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By Chris Wright WDRB-TV Fox 41 News
NEW ALBANY, IN (WDRB Fox 41) –
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels has signed a bill that will limit the collective bargaining rights of teachers unions, and it will have an immediate impact it will have on one local district.
New Albany Floyd County teachers are facing layoffs and budget cuts, and they say this new law will cause even more problems for them.
"It just burns me up that we're at this point where they present a proposal to the president of our association that is nothing but give backs, and they offer nothing in return," said one teacher.
There wasn't much good news to share inside the New Albany High auditorium Thursday. The union leaders called a meeting to brief teachers on the state of negotiations with the administration. The district's Board of Education on Monday approved 38 layoffs as part of $2.2 million in cuts. Art, music, and phys ed will be eliminated at elementary schools.
"It seems like we're the only ones being targeted. Like they said, we either become the heroes or the scapegoats. Right now, I think pretty much we're going to be targeted as the scapegoats," said teacher Lewie Stevens.
In a last-ditch effort to save jobs, the Union has agreed to renegotiate its contract, but representatives say that may now be tougher with the passage of Senate Bill 575. It was one of the pieces of legislation that sparked protests, and prompted Indiana lawmakers to leave the state in February. They didn't return for weeks. Still, the legislation was passed last week.
"I think the teachers are getting the bad rap throughout the state. It's just like these contracts. A contract is not signed by one side, it's signed by two sides. Both sides are in it together," said Chris Campbell of the Indiana State Teachers Association.
The new law limits teachers unions' collective bargaining rights, including the length of its contracts. New Albany Floyd County wants its contract extended to 2016, but that's no longer legal.
"It's going to hurt negotiations I think in that aspect because that's one of those things we were truly looking at was getting an extended contract," said Campbell.
It's left some teachers wondering if this is a battle they can win.
"Still stressed. Stressed about what's happening in the near future, and in the not so near future," said Stevens
Indiana's State Superintendent favors SB575. New Albany Floyd County Superintendent Bruce Hibbard was not on campus Thursday. He was interviewing for a job in Tennessee. If the contract is not re-negotiated, the 38 teachers will be laid off at the end of the school year.