Bredesen's high-pressure gambit -- giving lawmakers one week to act, with hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money on the line -- puts the Tennessee Education Association in a nearly impossible position. Either the TEA caves and accepts legislation that's anathema to much of its membership, or the union looks like the villain in the loss of cash in the Obama administration's Race to the Top competition.
"We're in an indefensible position," one legislative friend of the TEA tells Pith.
Teachers are complaining about strong-arm tactics from the White House all the way down to the governor's office, but it won't do any good. Already, the TEA has made significant concessions that were unthinkable not long ago. First, the union agreed to accept changing state law to allow the use of student test scores in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. Then, with Bredesen insisting that tests become the largest factor in evaluations, or at least 51 percent, the TEA offered to accept 35 percent. Now, it looks like the union will have to go along with the governor's plan to let the state Board of Education decide the issue. That's the same as letting Bredesen decide, since he appoints the board.
Bredesen's in such a strong position that he sounded almost smug when he talked about the TEA in his speech to the legislature tonight.
"To my very good friends at TEA and to all the wonderful teachers who are members of their local chapters across our state: we share a common goal -- to ensure that every child in Tennessee receives a year's worth of growth from a year's worth of instruction. Teachers matter: You bring something to this effort that no one else can. I invite you to join us."
He could have added, "or we will run right over you."