Republican legislation that could dramatically reduce the ranks of unionized teachers in Florida passed a key state House committee Tuesday.
- Anti-union legislation on teacher unions passes committee
- Thousands of teachers could be left without union representation
- Dissolution of of unions could "wreak havoc," critics say
The vote clears the way for a floor vote when the 2018 legislative session begins next month.
The measure is being fast-tracked by House leaders. While most bills must pass multiple committees before becoming eligible for floor votes, HB 25 has been assigned to just one panel: the Government Accountability Committee.
The committee's 14-9 vote followed the bill's sole public hearing.
The legislation would enhance the state's ability to dissolve local teacher unions that haven't signed up at least 50 percent of local teachers as members.
Supporters contend a union shouldn't be allowed to represent the interests of rank-and-file teachers if a majority of the teacher population doesn't belong to the union.
With many local unions currently failing to meet that threshold, thousands of teachers could be left without union representation.
Weakening the political sway of the unions' statewide umbrella organization, the Florida Education Association, has been a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-Land O'Lakes).
"The teachers' union is fixated on halting innovation and competition in education," Corcoran told his chamber at his swearing-in ceremony last year.
"They are literally trying to destroy the lives of a hundred thousand children."
Increased dissolution of local unions could wreak havoc on teachers' professional lives, critics warn.
Without collective bargaining negotiations between union representatives and district administrators, the fiscal and policy contours of teacher contracts would largely be decided by bureaucrats.
"This is politics at its best," said Florida Education Association President Joanne McCall. "We should want those of us that are with the students on a regular basis and the administration that's handling the money, we should make the decisions that matter to our students. It shouldn't be folks here (in the legislature)."
But House Republicans take issue with that notion, arguing they were elected to make decisions regarding education policy. And the feeling of contempt union officials have for them is, it seems, mutual.
"It is downright evil," Corcoran has said of the FEA's agenda.