I place my name everywhere she insults my association. I take this personally! I agree with Mrs. Thompson. Are they going to make the rest of our working conditions match everyone else?

  3. pam bess

    You obviously have not been in a classroom and are so misinformed. Take politics out of the classroom you say. You and the sumner co. board is the most political bunch we have seen in a while. Politics arent in the classroom but if a superintendent or someone else with political power or clout wants someone hired, guess what,it happens. And if a teacher doesnt have tenure they get the boot. Thats what tenure is about. Achievement, teachers have been teaching to the tests now for years because everything is about scores. When does accountability count for students and parents. Sp Ed students have federally modified tests except on TCAP tests that count against the school. Is that fair? I am not a teacher but have worked in schools for years. You dont know what you are talking about and I hope all the stupid people who voted for you, vote you and others like you out. By the way how is it you managed to put private emails on the sumner co. email site? Talk about politics in schools! You contradict yourself. You also need to be judged on what you do and say. You Ms. Maggart are a disgrace.

  4. Janet Epley

    Our “union” has gained priviledges for teachers to make the workplace a better place to be. If our workplace is better, our performance is better. Therefore, students are getting the best education possible. Our students are always first and foremost in our minds. That is why we chose to “teach!” What you need to be doing is working on better ways to evaluate student learning than stanardized tests. Talk about being political, everything you want is political!!!

  5. Tara Greene

    This speech is “spin” like no other. One can say something over and over and over again and hope the people will buy it. Unfortunately, since she sent out “spin” emails just before this last election, she is sickeningly contradictory in her motion to keep politics out of school. She means she wants to keep politics that don’t represent her propaganda out of the schools. There are a lot of words to describe this technique of reach for power, but I will leave that to each of you personally to label that for yourselves. Most importantly, she implies that this is justified because of democracy when she states, “It answers the challenge given to us by voters.” This was one issue NOT put before the voters BEFORE HER election. She pulled this rabbit out of her hat after she was elected. This is how she works. She doesn’t campaign. She simply assumes the “R” after her name is her ticket in. No campaigning. No debating. No worries. It’s going to take the people to turn it around. Caring and demanding voters who truly care about the issues enough to make our candidates SPELL OUT their agendas BEFORE they are elected are going to have to make the difference. Our children and their teachers are paying the price this time. Who will be next?

  6. Lise

    I’m very sad for Tennessee that Ms. Maggart goes along with the political agenda of The Tea Party. I think good government is that which makes compromises between parties to unite them in a common cause. Elected officials represent all citizens, not just Republicans. All voices should be heard.
    Teachers are hard working people and should be valued highly in our society. Teachers today are dealing with many issues: poverty, parents with substance abuse issues, children of illegal aliens, just to mention a few areas. Our public educators should have a voice in their professions. Without unions, Tennessee’s teachers would be far below the Southeast region’s average teacher salary. As it is, Tennessee’s teacher salaries are 9th worst in the nation. Without collective bargaining, teachers will lose ground on salary and insurance benefits.
    Charter schools don’t require certified teachers. The students will not be getting the best education. All the research on charter school performance show that charter schools have not raised student performance–
    they just take money away from public schools. Just remember this: “In May 1933, Hitler eliminated unions, cut public worker salaries, and next eliminated the Jews.” Unions have given public workers a voice in their careers and their working conditions. Without check and balances, workers will not be protected. This is not fair to people who put their lives on the line for others, our policeman, fire-fighters, and our teachers.

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