What will be coming from the state is the requirement for a performance-based metric for incoming teachers and a protection for in-service teachers.
Representative Terry England
Speaking at both the Gilmer County and Fannin County Teacher Town Hall meetings, Rep. Terry England, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and Education Reform Commission member, stated that 178 Georgia charter school system districts already have the ability to enact a merit-based pay system for their educators. Teachers, though, spoke of the pitfalls of a state-wide merit-based pay system and asked House Speaker David Ralston and Reps. England and Coleman not to pursue merit-based pay for Georgia’s teachers. The two sides seemed to be at a misunderstanding of what forthcoming teacher pay legislation will change. FetchYourNews.com asked Rep. England to further explain how potential state legislation about merit-based teacher pay differs from merit-based pay systems that 178 Georgia school districts already have the flexibility to enact.
The greatest discrepancy between proposed legislation and the current and future status of merit-based pay scales is salary security for current teachers. At this time, state legislation does not require the 178 charter school districts to keep the training and experience salary advancement schedule for current teachers. Without state-mandated guidelines, these districts and ones converting to charter school districts can choose for all teachers, current and future, to work under merit-based pay matrices. Thus, according to England, proposed education reforms will protect current teachers by ensuring that a school district cannot arbitrarily flip teachers from the training and education pay scale to a merit-based pay scale. Neither the Representatives in their explanations nor the teachers in their questions picked up on this difference.
In fact, Rep. England states, “I don’t think that the idea of protecting in-service teachers is clear in the current discussion. The talk seems to be that the state is mandating performance-based pay when the situation is that individual districts already have that power. What will be coming from the state is the requirement for a performance-based metric for incoming teachers and a protection for in-service teachers.”
England further elaborated on how he sees merit-based pay matrices developing. First, there will be a state-wide standard base pay and local school districts will have the flexibility to tailor the rest of a teacher’s salary to the unique needs of the district. The Education Reform Commission recommends about six possible merit categories. The Commission also recommends that training and education still be a portion of the local merit-based pay formula. The Commission suggests that teachers, regardless of working under the teaching and experience salary schedule or merit-based pay system, be fairly compensated for additional work outside the classroom such as, mentoring low-achieving students, directing school club activities or supervising student teachers. England emphasizes that the local districts will be responsible for deciding how teachers are compensated for additional responsibilities. Some other considerations he endorses is that local systems help pay for continuing education for employees. Also, he thinks that local districts should reconsider how they account or industry experience when deciding the base pay for teachers who come to education from other fields outside. Current compensation for prior experience ranges from one year for every two years in a non-education field to one year for every five years. England would like to see a one to one match.
FetchYourNews.com asked how often teacher salary schedules can be changed. If the recommendations allow for local flexibility in changing merit-based pay matrices, how much security will an incoming teacher have in his or her salary advancement schedule? England believes that once a district makes a merit-based pay matrix there will be only minor future tweaks because it would be difficult to manage otherwise. In the Teacher Town Hall meetings, the Representatives did state that in-coming teachers or current teachers that choose merit-based pay should have some security in how their salaries fluctuate from year to year.
The main theme of the Education Reform Commission’s recommendations is accountability with flexibility, whether it be how teachers are compensated, school facilities are maintained, students are fed or which student supplies are bought. FYN asked where the accountability lies.
England states, “The accountability relates to student achievement and improvement as I see it. The State Board of Education has identified what they expect a student to be proficient in at certain grade levels and upon graduation. The expectation for the flexibility is that the local school system will deliver that goal in the end. The flexibility allows them to decide locally what the best way for their students to achieve that goal is.”