by Rob Roper
Amid the backdrop of a pro-union protest rally swarming the State House, introduced H.300, which would, “prohibit teachers and school administrators from striking and school boards from imposing contracts; to require mandatory binding arbitration; and to require that voters in a school district in which the mandated arbitration has resulted in a contract that exceeds the previous approved budget by more than a certain percentage be provided the opportunity to approve or disapprove of the budget.”
True North Reports caught up with Rep. Wright and asked him what he thought of the bill’s prospects for passage.
TNR: Why are you bringing this bill up now?
REP. WRIGHT: We have a teachers strike pending in South Burlington right now. These are some of the highest paid teachers in the state. There have been threats of other strikes and we have seen strikes in the past and how really they’ve just ripped communities apart. Local school board members have been vilified, teachers have been at odds with parents in the community, and it’s really a nasty situation.
We’re one of only two states in the North Eastern United States that allows [teacher] strikes, so, to my mind, this is a bill that is better for everybody. It creates a different system that I think families will appreciate more, it will be good for students, and teachers should want to be in the classrooms teaching.
TNR: Are you getting support in the State House?
REP. WRIGHT: What we need is the union to not block this. I think they’re trying to put out the word that they don’t oppose this, but at the same time the director of the NEA is out there saying that they like the system that they have now, which is to go from town to town and use the threat of a strike.
We could get some traction if the union would follow through with what they’ve said, which is if you give us a different system, we would be willing to give up the right to strike. I would like to see them live up to their word on that.
TNR: Do the committee chairs have an opinion on that?
REP. WRIGHT: It was just sent to the committees today, but [similar legislation] has been sent to the committees in years past… and it immediately went up on the wall and stayed on the wall.
TNR: What’s it going to take to get it off the wall this time?
REP. WRIGHT: The president of the teachers union said [on a Burlington radio show] they don’t oppose this and would like to see more discussion on this, so I challenge them. If they want to see more discussion, you guys have a lot of influence in the capitol. So, if you come up and tell the legislature and the committees that you’d like to take it up and discuss it seriously, then it might happen. Short of that, I think it probably wont.
ME How do you feel about bringing this up with the backdrop of the rally that happened today on the State House steps?
REP. WRIGHT: Well, it wasn’t intentional. I submitted the bill a in the middle of last week, and it just happened just by coincidence.