Get Schooled

Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey

Teachers: Changes in pay structure will demoralize, deplete profession

When the full state  Education Reform Commission meets this morning, a teachers' group hopes to share its statement of concern over proposed pay structure changes.

TRAGIC --Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes -- will be represented by Cobb middle school teacher Rebecca Johnson. The commission has been charged by Gov. Nathan Deal with looking at how to reform Georgia schools and teacher pay.

TRAGIC fears the commission will pressure Georgia schools districts to give up the education and experience model they now use to compensate teachers in favor of a pay-for-performance model.

There is a national push to base teacher pay on student performance, although there is great controversy over whether annual student test scores reveal much, if anything, about the teacher in the classroom that year. Researchers note many variables influence student scores on standardized tests, most notably the child's socioeconomics.

Teacher statement to Education Reform Commission:

Today I represent the 21,000 members of TRAGIC and speak on behalf of the more than 100,000 teachers in Georgia who are busy working in their classrooms at this moment. These are the same teachers who went without pay raises for years during the economic crisis, who endured (and some who continue to endure) furlough days, but who continued to work tirelessly on behalf of their students.

These are the teachers whose health-care costs have skyrocketed, whose class sizes have grown, and whose workload has increased as a result of continuing “austerity cuts.”

The Teacher Recruitment, Retention and Compensation Subcommittee has noted many of the concerns of current teachers: a retirement system that has come under attack by legislators, mandates that take away from teaching and planning time, inconsistent SLOs and testing measure that are used in state-wide evaluations, and a need for a mentoring program to pair master teachers with new teachers.

However, in conjunction with the Funding Subcommittee, they are also proposing a major overhaul to how teachers are compensated.

While we should create incentives to bring new teachers into the profession and address the looming teacher shortage crisis, we cannot create incentives for new teachers by removing teachers’ desire and ability to continue in the profession.

The recent teacher salary changes in North Carolina caps teacher pay at year 20 – there are no pay increases in the final third of a teacher’s career. Imagine, no raise and no cost-of-living increase for a decade or longer?  Who could afford to remain in that profession?

Teachers in Georgia have not seen an increase in the state base pay in 10 years - the only increase has been steps for experience and any additional degrees we have earned - and we paid for those degrees ourselves.  In fact, with furlough days and exploding health-care costs, many of us bring home less now than we did six years ago.

Any pay scale that fails to incentivize experience and education can only be construed as an attempt to drive teachers out of the profession before they reach retirement.  While the state budget might benefit from paying fewer retirement benefits and lower health-care costs from fewer retirees, the children of Georgia will certainly not benefit from a revolving door of teachers.

The teaching crisis that is just now being seen in Georgia is a result of fewer teachers entering the profession, and is also a result of more teachers leaving Georgia’s schools.  You must have a mix of new and experienced teachers in every school.  New teachers bring energy, vitality, and new ideas to education, while veteran teachers bring wisdom, experience, and knowledge gained through years of interacting with children.

This combination of youth and experience makes for a good school climate; the for-profit model that saves money by cycling teachers out after five or six years will not benefit our children.

What we see happening here in Georgia is the same thing that is happening in North Carolina, Kansas, Louisiana and other states where the agenda is to destroy public education in a systematic way; to bring in for-profit charters that are not required to hire certified teachers so these for-profit corporations can make money on the backs of children.

The state of Washington has just declared for-profit charter school unconstitutional in their state, for-profit charters are failing in Louisiana, while Kansas schools are in chaos because there has been a mass exodus of teachers to states that actually value teachers.

The state of Georgia has failed to meet its education funding obligations under QBE because the legislature has, for the past decade, exempted itself from meeting those obligations.  At the latest “School Choice” Subcommittee meeting, there was actually a proposal to increase tax revenues to help pay for charter schools… while at the same time the Funding Subcommittee is preparing to legalize the shameful “austerity cuts” that have robbed PUBLIC schools of billions over the last decade.

Some on this commission want to hand over public buildings and facilities, tax-free, to for-profit corporations.  This will shift taxpayer property and taxpayer dollars to corporations whose guiding principles are profits, not children.

Why not provide these additional funds to schools that are struggling? Why not pay to put high-quality educators in those schools and provide adequate support systems to help support the at-risk students who seem to be falling through the cracks?

This commission is standing at a crossroads for Georgia’s educational system.  You can return teaching to a valued profession by giving schools the funding they need, by ensuring educators are compensated as professionals, and by making teaching a desired career for young people in Georgia.  Or, you can turn Georgia’s schools over to the so-called education “reformers” who see our children as an opportunity to make a profit at the expense of taxpayers.

You have the ability to stop this systematic dismantling of our public education system, if you will just listen to the stakeholders and not the shareholders.


Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.