SUNDAY TALK: Gassman on Collective Bargaining and School Funding

It has been a very controversial issue where area legislative forums have been filled to capacity lobbying their points on the collective bargaining legislation before the Iowa Legislature. Unions have been against the idea because it lessens their power at the bargaining table, but the majority of legislators disagree, saying that it rewards the good employees and creates a better balance in the state budget.

Representative Ted Gassman took a moment to explain his position on this and school funding legislation before the Iowa Legislature.

Mr. Gassman, could you explain HF 291 and its impacts on unions and collective bargaining.

This week the House has dedicated itself to discussing HF 291 which repeals parts of the collective bargaining agreement for public employees outlined in Chapter 20. Chapter 20 has been in effect for 40 years, and very few changes have been made to the law since its inception. The legislature has determined that it is time to reevaluate some of the policies in Chapter 20, for the purpose of bringing the law into modern times. HF 291 adjusts the list of items that are permissible to be negotiated. Fewer mandatory bargaining items will result in more flexibility and more choices which will lead to a better balance within the state budget and a more effective allocation of resources across state and local government. It is important to note that it will still be permissible for public employees to negotiate for their wages. Many constituents have expressed concerns that this bill will eliminate health insurance for public employees, but it is important to note that Page 46, line 3 of the bill explicitly states that “a public employer shall offer health insurance to all public employees employed by the public employer.” Another concern I have heard is that this bill will cause teachers with seniority to be terminated in favor of less experienced teachers who can be paid a lower salary. I believe that the opposite is actually the case. When we require the unions to take a step back, we will allow employers to hire the most qualified employee, and employers will have to offer competitive wages in order
to retain high-quality employees. This process is especially important in the case of teachers. We need to ensure that the very best teachers are the ones being hired and retained in the classroom.   I recognize that in American history, unions have played a valuable role in ensuring quality work environments for many areas of the workforce. However, I also know from my personal experience that unions do not have to play such a central role. I was a public school teacher from 1965 to 1975, and we operated without the presence of a union. When the teachers had an issue they needed addressed, we combined our efforts and went directly to the school board with our concerns. I truly believe that I experienced fair treatment throughout my teaching career. I do believe that HF 291 will be good for students, teachers and taxpayers. With the passage of this bill, our students can be taught by the best and brightest, our teachers can have more freedom and the taxpayers can be assured that their money is being used wisely. HF 291 will return the decision making process back to the people of a community, board members that were elected by the people, and administrators hired by that board.  HF 291 will not only affect schools, but also other state and local governments including mayors, city councilors and county supervisors. This bill will allow them to have more flexibility to do the jobs taxpayers elected them to do which is to manage state and local resources and quickly and effectively respond to their concerns.

What about the State Aid Equalization Bill?

This week I filed a bill to help equalize State Aid for public schools. In 1971, the House implemented the current formula for state aid and left intact the current property tax provisions. The result of the 1971 law is that some school districts obtain as much as $175 more in state aid than other districts. My goal with this bill is to begin the process of slowly correcting the inequities in state aid for school districts, and to replace the current property tax for that extra amount with state funding. I hope to ensure that school districts will receive a fair and equal amount of state funding.

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