NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The chief lobbyist for the state’s largest teachers union is leaving the position this month.
Jerry Winters has represented the Tennessee Education Association at the state Capitol for over 30 years. His last day is Dec. 14.
Winters says he will continue to have a presence at the Legislature as an independent consultant and lobbyist.
He says he believes his years of experience at the Capitol give him some unique insights that may be helpful to others as they navigate the legislative process.
The Tennessee Education Association’s political arm has endorsed three East Tennessee Republican legislators facing contested primaries this summer while declining to take sides in incumbent-versus-incumbent Democratic primaries.
Republican incumbents receiving TEA support while facing primary challengers on Aug. 2 include Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville, Rep. Dale Ford of Jonesborough and Rep. Bob Ramsey of Maryville.
On the other hand, the TEA is backing Phil Morgan Jr. of Newport, the challenger to Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Grady Caskey, challenger to Rep. Art Swann, R-Maryville. Caskey is president of the TEA’s Blount County affiliate.
“The people we endorsed in Republican primaries are moderate Republicans who have voted pro-public education,” said Jerry Winters, TEA’s lead lobbyist at the Legislature and adviser to its PAC, which is traditionally one of the biggest donors to legislative campaigns. The PAC had a cash-on-hand balance of $384,501 at last report.
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Education Association lobbyist Jerry Winters said Monday that he favors a proposal to close public access to teacher evaluation data because of the lack of confidence many educators have in the new evaluation system.
The measure is headed for a full Senate vote, and the companion bill is awaiting a vote in the House State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday.
Sponsors say access to the data should be limited to school officials and not available to the general public.
Winters spoke to reporters on Monday after hearing a presentation from a Tennessee Department of Education official on the implementation of the evaluation system.
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.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday disputed assertions by the Tennessee Education Association’s president that teachers feel demoralized and disrespected by new legislation, including a recently passed bill that would limit educators’ collective bargaining powers.
Speaking to reporters, Haslam said a state Education Department-sponsored survey “didn’t show that at all.”
The Tennessee Teaching, Leading and Learning Survey, which was conducted in February and March by the state Education Department, would give teachers and other certificated school personnel “a chance to give feedback on a lot of different issues,” the governor said.
“Can morale be better? You bet,” said Haslam, who plans to sign the bill shifting from collective bargaining to so-called “collaborative bargaining.” ”But it did not show a serious morale issue at all for Tennessee teachers.”
Educators were asked dozens of questions, including a number about “school leadership.” For example, three out of four teachers surveyed said they agreed or strongly agreed that “there is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect.”
But TEA lobbyist Jerry Winters said the survey, co-sponsored by the association, dealt with teachers’ attitudes toward individual school governance.
No questions were asked about the union-busting legislation, he told the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
A Tennessee Education Association leader said Tuesday that a Republican-led “assault” on the teachers union in the Legislature apparently originated in a refusal to give more campaign money to Republicans in last year’s elections.
Rep. Glen Casada, who was House Republican Caucus chairman at the time, acknowledged that a conversation on campaign cash occurred as described by Jerry Winters, who is lead lobbyist for the 52,000-member teacher organization. But he said the legislative push is based on philosophy and has no relationship to political money.
Winters told reporters Casada, R-College Grove, contacted him during the campaign season to complain that TEA’s political action committee was not giving enough money to Republican legislative candidates. Winters said that, after the conversation, he and others reviewed their donation records and did give money to some more Republicans.
Casada then contacted him again, Winters said, and declared that was not enough; that Republicans wanted equality in receiving money with Democrats. He refused.
“Three months later, we see this bills. I think any thinking person would see the connection,” said Winters. “What I resent most is they’re coming down here now and saying this is education reform… It’s just hardball politics… They’re trying to take us out.”