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2/7/2011 2:53:00 PM
Indiana Senate considering bill to ban collective bargaining for teachers

Candy Neal, Herald Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill that would change the process of collective bargaining would more accurately eliminate the process, Sen. Lindel Hume, D-Princeton, said.

Senate Bill 575 is being considered by the Senate. It would limit collective bargaining between teachers and school districts to wages and benefits. Among other things, the bill also states that if a contract is not agreed upon by a specific deadline, the school corporation can tell the teachers that they must take the corporation’s offer; the current rule states that the former contract is extended and negotiations continue.

“There are so many bad points in here, there aren’t enough amendments that can be offered to clean it up,” Hume said. “This is a horrible piece of legislation.”

The bill passed the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee on Jan. 26 and was to be discussed last week. But because of bad weather, the Senate and House missed two sessions; so all bill discussions on the Senate floor were moved to this week.

Hume believes the bill will pass. “The majority that runs both the Senate and the House (of Representatives) wants this to pass,” he said. “The governor and superintendent of public instruction also want it. So whatever they want, they’re going to get.”

Teachers from across the state are protesting the bill and similar bills that have been proposed. They have been calling legislators, testifying at the hearings for the bill and similar ones and dispensing information about the negative effects of the bill. Teachers will have a rally at the Statehouse on Tuesday afternoon to show their objections.

“Senate Bill 575 limits our ability to negotiate for things that improve working conditions and learning conditions for students,” Kim Fidler, Indiana State Teachers Association Uniserv director for this area, said this morning. “Legislators believe that this is not taking away collective bargaining. But by severely limiting what we can do, it really is just as bad.”

Fidler said the bill also would eliminate the monthly sessions at which teachers and administrators discuss issues concerning teachers and students, something that is done in various districts across the state. “So if we have good language that protects students, like things regarding bullying or room temperature, we cannot contribute that to the discussion,” Fidler said.

Hume believes teachers should continue to have that input. “No one has a better understanding of the needs of the children and what’s needed in the educational process than teachers,” Hume said.

“The school board brings the perspective of the public. The administration brings in the business perspective of the school. Teachers have the best perspective of the needs of the children. They are with the children in the classroom and are best equipped to recognize those needs. It’s important that they have input in that process,” he said.

Terry Enlow, superintendent for the Southwest Dubois School Corp., said that while some changes should be made to bargaining practices, “I don’t want to see Public Law 217 (the collective bargaining law) totally stripped.”

“There are some things that need to be relaxed that are managerial,” he said. “There are certain perks we could give — things we can offer because our money is limited. But some of those things may be prohibited by the contract.”

Enlow said bargaining in his district “is not as confrontational as it used to be. We get along pretty well,” he said. “I’m hopeful that what comes out of this is the common sense that we can sit down with teachers and end up with some things that are beneficial to teachers and make it easier for corporations to manage.”

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