NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee teachers and those in support of them gathered at the state capitol on Wednesday morning to show their opposition to the two bills they say unfairly target teachers.
Lynn Nelson works as a substitute teacher in Columbia. She told Nashville's News 2 that she is against the two bills.
"It's been planned and now it's being implemented and we are not going to let it happen. It's time to stand up," Nelson said.
One of the bills, heard by the Senate Education Committee Wednesday, would change the way the board members of the teachers' $32 billion state retirement fund are selected.
Specifically, the bill changes teacher representation on the board from an election through the Tennessee Education Association, or TEA, to appointments from House and Senate speakers.
Jerry Winters, government relations manager for TEA, told Nashville's News 2 the measure would "make the teacher retirement board appointees loyal to politicians instead of teachers."
Bill sponsor and Senate Education Committee Chair Delores Gresham have a different view on the teacher's retirement bill.
She said its "inappropriate for a private group to elect members of a government body," adding, "all teachers should be represented, not just those in TEA."
"What we changed is the method of appointment to broaden the pool of teachers to serve on the board because here to for there has been a systematic discrimination against teachers who are not a part of a private organization," Gresham said.
The second bill would end TEA collective bargaining. In other words, if passed, Tennessee school districts would no longer have to engage in negotiations with teachers' unions.
"This is a direct attack on freedom of overworked and overwhelmed teachers to negotiate for fair pay and better classroom working conditions," said Mary Mancini with Tennessee Citizen Action.
The Republican-backed bill advanced along party lines last week.
Nashville's rally was held at Legislative Plaza at 11:30 a.m. A march has been planned for next weekend in support of teachers, as well as a full on rally next month.
The Tennessee Education Association represents 52,000 people, more than half of the state's teachers.