IN teachers 'stunned' by lawmakers' bid to bypass collective bargaining

Anderson teacher Ashley Zornes says House Bill 1304 essentially punishes students because a teacher's working conditions are students' learning conditions. (Adobe Stock)

Indiana teachers know more than anyone the power of words. They are speaking out about proposed legislation touted to make students smarter - citing a few sentences tucked away in the 16 pages of House Bill 1304.

The bill outlines ways to improve math and reading proficiency in grades K-12.

Ashley Zornes, who teaches at Anderson Community Schools, said she supports most of the ideas in the bill. However, she said she was stunned to read new language which draws collective bargaining into the equation.

"I want to know why our lawmakers are so, honestly, obsessed with unions and collective bargaining," said Zornes. "What is it that they're afraid of? Because on my end, and all my peers' end, collective bargaining only benefits students and teachers."

Zornes said the language is shocking because other states have adopted similar legislation that accomplishes the goal, but doesn't target collective bargaining.

The bill will likely be heard in the full Senate this week.

State Rep. Jake Teshka, R-North Liberty, authored the legislation. He said it provides flexibility to local school boards, which may choose to adopt mastery-based programs. But when he was asked if the legislation would have any effect on existing deals with teachers, he downplayed the notion.

"I think that the school district could continue to have the same agreement with every other school," said Teshka, "run a mastery-based program in this school, you know, this school building - and have a different structure for those instructors."

State Sen. Aaron Freeman, R-Indianapolis, voted to advance House Bill 1304 to the Senate floor, but not without making clear he doesn't believe the collective bargaining language belongs in this bill.

"If this Legislature wants to talk about eliminating collective bargaining, then let this Legislature talk about that," said Freeman. "And I think that needs to be a vote for another day, at another time - not in this bill."

By Joe Ulery, Producer