Gov. Deal’s teacher raise: Is it bid to win support for his takeover district?

Nathan Deal did not get his Opportunity School District, but he may get a diluted version via the Legislature. (AJC photo)

In this pungent piece, former south Georgia superintendent Jim Arnold takes on the governor and state education spending.

Arnold questions whether Gov. Nathan Deal’s “teacher raise” is an attempt to build support for the November constitutional amendment empowering the state to take over failing schools.

By Jim Arnold

Most Georgians are old enough to remember Gov. Sonny Perdue’s gift card program for teachers. Sonny heard teachers were spending their own money on pencils, paper and classroom supplies, so, out of his great concern for the welfare of Georgia’s teachers in an election year, he authorized about $10 million dollars in $100 gift cards, one for every teacher in every classroom.

Rather than raise the amount of money available for teachers to spend on supplies and classroom materials, or, God forbid, give them a raise, Perdue — the inventor of austerity cuts for education — saw he might get a lot of votes for what amounted to a miniscule investment. Sure, it was an election year gimmick, but he showed his concern for teachers by handing out those cards and by imposing the 65 percent rule that said libraries and media centers and counselors weren’t really valid educational expenditures.

Go Fish…I mean, go figure.

Gov. Nathan Deal liked the austerity cuts so much he built upon the idea that balancing the state budget on the backs of teachers and students was not only an acceptable method but fit well with the narrative of failing public schools and bad teachers and poor test scores and that the real silver bullets to educational progress were things like privatization and charters and vouchers.

The state Department of Education lists these austerity cuts (rounded):

$135 million in 2003             $283 million in 2004

$333 million in 2005            $333 million in 2006

$170 million in 2007             $143 million in 2008

$496 million in 2009             $1.4 billion in 2010

$1.1 billion in 2011            $1.1 billion in 2012

$1.1 billion in 2013            $1.1 billion in 2014.

$747 million for 2015            $466 million in 2016

What happened was predictable. Districts with a solid tax base made cuts and lost teachers but were still able to provide most important services. The ones that were really hurt were the poorer systems. They had few financial reserves to fall back on, and their tax base did not allow them to absorb the massive cuts from state funds. They cut teachers, services and shortened the school year by as much as 20 days. My colleagues in other states didn’t know what furlough days were. We explained it to them.

There were 1,615,066 students in Georgia public schools K-12 and 120,660 teachers to teach them in 2009. In 2013, GaDOE reported slightly more than 1,700,000 students and 112,177 teachers.

Anyway you count it, public education has lost more than 8,500 teachers and gained a significant number of students, increasing class sizes dramatically. And this occurred against a backdrop of no raises, layoffs in many systems, furloughs that took money out of teachers’ pockets, higher property taxes, higher insurance costs, loss of planning time, elimination of professional development funds, lack of instructional funds, demise of band, chorus, orchestra, art and elective classes, destruction of motivation and creativity through the institution of phony magic bullet reforms, continuation of the “blame the teacher” mindset, insistence on teaching to the test and for the test, growing numbers of children in poverty, junk science of value-added models of teacher evaluation, unrealistic expectations for students and teachers, dearth of resources for students with special needs or remediation, insanity of proclaiming “if everyone is not succeeding then everyone must be failing”  and inanity of Student Learning Objectives for non-tested subjects.

It’s an absolute miracle people still want to be teachers.

Let’s be honest. Because of their tax base, larger systems will be able to give a one-time 2 to 3 percent raise for all employees. Not just teachers, all employees. Teachers don’t work without janitors and lunchroom workers and secretaries and bus drivers and administrators any more than legislators work without lobbyists or re-election in mind.

The smaller systems, because of 13 years of successive cuts in state funds, will have to use the money to lower class sizes or reduce furlough days or make up for some of the other things — staff development, classified employee insurance, books, pencils, paper, busses — they had to cut as state support dwindled.

If the governor really wanted to give teachers a raise, it would be simple. He could do what every other governor has done to raise teacher pay; make adjustments to the state salary schedule. Since Deal chose not to do so, I suspect, just as with Gov. Perdue’s gift cards, an ulterior motive. It’s not an election year for the governor, and he is in his last term in office.

Deal does, however, want to amend the state constitution to give him the power to take over “failing” schools and appoint an unelected superintendent that reports to him so together they can “save” poor kids and the educational process.

So is the governor giving teachers a raise or is it an incentive for teachers to look a little more favorably on the Opportunity School District?

I’m not sure about that one, but if I cut my kid’s allowance for 13 months while increasing his chores and, then in the 14th month, recognize the error of my ways and give him an extra 25 cents for one month only, I’m pretty sure I know what his reaction would be.

Same as mine.  I’m not buying it. Neither should you.

 

Reader Comments 0

54 comments
Rcd7530
Rcd7530

If a liberal says it's bad, you know it's good.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

And most teachers are not buying it, if they work in schools where the students are overwhelmingly poor.


