The Associated Press October 6, 2011, 7:15PM ET

"Right to teach" bill debuts in Michigan Senate

Republicans who control the Michigan Senate followed through Thursday on their plan to introduce so-called "right to teach" legislation, escalating a clash with the state's largest teachers union.

Public schools would not be allowed to require employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment under the Senate bill. It appears the bill would affect only the state's largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association, because it would apply only to unions that represent at least 50,000 workers.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said he is unlikely to back the proposal if it gets to his desk.

The legislation would operate much like more general "right to work" proposals, except it would apply only to public schools.

"This is an incredibly divisive issue that will do nothing to create jobs or help students," MEA President Steven Cook said in a statement.

Michigan's Republican leaders and the MEA have clashed over many issues this year. The union has opposed Republican-backed laws to change the state's teacher tenure rules, cut education funding, and give emergency managers appointed to run troubled schools and cities the power to toss out union contracts.

The teachers union has backed and funded a recall attempt targeting Republican Rep. Paul Scott of Grand Blanc, a key sponsor of the tenure system bills.

Republicans say some teachers have told them they don't want their union dues spent to finance recall efforts.

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The legislation is Senate Bill 729.

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