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Teachers mobilize against proposed changes to how they're paid

Begun last year to fight jumps in healthcare costs, TRAGIC -- Teachers Rally Against Georgia Insurance Changes -- has expanded its focus and now rallies educators statewide on a range of concerns.

And there is a major concern among Georgia teachers tonight -- possible changes to how they are paid.

TRAGIC won its battle over rising healthcare costs, but I'm not sure how effective it will be in pushing back on the state's proposal to upend teacher pay.

The reforms under discussion take aim at what critics decry as lockstep salary increases that fail to distinguish and reward the top teachers.

A change in the current pay model is seen as integral to the state's intention to use student performance as a factor in raises. The state wants to move away from a compensation system that considers experience and advanced degrees.

From the TRAGIC Facebook page , where teachers are heeding today's call to action:

The Funding Subcommittee of the Education Reform Committee (ERC) again discussed a proposal to remove teacher pay for Experience and Education in favor of a base-pay system.

Once this new system is implemented, the state base pay would be set at just under $51,000 -- the rest of a teacher's salary would be left up to the local districts.

Can your district afford to make up any of the difference? We still have districts today who have furlough days.

The subcommittee estimates it will take $88 MILLION to fund existing education and experience credits. Let that sink in… this means they are essentially proposing an $88 MILLION pay cut for teachers and hoping we won’t notice because there is talk of “grandfathering” it in over a number of years, or simply taking a few years to implement (the ERC had no firm answer for when this would be fully implemented)..

There is talk that current teachers will be grandfathered in, but, according to a recent PAGE report, every district in the state (except two) has moved to a Charter or IE2 District models. Under current law, these districts ALREADY HAVE THE ABILITY TO CHANGE TEACHER COMPENSATION, but most have not done so.

It appears that many of the ERC funding recommendations are designed to force districts to change their compensation models away from education and experience and towards paying for performance.

Remember, the state essentially “forced” districts to move to a Charter or IE2 designation by threatening districts that remained “status quo” with removal of class size waivers and pulling some funding, why would we put it past state leaders to force districts to change their compensation models?

This plan will place a huge funding burden on local districts, will hurt future generations of educators, and will only exacerbate the looming teacher shortage in Georgia. While there may be money in the first few years to fund existing education and experience credits, how long will the state continue to give the local districts money to fund existing salaries?

This pay system will discourage teachers from reaching veteran status, since there will be no incentive to continue teaching past the first few years. This may save the state money with fewer retirement benefits paid out and lower health-care costs, but this is NOT a positive development for the children of Georgia!

PLEASE, pick up the phone the minute you are out of school today and call the Governor's office! (Be polite and courteous - the people answering the phones do NOT set this policy!)

(404) 656-1776

Tell the Governor that we will no longer stand for this dismantling of our public education system! If we want to attract and retain QUALITY teachers, we MUST start treating teaching as a PROFESSION and treat teachers as PROFESSIONALS.

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About the Author

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