The Times, They Are A-Changin’

While some legislators seem so aligned with the Tennessee Education Association that they never seem to question the Association’s position, the Senate Education Committee is giving a regular voice to other teachers for the first time in history.

Last week we reported on how some legislators seem to walk lockstep with certain special interests, but state Senate Republicans are bringing some much-needed change to a key committee.

As we mentioned, the Tennessee Education Association has held a firm grip on the Tennessee General Assembly over the years. But they are not and have not been the only organization in Tennessee representing teachers. The Professional Educators of Tennessee (PET) has been around a number of years, but because it is conservative in its views, it has never been “invited to the table,” so to speak.

In fact, it has even been a bit harder than necessary for PET even to let teachers know of its existence. No doubt, to help the TEA maintain its firm grip in the state, years ago a state law was enacted that only allows the contracting teachers union to have access to teachers’ mailboxes at school. So, PET doesn’t have the ability to communicate with teachers through the cost-effective means of putting a notice in a teacher’s mailbox at school. No, they have to come up with the names of teachers and, generally speaking, have to use regular mail that is expensive compared to free.

Finally, Both Sides Getting Equal Time

But since Sen. Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) took over the chair of the Senate Education Committee, PET may have become more the “go to” organization, at least to the extent possible. For perhaps the first time in memory, PET has actually testified in Senate Education Committee meetings. During the just completed special session on education, PET got equal time with the TEA to state its position on the various issues affecting education and teachers.

It’s about time that PET is given a voice, and perhaps its higher profile will make more teachers, not aligned with the TEA’s politics, aware of an alternative. And the state and its citizens will be better served if we hear what are often two different views on education issues from a teacher’s perspective.