Especially since many teachers will see only a tiny bit of the bribe, I mean, the bonus.

pcrabtree
pcrabtree

What is most damning is the language of the OSD bill. Sounds good, but the legal jargon would make current laws of a "free, public education" null and void. The governor can simply hand over schools to privatization and make you pay. It could take poor people's tax dollars and subsidize the rich, resegregate, and further a country of oligarchy. Be aware and beware!

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

So the state has enough money to give $58 million per year in tax credit scholarships to mostly wealthy kids who never set foot in a public school and never planned to. This $58 million giveaway to the wealthy has no academic accountability. 


In the meantime, public school teachers get no additional money and ALL the accountability.

insideview
insideview

This is not actually a raise, cause it's at the discretion of the district. Most district will find a way to cancel it out, like raising insurance premiums.... 

Astropig
Astropig

@insideview


Districts simply pass on premium increases.They have about as much to say about the cost of health insurance as you or I do.

Sixstrgatt
Sixstrgatt

One of the few articles to really nail it! The retirement comment is something I didn't think of. Don't forget the parent sector who seem to fight us tooth and nail if anything goes wrong with their child but are nowhere to be found when everything is going smoothly. Teacher appreciation week ended with the coaches grilling for the teachers, not even PTSA showed up to help! Its all about everyone getting A's and B's and behavior is not an issue. If you ask them, we don't deserve the raise!

Falcaints
Falcaints

It is not a raise, the state did not change the salary schedule. They instead allowed school districts to decide how to use the money. My district is giving a one time 2% bonus payment sometime before Christmas. There will be no change in my salary, hence these are not raises.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Falcaints I guess the system will get the money before that, and use the "float" for its own benefit.

Cheryl Pharr
Cheryl Pharr

it ain't b/c he loves teachers. that i know for sure.

trifecta_
trifecta_

Mr. Arnold's stale talking points remind readers why his Democrat Party doesn't hold a single statewide office.

And why parents are fed up with his side's endless excuses.

Astropig
Astropig

@trifecta_


As usual, his "plan" is to trash the governors plan.I'd love to see his alternative.Put it out there,Mr. Arnold! Let us take a few cheap shots at your plan.

readcritic
readcritic

If the governor wants to impress, how about going back to honor all those teachers who earned National Board Certification and never got paid as promised. Why is that not being made good? That is a broken contract, which demonstrated a lack of integrity publicly. Many teachers (retired and current) are owed back earnings on that one. Back pay is acceptable.

Lynn Peeler Walker
Lynn Peeler Walker

If the governor really wanted to give teachers a raise, it would be simple. He could do what every other governor has done to raise teacher pay; make adjustments to the state salary schedule

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Actually, I think Mr. Arnold is being too kind.


Teachers see this as a gimmick, just as they laughed at, but used, the funny Sonny money.


My system is about to go back to a full school year next year with this "raise" money. AFTER ALL THESE YEARS.  Teachers will get a "raise" by working two additional days.


One thing Mr. Arnold did not mention is that the "austerity cuts" also cut teachers' retirement pay.  You lose retirement money when you are paid less.  So the fall-out for the state balancing the budget on the backs of teachers and kids will last for decades more. And note that the austerity cuts came while the state was funding new programs and tax money give-aways for the well-off.

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady


People's incomes are stagnant.This is a statistical,mathematical fact.Good middle class jobs have been bartered away for political power and money and they look to be gone for good. This has been done by BOTH parties,btw. The only way that we've seen that attracts these kinds of jobs is to basically bribe these companies to bring them here.I don't like it any more than you,but that also is a fact. I would ask you and I would ask Mr. Arnold- Other than just griping about the situation,what would your plan be to fix it? How do you convince voters to give you a bigger slice of a shrinking pie? Somebody has to run this squirrel cage that we call Georgia,and the voters have chosen Governor Deal twice over his opponents.The education and media establishment(s) have aggressively opposed him both times and still he has prevailed. Why can't the eduacracy try working with the governor for constructive change instead of trashing him for four years and then being astonished when he excludes them from his policy making regime? You folks (God bless you) have followed this pied piper media coterie for a couple of decades now and where has it gotten you? What purpose does it possibly serve for incendiary rhetoric like the above to just keep humming away while your political opponents are moving ahead and winning the hearts and minds of the voters?

Your Teacher
Your Teacher

@Astropig @Wascatlady Your rant of "facts" fails to cite any sources. And your claim about teachers not trying to work with the Governor further demonstrates the fact that you're just another Keyboard Warrior. 


Oh - and just to cite my sources about teachers AND lawmakers trying to work together to fix things, look no further than the Education Reform Commission that Gov. Deal handpicked last year. Even his own handpicked teachers and lawmakers pushed back on some plans.


http://www.myajc.com/news/news/local-education/gov-deals-education-reform-commission-pushes-back-/nmbdw/


Try to stay out of the sun the next few days... it's hot outside. 

