Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tennessee Teachers Battle Bargaining Ban

The Tennessee Teachers Association may lose their right to collective bargaining under legislation just introduced in the state legislature, legislation drafted by those who normally are on the other side of the bargaining table from the teachers union - the state's school board association.

Union reps warn that the proposal is a step backward -

We had more than 100 years in Tennessee without collective bargaining to see how that works," said Al Mance, executive director for the Tennessee Education Association, which represents some 52,000 teachers and administrators in the state.

"Ninety percent of teachers in Tennessee are covered by collective bargaining," Mance added. "Without it, we'll go back to the previous way of doing business, when male teachers were paid more than female teachers; when African-Americans were paid less than Caucasians; when there was no voice for the teachers in the process."

Today, Governor Haslam met with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission today, and said he does not think the new Republican-led legislature is "anti-teacher", but the does think the state is ripe for education reforms, adding:

The newly elected governor did say he opposed collective bargaining for police and firefighters during his tenure as mayor of Knoxville.


“You realize, Tennessee is hot right now,” he said. “You realize, Tennessee is the place people are talking about when it comes to innovations in higher education.”

If you also consider proposed legislation to make it a crime for any union group in the state to contribute to a political campaign, it could be said the state is looking for ways to decrease employee-organized groups from having a voice in the state. Or, as No Silence Here puts it - "Some Lawmakers Stomping On Free Speech".

Monday, January 24, 2011

Defunding Public Broadcasting Represents A Failing America

Plans put forth by Republicans like Rep. Doug Lamborn to eliminate all funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting reveal a basic lack of understanding when considering the value of arts, education, and public discourse for our society.

And the cost currently of funding - some $420 million - is just a bit more than one dollar per year from every American. That's too much to help produce and promote the arts in America? Too much to promote educational programming for children? Too much to provide public debate on the issues of our nation?

What a shame to see so little vision from our leaders.

While I'm sure public broadcasting will endure - thanks to the millions and millions of Americans and tens of thousands of businesses who give financial support to the CPB - this loss of valuing arts, education and much more has a crushing impact on our society.

Beyond the truly meaningless "savings" the Republicans proclaim, what lies at the root of the issue is a cultural emptiness among our leaders in government - to no longer place value on any of the arts - music, film, dance, theatre - and no value on the promotion of literacy for children.

An individual won't get rich on tax dollars working in public broadcasting - but they can enrich the spirit of our nation and our creativity, which seeks something other than celebrity, fame or high profit returns. Explorations of our world and ourselves which are limited to whatever the market allows will present a most hollow, shallow culture.

States, cities and county governments could easily fall into this abrupt dismissal of valuing arts and education, which is barely acknowledged even now. Perhaps even at the best, government funding has only been a token, but there is an acknowledged value - without that, many generations to come will also fail to grasp the importance of arts, education and a richly diverse cultural world.

Such rejection will not eliminate the human desire for more than tangible, bankable products. It will simply mean that America will abdicate being a leader, making us a distant follower, as we are today in science and math.

Sadly, we'll likely see Tennessee's congressional delegation embrace this dumbing down of our culture in hopes of being re-elected. What a high price for their power.