Democrats See Republican Overreach in Legislature

Hank Hayes provides a report on a Democratic rally in Northeast Tennessee, featuring an array of speakers — including Sen. Andy Berke, Chip Forrester, Mike McWherter and TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters.:
ROCKY MOUNT — Speakers at the “Muster on the Mount” rally for Northeast Tennessee Democrats honored teachers and skewered Republicans on a number of political fronts Saturday night.
The biggest thing state Republican lawmakers were taken to task for was taking away teachers’ collective bargaining rights enacted in the 1970s.
“Teachers have been basically attacked by this legislature,” said Jerry Winters, government relations manager with the Tennessee Education Association (TEA). “Unreasonable demands have been put upon education. Legislators are always saying that teachers should be held accountable. The legislators themselves ought to be accountable, too. They did things in a mean spirited way. They took rights away from teachers that they had for 30 to 40 years or more. … It’s time to get the message out that teachers are upset, that we might need some changes in the Tennessee General Assembly.”

In response, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey disputed the notion that Republicans are sour on teachers while also enacting tenure and evaluation reform.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Ramsey, R-Blountville. “They use those same old, tired arguments that unions use. We’re out here trying to improve education. I think that a year or two from now, teachers will look back on this evaluation process and hopefully we will be able to have some merit pay for good teachers by that time, that I think they will realize it’s a good thing. … We’re trying to do what’s best for the child and make sure we have a quality teacher in every classroom, period.”
Lawmakers this year passed a “collaborative conferencing” law to replace teacher collective bargaining in more than 90 school districts.
“You really can’t mandate collaboration,” Winters said of the law. “It will work well in places where there are good relations between school boards and teachers. In places where relations are strained, it probably won’t work well.”
TEA supported Democrats in campaign giving by about a five-to-one margin in 2010, and Winters indicated that might not change.
“We have always supported people who support public education. The Republicans have not given us a lot of incentive to support them this time around with some notable exceptions,” Winters said. “Some have attempted to put (the TEA) out of business and that’s not going to happen.”
State Sen. Andy Berke, D-Chattanooga, said he hopes teachers play a big role in the 2012 state elections.
“They are, by and large, upset with the way they were treated,” Berke said. “You can’t talk about the teacher being the most important person in the classroom on one hand and talk about how mediocre and poor they are on the other.”
Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester emphasized Republican “overreach” on a number of issues in the last legislative session.
“Lieutenant Governor Ramsey said that this last legislative session was the appetizer. I am fearful what dinner looks like next session,” Forrester said. “This overreach … the poll tax with the photo ID law (required to cast a ballot) and disenfranchising teachers from their collective bargaining rights has created a 20 percent drop in the positive feelings for the legislature among average voters. I think this overreach will allow us in the next election cycle to move the ball down the field in the right direction.”
Forrester dismissed the notion that Democrat President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings would be a factor in the 2012 state elections.
Only 31 percent of respondents in a Middle Tennessee State University poll taken last May said they would vote for Obama.
“The president’s poll numbers, like in 2008, never had a tremendous impact one way or another on voters,” Forrester insisted. “We’re going to fight our races locally. We’re going to talk about what’s happened in the state with what Republicans have done.”
Jackson businessman Mike McWherter, who lost the governor’s race last year to Republican Bill Haslam, said GOP state lawmakers don’t have a cohesive jobs program.
“The Democrats have talked about providing tax and job incentives, and tax cuts for small businesses, and they never saw the light of day. They all got killed in (legislative) committees,” said McWherter, son of the late Gov. Ned McWherter. “I really disagree with what Governor Haslam did in eliminating the regional planning people in the (economic and community development) department. I’m disappointed he hasn’t had a stronger program to create jobs in small businesses in the state.”

