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Educator Protection Act (HB645) Prepared Testimony by JC Bowman

Wednesday, March 18, 2015   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Audrey Shores
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Educator Protection Prepared Testimony for March 17, 2015

By JC Bowman, Executive Director – Professional Educators of Tennessee


Good Morning Committee.  Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

I am JC Bowman, Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee. Glad to be here today in honor of my Irish Ancestors.   The Irish are a tough lot of people, and I am glad to be a son of Ireland. 

During the Civil War (or War Between the States if you prefer), the Irish starving to death in their own country came over and marched straight off the ship and were given a Union uniform and a gun—often not knowing how to use it---and marched straight into battle — a green sprig in their hats — bore the brunt of the hopeless assaults of the Confederate heights at Fredericksburg.

Twelve hundred soldiers of the Irish Brigade went into action the bitterly cold December day in 1862. Only 280 survived.  “Never were men so brave,” General Robert E. Lee said of the Irish Brigade.  

The Irish said of themselves:  “War batter dogs are we/Gnawing a naked bone/Fighters in every land and clime/for every cause but our own.” 

 I tell you that story to tell you this:  Education is my cause, and I hope it is yours. I know teacher liability, because our organization provides liability coverage to our members.  And it shouldn’t be a cause the state of Tennessee engages in. 

1.     You are duplicating efforts that local school districts already provide.

2.     You are now competing with teacher organizations, as well as local insurance agents across the state that also provides liability insurance to teachers.  

3.     I am certain we do not need a $5 million dollar 3rd option.   

I am reminded of another son of Ireland, Ronald Reagan, who espoused conservative principles that government should do no job if there is a business in the Yellow Pages that can do that job better and at a lower cost.  Not only does Professional Educators of Tennessee, but also our competitors can do a better job providing educator liability insurance than state government. Our insurance is among the most comprehensive available.  Certainly the state does not propose to duplicate our policy or service statewide, and the cost would be prohibitive. And it would create conflicts of interest.   


A teacher wrote to us on this issue that Republicans were sent to Nashville because they embraced limited government.  Well this proposal will grow government.  This is eerily familiar to how ObamaCare was passed. 

Under this law, the board of claims will be authorized to:

(1)  Establish the type or types of insurance and the insurance limits as excess insurance coverage necessary to carry out the purposes of this part;

(2)  Purchase or procure the insurance policy or policies with the fund as the insured;

(3)  Establish the effective date for which insurance coverage will be provided;

(4)  Enter into contracts with financial consultants, actuaries, auditors, investment managers, individual attorneys, law firms, and other consultants and professionals as necessary to effectuate the purposes of this part;

(5)  Establish the process for the administration of claims filed pursuant to this part;

(6)  Recommend annually to the commissioner of finance and administration the total occurrence basis funding required to satisfy the liabilities arising under this part; and

(7)  Promulgate rules that are necessary to carry out the purpose and intent of this part.

Ladies and Gentleman, you can debate the merits on the intent but there is no dispute that you are in fact growing state government with the passage of this bill. And it will continue to grow, and there will be continual issues before this legislative body on this matter.  And nobody will want to take ownership of the problems it will create when it fails. I encourage you to think very carefully how this legislation rejects the principles of free enterprise, limited government, and individual freedom.

Despite best assurances, this will ultimately add a recurring expenditure to the state and ultimately will not serve the interests of classroom teachers when they experience conflict with the state.  When a conflict of interest occurs, and they will occur, the interest of the state will prevail.  This will mean settlements will be reached, even when teachers may be innocent.  The state, in order to save money or diminish the negative publicity, will place its interests above those of the classroom teacher. 

Colin Powell said this to President Bush before the Iraq invasion: “You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people. You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You’ll own it all.”

I am here today to tell you.  If you break this, you have bought it.  And if you buy it:  You own it.  You will own all the hopes, aspirations, and problems of 80,000 educators who were content prior to this legislation being introduced.

And sadly, there will be no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Rather this legislation will put a bull’s-eye on the back of Tennessee teachers by those who may now wish to sue them because they have state liability insurance.     

Thank you.  

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