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Teachers Crossing State Lines for Jobs
posted by: Alix | April 12, 2011, 03:38 PM   

Slashed budgets and threats of teacher lay-offs have been dominating headlines in most states. The economic climate and labor battles have had an obvious effect on teachers across the country; however, not much has been said about the thousands of teachers who leave these states for teaching jobs in bordering states often times in search of higher pay or choice in membership affiliation.

One Tennessee resident, teacher Sherry Fortner, was featured in the Chattanooga Times Free Press for her extraordinarily long commute from Tennessee to Georgia for her position as a middle school teacher in a rural Georgia community. A veteran teacher, Ms. Fortner originally left a job in the Tennessee school system to teach in neighboring Georgia as a single mom over 14 years ago. It was a $12,000 raise at the time.

Georgia records show that across the region, more than 700 Tennessee residents now commute each day to teach in Georgia schools. Overall, about 16 percent of the teachers in Georgia counties closest to Chattanooga reside in Tennessee.

This situation is not unique to Tennessee and Georgia but in other areas across the country. Teachers find themselves in these commuting situations over pay but also over their representation. In Tennessee, for example, the state legislature is in a Wisconsin-style battle over collective bargaining privileges. While Tennessee is not a compulsory union state, the state's largest teachers union has a strong monopoly with little input from teachers.

"I believe with all my heart that mandatory collective bargaining stifles teacher input," said bill sponsor Senator Jack Johnson. "Everything must pass through the funnel of the hyperpartisan, politically charged union, whose primary objective is preservation of the union and its power, not the well-being of teachers and students."

The gridlock that the teachers union is creating in Tennessee isn't helping teachers. The situation is painfully obvious when we hear the stories of these commuting teachers. The problem is that many teachers continue to cling to their unions which support a yesteryear, industrial-style model of negotiations and do little to actually advance the profession. Just as an example, teachers in Tennessee haven't seen a pay increase since 2007.

Meanwhile in Georgia, the nonunion model of teacher representation holds a solid majority over the union. While every state has to deal with budget shortfalls, and no state is free from education problems, teachers in Georgia enjoy higher pay and are empowered to make informed choices about where to spend their hard earned dollars. Who can blame teachers like Ms. Fortner for seeking employment in Georgia?

Would you commute to a different state for choice in affiliation and higher pay?
Comment below.

Comments (1)Add Comment
written by Lura Kansas, April 12, 2011

I do commute for higher pay, but union or no union does make any difference to me. There is a $10,000 difference between many KS schools. We are a right to work state and we are 49th in nation on pay. KANSAS

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