Your family works together to take care of each other. Your children deserve a community that works together to create a prosperous, competitive future. When politicians turn on that community, we see the result of electing radicals to office. The Tennessee Legislature returns this week dominated by such radical conservatives, bent on destroying the middle class that elected them. Two bills that would disastrously harm our communities have turned heads here at home, because the victims would be among our most vulnerable: our school children.
SB102 removes the right of the professional teaching community to elect teacher representatives to the Board of Trustees of the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System. Teachers have every right to be involved in decision making regarding their hard- earned retirement benefits: it’s their money, earned honestly. This bill weakens the teachers’ voice, making seats on the Retirement Board into plum political appointments. HB 130/SB 113 is a bill that would completely repeal the Tennessee Professional Negotiations Act. This bill would silence the voice of teachers regarding all aspects of employment, including working conditions, salaries, and benefits. But remember, working conditions for teachers equal learning conditions for our children.
The Legislature can be a down-right confounding place, but one thing is crystal clear: when our leaders are willing to sell-out our children’s futures, traditional values have gone AWOL. They’ve been replaced by fear, fed by politicians willing to scapegoat large groups of American citizens for wanting one of our most precious American institutions: representation. Our teachers and children will pay the price. And why? Why in the world shouldn’t we pay fairly for teachers? I’ve loved every one of my son’s teachers; they have been among the most dedicated, loving, and talented people I have ever met, and not a penny over-paid. But even had they not been stellar, how would taking away benefits, having less job security, no pension, and no voice improve the situation? We have to keep our American values and priorities in sight: our future lies in our children and we need great teachers for them. And we get what we pay for.
Without the ability to negotiate fairly for themselves, teachers will be left to the mercy of government bureaucracies. If Sumner County won’t pay our hard-working teachers decently, we will gut the future prosperity of our county, undercutting our competitive edge, making us the losers, unable to grow our economy with new business. Now broaden your view: Sumner County Public Schools is the county’s single largest employer. Our county budget depends not on how little we pay our teachers, but on our sales tax revenues. Restricting the money spent here in our home county on groceries, clothes, movies, household goods, by the largest group of people living and working here is indeed cutting our own throats.
These are the pragmatic reasons we should support our teachers. But there’s also this: we all want to share in a proud public school experience that pulls our community together and gives our children memories for a lifetime. Children of all incomes have the same right to an education and our county has the solemn obligation to provide the education that every child deserves. Universal educational opportunity is the defining feature of equitable, modern and competitive societies. All the children of Sumner County have the right to a high quality educational opportunity. That opportunity should not hinge on their parents’ income. If it does, we will take ourselves back in time to a nobility class, lording over the rest of us commoners, whose education simply needs to be good enough to serve the rich. Our founding fathers believed that America is about much more than that, and so do you.
Sadly, radical conservatives are merely delivering on their promises. Representative Debra Maggart was all but invisible here at home during her recent re-election. She spent more time campaigning for leadership among other politicians than talking to voters at home. Now she’s leading the radical movement to gut our state’s middle class; slapping a quality public education out of the hands of our children, and cutting the throats of the dedicated stalwarts of the middle class, our teachers. Instead of representing her hard working constituents, Maggart’s allegiance lies with an authoritarian mind-set. A kind of thinking that sacrifices real people on an altar of ideological rigor. Why inflict this violence on our community? Debra Maggart leads the movement to punish those whose political goals clash with her own, regardless of the suffering of innocents. The blunt lies being told about our teachers and their right to representation hurt us all. Our children, from poorest to richest deserve a great education and our teachers have the right to security, respect, and most importantly, a voice.