Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Governor Perdue Announces Plan to Transform Teacher Pay

Also unveils health insurance proposal, renews call for school board governance bill

Governor Perdue discussed a range of issues including education, water, transportation and health insurance reform today at the annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at the Georgia World Congress Center.

At the breakfast, the Governor outlined a proposal to enhance the way Georgia compensates its teachers by adding a performance-based pay option to the existing salary system. The compensation model would award salary bonuses based on classroom observation and student growth, enabling effective teachers to be eligible for much higher salaries much earlier in their careers. Under the current system, teachers only receive salary increases for years spent teaching and for advanced degrees earned.

“Our current system only incentivizes the degree, not the degree to which students learn,” said Governor Perdue. “We must encourage our best and brightest to enter the teaching profession and must reward effective teachers in order to retain them in Georgia classrooms. Student achievement must be our driving force, and our compensation model must reflect that focus.”

The proposed legislation will preserve the current salary structure but will allow current teachers to opt-in to the new performance pay system when it is fully implemented in 2014.

New teachers and those opting into the pay system will not be eligible for automatic supplements for advanced degrees, but will be eligible for higher bonuses based on classroom observations and the degree to which their students have grown academically. In a recent survey of 20,000 Georgia educators, 80 percent said these were the components on which teachers should be evaluated. The bill will enable those already enrolled in advanced degree programs to complete their studies and remain in the current pay scale.

This proposal is part of Georgia’s Race to the Top application, a competitive federal grant that offers as much as $400 million for Georgia schools. Twenty-two local school systems have committed to teaming with the state on the application to implement innovative education policies, including a pay-for-performance plan.

The bill requires the State Board of Education to adopt the pay-for-performance system by 2014, using the experience of the Race to the Top systems to develop a plan that will benefit teachers and students statewide.

With the news of Warren County’s loss of accreditation, the Governor also renewed his call for school board governance legislation to ensure that every student has the benefit of responsible leadership at the school system level. The legislation will standardize board ethics policies and board training, clarify the law delineating the roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board members, create minimum qualifications for board candidates, and give the state the ability to find responsible citizens to serve on school boards when existing members fail to serve the interests of their students.

“It is incredibly frustrating to watch the fallout from a dysfunctional school board undermine earnest teachers and jeopardize their students’ potential,” Governor Perdue said. “That’s why we brought this legislation last year, and now we find ourselves in a similar situation with yet another school system facing loss of accreditation.”

In his remarks the Governor also unveiled a health insurance reform proposal that will allow individuals to buy health plans that have been approved for sale in other states. Currently, consumers can only purchase individual plans that have been specifically approved for sale in Georgia, which limits their ability to find the best plan for their specific needs.

“With sweeping insurance mandates from Washington on the horizon, the time has come to open up the individual insurance market and allow consumers to find the plan that best fits their needs,” Governor Perdue said.

The Governor also discussed water and transportation issues facing the state, updating attendees on the progress of the tri-state water negotiations. As negotiations continue, the Governor will introduce legislation to encourage conservation and make more efficient use of Georgia’s natural resources.

Governor Perdue highlighted Georgia’s new statewide strategic transportation plan that will remove the politics of asphalt and concrete planning and focus instead on a comprehensive investment strategy. The plan is a direct result of last year’s sweeping transportation governance reform bill.
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