William Gibbons


One representative referred to Tennessee's teacher collective bargaining bill as "...the tail wagging the dog." Another said it signified a fight against "socialistic bargaining." A lobbyist for the Tennessee Education Association (TEA) said it "...turn[ed] back the clock 35 years." The bill's sponsor declared that the legislation would reverse the state teachers' union's "strangle [on] the hope of education reform." Without a doubt, the Tennessee 107th General Assembly's most contentious debate brought out hostile language from both sides. The final result, the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act of 2011 (PECCA), formalized collective bargaining's replacement with "collaborative conferencing," in which education employees and administrators discuss proposals through "interest-based collaborative problem-solving."

Opponents questioned the motives of the bill's sponsors, viewing it as an attack on teachers and the unions' previous political stances. Regardless of the truth of such convictions, detractors chafed while supporters hailed victory. This comment will explore the different versions of PECCA, how it became new law in Tennessee, and its possible impact on education in the state. It will also seek to demonstrate that although the bill's passage revealed the sometimes unpleasant nature of making law, PECCA could bring a potentially meaningful and positive policy change on Tennessee's education system.

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