Georgia teacher group to governor: Stop creating divisions. Support our efforts.

A Geogia teachers group contends Gov. Deal is creating needless and counterproductive divisions. (AJC file)

I think we now have a formal declaration of war over the governor’s campaign to push the Opportunity School District.

It’s a war of words but those words are coming fast and furious, including the rebuke just issued by the largest teacher group in the state to Nathan Deal’s related comments Thursday about teacher pay.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators was meeting with the AJC Thursday morning when Gov. Nathan Deal was speaking at a downtown conference of school leaders where he scolded school boards for their opposition to his Opportunity School District and commended superintendents for keeping “their mouths shut even if they don’t agree with it.”

(Thursday was a big day for the Opportunity School District. I am listening to a recording of Deal’s former education policy adviser Erin Hames speaking last night on the OSD in Buckhead.)

Among Deal’s comments:

“The General Assembly and I have lost our patience in trusting” superintendents and local boards of education.

“There was an article in the AJC just this week from Ty Tagami about school board reactions concerning the OSD proposal. The discerning reader will note that those school systems with the most failing schools tend to be the ones who oppose it. I would counter that if they spent half as much time addressing the problems in their systems as they do railing and working against OSD, it wouldn’t be necessary.”

Today, PAGE issued a strong response to Deal’s comments, focusing largely on the teacher pay element:

It’s no surprise Gov. Nathan Deal claimed in a message to educational leaders yesterday that school boards and superintendents have broken trust with him and the General Assembly by not giving teachers a 3 percent pay raise this year.

The governor telegraphed this tactic during his State of the State address when he said he was allowing districts flexibility in their use of austerity reduction funds with the intent that it be used for a 3 percent teacher pay raise. “If that does not happen, it will make it more difficult next year for the state to grant local systems more flexibility in the expenditure of state education dollars …  .”

District administrators, teachers and education advocates understood the trap because there wasn’t enough funding for most districts to address increased health care costs for classified employees and other insurance rate increases, costs of increased enrollment and also make up for years of decreased state funding. If the governor really wanted teachers to get a 3 percent pay raise he would have increased the state teacher salary schedule. That didn’t happen because he also knows that an adjustment to the salary schedule creates an ongoing cost as it continues into future years. That also would have impacted the potential baseline cost of implementing Education Reform Commission (ERC) recommendations on some form of merit pay that would eliminate the state teacher salary schedule.

Gov. Deal correctly states that he and the Legislature are spending more money than ever before on education, a necessary investment to serve the children in Georgia’s public schools, whose numbers have grown by more than 10,000 in the last three years. And the reductions in austerity cuts, which topped $1 billion annually from 2010 to 2014, are much welcomed and appreciated.

Despite this progress, however, the state is spending less per student adjusted for inflation now than was allocated in 2002. And the state still fell short $166 million of providing the full amount determined by the current K-12 funding formula for the current school year.

At the same time, the needs of Georgia’s students have grown, with about 60 percent now low-income, and so have the goals the state has set for them. These place new demands on teachers and schools and addressing them requires resources. True funding reform cannot take place unless state leaders look to the future and consider the resources that are needed to ensure that all children in Georgia’s schools are successful, especially those in rural and low-wealth districts with limited local resources, which is exactly what the ERC deliberately avoided.

Many districts across this state have been and continue to fight to make up for billions of dollars in state austerity cuts over many years. Promoting the idea that state funding was adequate for a 3 percent raise for teachers knowing that it was not possible for many districts created unfair pressure on local boards and superintendents and promoted a false expectation for teachers. And, now that many local districts used state funds to address financial needs caused in large part due to the state’s underfunding of the education budget, he uses this as a hammer against them.

The governor seems more interested in driving a wedge between state legislators, teachers, administrators and local school boards rather than supporting them in their work. Gov. Deal’s strategy was obvious last January and it’s no surprise to educators to hear his comments yesterday.

Let’s be real in this upcoming legislative session. We ask Gov. Deal to submit a budget that at a minimum fully funds education and that includes pay raises for teachers in the state salary schedule.

CLICK HERE for an excerpt from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s 2017 Budget Primer showing how per student funding lags behind the needs of Georgia’s students.

Go here for Gov. Deal’s prepared speech.  But go here for the AJC news story, which includes some of the governor’s unscripted remarks.

Reader Comments 0

111 comments
dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Reminds me of so many liberals, who are all for "unity" - as long as everyone coalesces around their ideas and programs.


But they refuse to see that others have ideas that will actually bring work - taking an uncompromising stance, while all in the name of "tolerance and can't we all just get along", of course.


Fortunately, the shine has worn off that approach as well.  Once again, thank goodness for social media and the ability of the average American to get exposed to more than just the biased distortions of the media.

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

I really only want to address one thing, and that is the state budget for education and the grumbling about how Deal has handled it.  To begin with, the funding formula we currently utilize has NEVER, not since inception, been fully funded.  No matter what, the state could never fully fund it, and that's a fact.  It is the fault of no governor in this state at any time since 1986.  Nor is it the fault of any governor when we are in a recession and the tax base is lower - everything takes a hit.  Deal tried to preserve education during this time, and he is working hard to get this asinine system of funding changed to a formula that is more transparent and can be better funded.  Further, he's piped dollars into salaries. Even still, some districts are not passing it along to teachers - one might ask how and why this is happening.


