Thursday, February 26, 2009

Report From The Capitol - Day 22 by Margaret Ciccarelli on 2/24/2009

PAGE Day on Capitol Hill kicked off to an exciting start this morning when several legislators addressed attendees regarding the state budget, vouchers, National Board Certification, and other topics. Thanks to Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill, Senate Education and Youth Chair Dan Weber, House Education Chair Brooks Coleman, House Education Vice-Chair Fran Millar, and the Governor’s House Floor Leader Jimmy Pruett for stopping by.

Later in the morning, PAGE members contacted their House and Senate members and heard resolutions honoring PAGE read on the House and Senate floors. The House passed HB 100 which expands the voucher program allowing for tax credits for donations to student scholarship organizations.

See Day on Capitol Hill Video Highlights:

House Appropriations Education Subcommittee Passes 2009 Budget
After lunch, PAGE members attended a meeting of an Appropriations subcommittee which passed their version of the 2009 Supplemental budget. Capitol watchers expect the entire House to vote on the supplemental budget very soon. Work continues on the 2010 Budget.

National Board Bill Heard by House Education Subcommittee
Day on the Hill attendees witnessed a lively subcommittee meeting, and several PAGE members actually spoke before the subcommittee which considered HB 243. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Pruett on behalf of Governor Perdue and seeks to repeal the portion of Georgia law mandating that teachers with National Board Certification (NBC) receive a 10% pay supplement. House Education Chair Brooks Coleman offered a substitute version of HB 243, about which PAGE has concerns. The substitute bill would allow current NBCT’S to retain their certification but would make the 10% supplement subject to appropriation, meaning that legislators would decide each year whether or not to fund NBC. Many programs in Georgia law which are subject to appropriation are never funded, and making the National Board program subject to legislative appropriation would help deflect legal action against the state for failure to pay the 10% supplement.

Employees from the Governor’s office passed out flyers alleging that NBC is ineffective. Several NBCT’S countered those allegations with information from the Congressionally-appointed research counsel which found that NBC leads to improved student achievement and teacher retention. Ultimately, the subcommittee voted to table HB 243 for one week to allow time for NBCT’S, PAGE, and other groups to work with Representatives Coleman and Pruett.

During the next week, those concerned about the proposed NBC elimination must continue to contact House members and the Governor’s office concerning HB 243. Tabling the bill was a positive move on the part the subcommittee, but it only delays movement until next week, at which time the subcommittee could vote to eliminate the program. PAGE comments to the subcommittee regarding HB 243 are below.

More than 2,500 Georgia teachers have earned this designation by submitting themselves to a lengthy, expensive and rigorous process.

The process is much deeper than simply looking at test scores, it leads teachers to make the connection between their practice and how that practice impacts student achievement.

Despite glib statements to the contrary there is research that shows NBC has positive impact on student achievement, research we have shared with legislators.

We have in place a substantive, research-based program. The legislature has made the commitment to thousands of educators all across the state- “Do these things successfully and we will pay a stipend for ten years.” That is a commitment that should be honored.

To pull the rug out from under these teachers now is unfair, legally dubious and will create a hardship of a significant salary reduction – for the state’s top teachers!

Given the financial straights local school districts are in, most will not offer any salary increases next year and many may have to seek reductions in staffing. In this economic environment, imposing such a salary cut on the state’s best educators is not the smart thing, nor the right thing to do.

Many national board teachers have made long range financial commitments (car loans, home mortgages, college tuition for their children) based on the state’s commitment to them.

Perhaps the worst affect, though least obvious here, is the long term affect. If our state’s leaders walk away from this commitment, then why ever again would any teacher anywhere trust any future program?

The subcommittee also considered two other bills. HB 278 would allow school systems to waive expenditure controls on direct instructional costs, media center costs, staff and professional development costs during the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. The subcommittee passed HB 278 which will now move to the House Education Committee for consideration. The subcommittee tabled HB 336, calling for establishment of testing windows for state assessments relative to local school systems’ school calendars. HB 336 was tabled by the subcommittee.


Ella Smith said...

I have mixed emotions regarding the extra pay for National Certified Teachers. It does show that these teachers have the ability to be Master Teachers, but this certification along does not show that a teacher is a good teacher on a daily basis. I see the 10% raise for 7 years as a little bit high. The increase in pay is approximately $4,000 to $8.000 dollars a year. When you are talking about thousands of teachers the cost to the state is quiet high to taxpayers.

I do feel that this is a promise that was made to the teachers and they went into this thinking that they would be paid this money for this number of years.

Anonymous said...

National Certified Teachers have gone through an extremely rigorous process. It's no joke. The Master Teacher process is a joke in comparison.

Ella Smith said...

I agree that they go through a rigorous process but for the money does this make them better teachers after the process. I believe it shows they do have the ability to be excellent. I would like to see results of a study showing that it does make a difference. I also feel that they need to get the money that they were promised.