By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - The Republican majority Tennessee Senate is expected to approve on Monday a proposal that bans unions from negotiating teacher contracts with school boards, the bill's sponsor said.
The Tennessee Education Association and other unions could still push for teachers' rights under the proposal before the Tennessee Senate, but all bargaining would be handled by local teachers and their school boards.
The state House of Representatives likely will back the Senate version, said Republican state Senator Jack Johnson, the bill's sponsor.
Representatives had previously backed a bill to allow unions some role in negotiations, he said.
"The union is an agent of the status quo," Johnson said. "They typically don't want to change things."
The heart of the bill would "do away with mandatory collective bargaining," Johnson said.
As with efforts to limit collective bargaining for public sector workers in other states including Wisconsin and Ohio, numerous pro-union teacher demonstrations have been held at the Capitol in Nashville.
Tennessee state lawmakers adopted a bill that would extend the length of time it takes for teachers to reach tenure.
Jerry Winters, director of government relations for the Tennessee Education Association, said on Monday he expected the Senate to approve the measure and it appeared the House would accept the version as well.
"The public needs to ask if this is really education reform or is it just a mean-spirited attack on teacher organizations," Winters said. "Clearly, to me, it is the latter."
The Senate bill requires local school boards to issue a regularly updated employee handbook on employment policies such as salary, benefits, discipline and working conditions now negotiated by unions. Teachers would submit written comments and could address the school board on items in the manual.
Republican Governor Bill Haslam supported the House's earlier proposal, but Johnson said he was "optimistic" the governor would sign the Senate version.
(Editing by David Bailey and Jerry Norton)