Astropig
Astropig

@Your Teacher @Astropig @Wascatlady


Your confrontational attitude is exactly what I'm referencing.You can't really come up with any constructive ideas,so you trash your opposites (In this case,lovable me).


I'll ask you like I asked above- Where has this gotten you? 

Astropig
Astropig

@Wascatlady @Astropig


Teachers want a vote and then a veto. If one doesn't work,they try the other. It's not working,so you may want to listen to some different advisers.

Astropig
Astropig

@redweather @Astropig @Your Teacher @Wascatlady


Marxists? See-not very funny when the name calling is thrown your way,huh?


The above is just conspiracy kook fringe nonsense.Teachers have pretty much made up their mind on where they stand on the OSD and their positions are not going to change because of this little dollop of pay. Good grief,Arnold must think that there is a slice of teachers that can be bought for cheap by even suggesting this.Real teachers should be insulted by the implied slight.


Read another way,the above chart will also show that money is being restored to education as the economy gains ground,but you won't see it presented that way here.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @Wascatlady I'd say teachers have tried to work with the governor, only to be discounted and treated with, at best, indifference, and at worst, contempt.

mensa_dropout
mensa_dropout

@Astropig @Wascatlady Teachers have tried to work with Deal.  We have tried to work with our legislators.  We get a pat on the head and a "bless your heart" because they know we are the smartest ones in the room when it comes to education, but their egos demand that we cowtow to their smoke and mirrors.  

BRV
BRV

Teachers have been voting with their feet in droves as evidenced by the high attrition rate. Apparently they can and do get better jobs all the time. Had a conversation with a young woman today while I ate my lunch sitting at the bar at a mid-priced restaurant. She taught in a suburban middle school for two years and was a bartender on the side. After two years of teaching she decided that bar tending full-time beats teaching. She makes as much tending bar as she did teaching and from her perspective bar tending is a less stressful and more enjoyable job.

It's people with your attitude (childish invective mostly) toward teachers that is a factor in why it's increasingly difficult to recruit and retain teachers. People generally don't enjoy being societal scapegoats and punching bags.

Astropig
Astropig

@BRV


I'm tired of the moralizing. I'm sure others are too.Just vote with your feet and go.Every job has unattractive elements. You'll find that out pretty quick.

Astropig
Astropig

Another political sucker punch delivered by the fading old line media. Sigh. This stuff hasn't worked in,oh,about 15 years now,and I doubt it will this time.But if it makes a few ultra leftists feel a little better for a few hours,I don't see any harm.

Carla Duffell Houston
Carla Duffell Houston

It's NOT a raise. It may mean some school district teachers no longer get paid for less than their 180 days of work. Haven't had a raise since 2006. Have made less each year since then. Such a farce to say it's a raise!!

Another comment
Another comment

The teachers of Georgia will probably be dumb enough to fall for it just like they fell for the Tenure thing and voted out Roy Barnes who had reduced their Class sizes to a mandatory 17 in K and 24-25 in 5th. What are they now. Then what happened with Purdue how many teachers lost their jobs or were furloughed.

Astropig
Astropig

Then give yours to the Red Cross.

Traci Lawson McBride
Traci Lawson McBride

More political rhetoric - makes people feel good but does nothing to truly impact teachers' salaries.

Beth Stallings Odom
Beth Stallings Odom

Great job, Jim and Maureen ! This needs to be shouted from the rooftops and SHARED on everybody's FB page, please!!

Beth Rogers
Beth Rogers

Some teachers in some systems will not get anything! But most voters have no idea that all teachers are not getting a raise!

Tom Green
Tom Green

This article nailed it! Cherokee teachers will see a 1% raise next year. Combined with the 1/2% received last year. the income missed from the previous 6 years due to furlough days should be recuperated in another 3-5 years maybe? Funny how that 190 day contract only works one way.

Cyndi Vernon Smith
Cyndi Vernon Smith

"I’m not sure about that one, but if I cut my kid’s allowance for 13 months while increasing his chores and, then in the 14th month, recognize the error of my ways and give him an extra 25 cents for one month only, I’m pretty sure I know what his reaction would be." Perfect explanation of what's been done. Great article.

Astropig
Astropig

A much more accurate analogy: Spoiled child demands a bigger allowance every year while mom and dad are desperately trying to stave off financial disaster. 


Education people must not understand that every other department of government also demands more money every year to just keep up with the public's insatiable appetite for services.

Lisa Joaquin Floyd
Lisa Joaquin Floyd

If it is not built into the state salary schedule, then it is not a raise. Most teachers do not expect to see it reflected in their paychecks. If districts decide whether or not teachers' salaries increase by 3%, are we moving towards local districts determining a teacher's base salary? Poor school districts are already hurting from years of austerity cuts. This is a slippery slope with salary. Remember the loss of national board supplements and the issues pre-k teachers have faced...