I applaud the school boards in the 9th Georgia House District for making the same tough decisions that we at the capitol have been coping with. We have tried to cut the least from those who are the most vulnerable; still, some people and organizations can’t seem to accept or deal with today’s reality.
On Friday, the opinion page of The Gainesville Times wrote: “Why teachers, their positions and their salaries, are always first on the chopping block just doesn’t make sense.” That statement is not true, because those items are not first on the chopping block. I am a retired educator, and for the past five years I have been on the K-12 Subcommittee of Appropriations. Education has always gotten the most in good times and cut the least in bad.
Here are a few facts from the FY 2010 Budget as amended. Because State revenue has been below the 2009 revenue for every month, the Governor estimated the total revenue available for the year at $17.4 billion. This was $14.5 billion of General Revenue and $2.9 billion from other sources including motor fuel, lottery, Federal Government and State Reserves. Of that, K-12 gets $7.4 billion of State funds and an overall total of $9.4 billion or 54 percent of all the money.
For the remainder of this year, declining revenue forced us to cut education by 4 percent, while other departments were cut 8 percent. Only mental health did not get cut. The cuts to education included three furlough days, while all other workers were cut at least six.
A number of educators have contacted me about SB 386, the Governor’s performance pay proposal. I learned that the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) had e-mailed members some false statements about the bill and encouraged them to contact their legislators. Since I am on the receiving end, I need to set the record straight.
GAE Pay Myths:
• The performance pay bill eliminates a minimum state salary schedule.
This statement is false. The State Board of Education (SBOE) will adopt a state-level minimum salary schedule similar to the one currently in place that increases teacher pay for time spent in the profession. Teachers will be eligible for additional salary increases based on their students’ improvement.
• Teachers will no longer be paid for advanced degrees.
This statement is false. Current teachers will be given the choice to remain on the existing salary schedule in which they are compensated for advanced degrees and time in the classroom, or to opt into the performance pay system, where they will be paid based on their students’ learning and peer observation of planning and instruction. New teachers will go into the performance pay system.
• The Teacher Effectiveness Measure (TEM) will be based on student achievement and class keys.
This statement is false. Fifty percent will be based on student academic growth and the remaining 50 percent of the calculation will be based on one or more factors as determined by the state board of education.
The state board will adopt a new, common statewide teacher evaluation tool by July 1, 2011. Teacher evaluations will be conducted by principals and peers.
• The governor’s survey was sent to a select group of teachers.
This statement is false. We sent a survey to every superintendent and principal in the state and asked them to share this with the teachers in their districts and schools. We heard from 20,000 educators. Fifteen thousand of which were teachers, representing 173 of Georgia’s 181 school systems. The respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of an evaluation system that takes student achievement into consideration.
The performance pay proposal will enhance the state salary schedule and provide an opportunity for our top educators to increase their early, mid-career and lifetime earning potential. This will help Georgia attract, encourage, reward and retain the best talent in our schools. The performance pay system is optional for current teachers and leaders.
Last week brought a number of pleasant experiences. First, Savannah Holubitsky and Sarah Pruitt from the Lumpkin County School System brought their parents with them to the capitol when they acted as Pages.
They got to experience first hand the controlled chaos of passing a budget out of the House. Thanks to Judy Davis for coordinating the event and giving me the chance to meet two lovely young ladies.
Other pleasant experiences included passing an Amended FY 2010 Budget, which supported the cadet grants and military scholarship programs of North Georgia College & State University.
This was followed by lunch with President Potter and other North Georgia College & State University representatives at the Press Club, where Speaker of the House David Ralston was the featured speaker.
Also in attendance was native son and DOT board member Steve Gooch. I told Gooch that all of my DOT questions were being transferred to him. He allowed that his phone was ringing off the hook.
Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 401 Capitol Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30334; (404) 657-8534; fax (404) 463-2044; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.