4 thoughts on “Democrats See Republican Overreach in Legislature

  1. TN Teacher

    I am a ten year teacher in west tn. I have always shown gains in my tvass even before it became the monster that it is now. I use to take pride in my effectiveness as a teacher. I have never been given a bonus for my efforts and I make less than $38,000 a year. I am not over paid, nor am I lazy. I am however done with this whole political agenda that has attacked our bargaining rights and is attempting to discredit the public education system in order to establish a privatized education system where greed and corruption will run rampant and freely. Anyone that thinks different is a liar. My work load went from a two page lesson plan per week to a two page lesson plan for each subject daily. I use to be able to do my planning during my once a week 45 minute planning due to library class. I use my 30 minute planning period per day for grading papers, recording grades, talking with parents, one-one with students, collaborating with other teachers, keeping intervention logs per student, taking attendance, doing lunch count, responding to work related emails, and oh yeah sometimes I would have time to go to the restroom. Why don’t I take it home you ask? Because I have a life! It is bad enough that we have to make ourselves available to parents 24/7 by phone. And you can forget about going to Wal-Mart and buying your groceries in peace. I usually just send my husband. My principal told me the other day as I am trying to leave school at the end of our work day, that I needed to accept the fact that I am going to have to start staying after school hours in order to keep my head above water. I just replied whatever as I walked out the door to get to my doctor’s appointment that I had scheduled after work. Due my stress levels this year, my colitis and IBS, have been extremely active. I barely get through my day. I actually don’t know if physically I will be able to keep up the pace of this school year. Although our school district place third in the state of TN for tvaas gains, we have had to endure a new and stringent work load. The administration says it is not their fault that it is because of No Child Left Behind Laws and our new evaluation system. Our weekly 45 minute planning went to a five hour weekly job. We were told yesterday, that Haslam was in the process of extending our school day and our school year without any extra pay. Oh, he is also taking away retirement. The same governor who doesn’t think it is anyone’s business to know what he pays his employees at the state office. What a joke! All I can say about him is you get what you dish out. TN teachers do not even come close to the national pay average for public school teachers. While it sounds like Wisconsin teachers have someone to stand up for their rights, our union leaders suck. We have been thrown under the bus by the very people that we pay to insure we have some rights. Pockets run deep once you get called to office and get a title to your name. How soon we forget about what it is like to look at a child’s face every day and worry about their home life and wellbeing. I love it when one of these so called leaders make the remark that we should bend over and take it with a smile because we are doing it for the children. Well people let me tell you, my love for kids does not pay my bills. It does not put my son through college even with the little 25% discount, which in reality is only around $500 per semester. I do not live beyond my means. I have a regular house payment and no fancy cars but yet I live paycheck to paycheck. I know several teachers that have to work other jobs just to get by. This is sad and pathetic that our education system has come to this. It is really upsetting to know that our pre-K program was given iPods for each of their students. Yes, our 22 four year olds might be living in a car or a crappy rental place but when they come to school hungry, they get to bang around $600 iPads. That is $13,200 just at our school. Our whole district has given iPads to each of their pre-K students. Can we say taxpayer waste and government fraud?
    And although I have never received a tvaas bonus, our principals do. So how do you think we are treated at work by these very same principals. All I can say is I am sick of hearing the whip crack and feeling harassed on a daily bases. No job is worth being treated like this. Especially one that pays so little and expects so much. So I guess what I am getting to is this, “What will our parents and administration do when there are no teachers left in the classroom?” Be ready Haslam because it is coming. The best teachers have already started the mass exodus and the new teachers that didn’t sign up for all of this will not last two years. Parents, vote this man out of office. Support your teachers and let them know that you have their back. The best teachers are the in ones that are in the classrooms now. What is coming won’t be good.

  2. Eric Holcombe

    “The best teachers are the in ones that are in the classrooms now.”
    So why is TN begging Arne Duncan to let us off the hook again? And all that TVAAS stuff is top-secret and hidden from us folk. We just pay for it but can’t see it, so we have no idea what you are talking about. We’ll just take Jerry Winters’ word that you are all exactly the same.
    “The best teachers have already started the mass exodus…”
    So, the best ones aren’t in the classrooms now then? Which one is it?
    All the state has to do is say no to the federal sugar daddy and all that added NCLB and Common Core State Standard BS you described goes away – but then again your UNION is all for it. Maybe you can figure out why the NEA waffled on Common Core. I say they ultimately have a financial benefit coming, because they sure don’t act in your interests. Give yourself a raise and stop sending them money.
    Right now the federal portion (direct and through the state) averages 17% of funding. I say if it is eating up 17% of your time, and constraining your means/methods/curriculum to boot, get rid of it. Yes, it would mean a pay cut, but an equal work cut and gain local control/freedom instead.
    Retirement? Pension? 25% tuition discount? What are those? Can’t seem to find those benefits for plain old taxpayers.
    By the way, some of us out here are actually working all year round “just to get by”.
    ““What will our parents and administration do when there are no teachers left in the classroom?”
    Personally, I would immediately begin enjoying a 45% cut in the property and sales taxes. Although, I would probably have to give up being able to say we save our fellow Tennesseans over $25k every year by educating our children ourselves. I would love to see parents shelling out the $8-12k per child that we are spending in TN public districts instead of forcing it on their neighbors, but why would they? They can go to private schools for half that.
    Yes, the good teachers will be in demand – no matter what – because the vast majority will want “someone else” to teach their children in some capacity. The customer base isn’t going anywhere. If you are a good teacher, you have nothing to fear.

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