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Iowa educators: gutting collective negotiating will hurt students

Legislation is an attack on educators, nurses, firefighters and law enforcement officers

DES MOINES, Iowa - February 14, 2017 -

Educators testified before the Iowa legislature Monday, giving gripping front-line accounts of how gutting collective negotiation will negatively impact their students and tear apart Iowa’s hard working families.

Last week, lawmakers filed a bill to dismantle Chapter 20, Iowa’s Collective Bargaining law which has been working for over 40 years. The legislation removes nearly all of the provisions that give hard-working Iowans a seat at the negotiating table, silencing the voices of Iowa educators, nurses, law enforcement officers, snow plow drivers, and others.

“It’s a shame that lawmakers are putting politics above the working people of Iowa by pushing this bad bill,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, who taught sixth grade for 20 years. “The bill would negatively impact students’ learning conditions and make it harder for Iowa’s struggling families to make ends meet. Anyone who has served on a collective bargaining team can tell you the system works. By making sure anyone who wants to come together and negotiate the terms of their working conditions has that right recognized, we create better teaching and learning conditions for educators and students.”

Under the proposed anti-worker legislation, public employees — educators, nurses, law enforcement officers and others — would be able to bargain only for base wages, a divide-and-conquer tactic used in other states to pit working families against each other and create unfair two-tiered class systems.

Ann Swenson, who has taught elementary music in the Waukee School District for 13 years, explained to Iowa lawmakers about how collective negotiating benefits her students.

“Negotiating is about speaking with a collective voice to improve our school environment and set schools up to be successful. We create a clear agreement between educators and administrators which ensures everyone is treated equitably,” said Swenson, who has served on collective bargaining teams in her school district. “The most important part of negotiating isn’t about money; it’s about creating an environment where our students have the best opportunity to learn. No one enters the teaching profession to become rich.”

That sentiment was echoed by other teachers and school employees who testified before the Iowa state house in a marathon of testimony, urging lawmakers to maintain Iowa’s rich tradition of collective negotiation.

“I have sat at the negotiating table giving voice to the views of my colleagues and making our case for the best work environment for teachers which, in turn, creates the best learning environment for students. These negotiations have rarely been contentious, and have allowed us to negotiate for small class sizes to help our students learn better,” said 31-year classroom veteran Linda Linn.

“We’ve also successfully pushed for professional development and ongoing training that helps educators handle things like blood borne pathogens in the event of an accident in class, or introducing new and innovative techniques to work with special needs students,” added Linn. “This bad legislation will not allow us to discuss any of this with our employers. In fact, it will make it illegal for us to have these discussions. Where is the wisdom in that? Why is that good for my students?”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at