Michigan lawmakers think educators need to be taught a lesson when it comes to missing school.
If new state legislation passes, teachers participating in illegal strikes could have their licenses revoked for two years -- or permanently in some cases.
Even though teacher strikes are illegal under state law, Republican lawmakers say strikes handled at the local level often go unpunished, the Associated Press reports. And they want to change that.
"You have to put teeth into something to allow the system to work," said Rep. Bill Rogers, a Republican from Brighton and one of the legislation's sponsors.
Both Rogers' bill and another by Republican Rep. Paul Scott were discussed Wednesday in a nearly two-hour House Education Committee hearing. The legislation sprouted from concern of a strike after the Michigan Education Association sent a letter, housed on AnnArbor.com, to local union presidents requesting approval to:
"...engage in significant activities -- up to and including a work stoppage -- that will increase the pressure on our legislators. But more importantly, it is a way for us to ramp up our crisis activities and ensure our members understand the severity of the situation."
The letter was a response to the fact Gov. Rick Snyder proposed last month to cut $300 per pupil and signed new rules allowing emergency managers to terminate collective bargaining rights, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Doug Pratt, an MEA spokesman, tells the Associated Press that the legislation's intention is just part of a larger effort to put limitations on union members.
"This is yet another example of lawmakers trying to silence the voices of school employees in this state, who oppose massive education cuts and other attacks on schools and kids that these lawmakers are pushing," Pratt said.
The Detroit Free Press reports that some school officials support the legislation. Greg Baracy, superintendent of a Michigan school where teachers went on strike in 2008, offered a testimony at Wednesday's hearing. He spoke out against circumstances that allow striking:
"There must be stronger language in the law to prevent a travesty like this from ever happening again."