NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee's teachers union, which represents 52,000 employees, faces another fight on Capitol Hill this week.
“Leave our retirement system alone,” is likely to be a teachers' union battle cry at a legislative committee this Wednesday.
Similar words were echoed last week, when hundreds of Tennessee Education Association (TEA) members gathered on Capitol Hill to show opposition to two bills before the Senate education committee.
A Republican-backed bill to end TEA collective bargaining advanced along party lines, but a measure to change board selection for the teachers' $32 billion state retirement fund was deferred until Wednesday.
The TEA plans to fight the second bill just as hard as the first.
Specifically, the bill changes teacher representation on the board from an election by a TEA policy board to appointments from House and Senate speakers.
Jerry Winters, government relations manager for TEA, told Nashville's News 2 the bill is “another assault on the TEA,” which represents more than half of the state state's classroom teachers.
Winters said the measure would “make the teacher retirement board appointees loyal to politicians instead of teachers.”
Bill sponsor and Senate education chair Delores Gresham has a different view on the teacher's retirement bill.
She said it's “inappropriate for a private group to elect members of a government body.”
Sen. Gresham added, “All teachers should be represented, not just those in TEA.”
The issue is expected to easily pass the state Senate.
The TEA hopes for more of a fight in the House.
Tennessee's tea party is also getting involved in the issue.
The group's president announced it would hold a rally on March 5 in support of the union changes.
- Feb. 16, 2011: Bill targets teacher collective bargaining rights