The other thing that drives me crazy is the complaint about district budgets.  Anyone who has delved into both the revenue and expenditure side of districts might notice that:


1.  We have more than 180 districts, and well over half of them have less than 1000 kids (that's the size of a small high school).  And yet, every one of these carry some sort of central office, which is a BIG expenditure.  It's unnecessary and wasteful.   The districts with small populations should combine central office functions and put more dollars into instruction.  The mid to large sized districts need to review their central office size and structure and minimize it for efficiency.  There are VERY few that do this.


2.  Priorities are different from district to district, and so is spending.  You have some districts with a ton LESS funding than others, and they are efficient and do well both financially and academically.  Sure, they make choices and are tight, but they should be - it's public tax dollars.  Other districts prioritize poorly and put too little into instruction (including teacher salaries).  Do an Open Georgia search on your district and check out how money is getting spent in the various categories.  It is truly eye opening.  


I can tell you this - some districts have an agenda, and so do organizations like GSBA, Page, and GAE.  No district wants to cut its central office spending, and all want to preserve "local control," regardless of how well they perform their duties.  The tiny districts won't choose to combine to save dollars.  They won't.  I have sat in the Georgia Finance Commission meetings and heard legislators ask this very question and the smaller districts fell all over themselves to explain why this is not possible.  Page and GAE want to preserve their membership base.  They are non-profits that depend on both membership dues AND services, and they depend heavily on the goodwill of the districts to drive that membership, so they work together on education policy that benefits both.  Education works much like a small mafia.  It makes me sad - and angry as an educator.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@CharterStarter_Too A few responses:

1. When I go to small systems, I am struck with how few people work in their central offices and some of them are there because of federal and state mandated reporting requirements.

2. The state and feds talk a good game about local flexibility but there are new mandates every year -- I am stunned by the Legislature's apparent blindness to this issue. Lawmakers talk all the time about too much paperwork and then pass laws that require more record and data collection.(And they don't have anyone in Atlanta to even verify data.)

3. Here is why small systems will not combine: Parents object. Blame it on football rivalries or local pride, but I have attended hearings on consolidation where hundreds turned out in protest -- and it is not just Georgia. I have seen this in every state in which I have worked. It goes hand in hand with the consistent survey results that while people think public education needs improvement, they are generally quite happy with their own schools. (By the way, see how legislators respond to possible redrawing of lines that impact them -- they are the loudest to protest any change, even if it makes perfect sense, when it impacts their office and re-election.)

I think consolidation is a good idea, but the political battles -- and parents are the main opponents from my experience -- are too daunting and no elected official wants to take on the challenges.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@CharterStarter_Too Money directed to instruction is an easy fix-the legislature can make a certain high % of funding spent in the classroom the law, but they refuse to do that.

FlaTony
FlaTony

In his speech this week, Gov. Deal misrepresents the 3% raise he included in the budget for this year.  When he and legislators made the decision to exclude the 3% pay raise from the state salary schedule, HE made the decision to NOT give the raise. His mechanism was divisive from the beginning. A review of his state of the state address verifies the fact that he set up the whole 3% raise fiasco with the purpose of pitting school boards against teachers. He also gave school boards additional budgetary constraints by jacking up insurance premiums for classified staff. In effect, most of the money he added to the budget was quickly offset by the rising costs he passed along.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Here is a question I have:  Let's say the OSD becomes a reality.  It has the ability to take money from the school system to support a school, but the OSD determines that the system's tax levy isn't high enough.  Instead of the maximum (20 mils?) the system taxes 15 mils.  Can the OSD force the system to raise the taxes or appropriate additional system funds to support the OSD school or get additional state tax money to pay for the school?


The knee-jerk says "no", but really is there any protection for taxpayers from this happening?


I can see this happening quite easily, if the operator of the school does not believe it is getting enough profit (i.e., the OSD finds the students need "additional expenditures".)

L_D
L_D

@Wascatlady I think the more likely scenarios are either 

a) the OSD gets additional state funding, diminishing the amount for everyone else, or 

b) the law changes so the OSD can demand a higher per pupil allotment and the local district needs to raise the millage to make up the loss. 

  I don't think the OSD can demand an increase in millage, but there are definitely ways to force it.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@L_D @Wascatlady That was what I was thinking. Does the amendment have the wording that would allow an "interpretation" like that?

L_D
L_D

@Wascatlady The amendment itself doesn't, but the enabling legislation (SB133) does have a line about the General Assembly being permitted to allocate additional funds.  Also, the enabling legislation (law) can be changed by a simple majority vote in the legislature and the governor's signature.

While right now the legislation reads that the OSD receives from the local system, "...An amount determined by OSD for each student enrolled in such school equal to a proportional share of local revenue from the local school system in which the school is located..."   it wouldn't surprise me if this is changed to read, "an amount determined by the OSD superintendent."



CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

@Wascatlady


The answer is no for 2 reasons.  First, by law, there would have to be a referendum for this to occur.  The state has no power to take ANY local funds from a district, nor does it have the power to increase local tax levies.


Secondly, any operator taking over a school must, by law, be non-profit.  The school would run like any other state school - (School for the Blind, state charters, etc.) There is zero difference.

L_D
L_D

@CharterStarter_Too @Wascatlady However, if this amendment passes, the state (specifically the governor's office) then has the power to take local funds.  From SR287 "... Such authorization shall include the power to receive, control, and expend state, federal, and local funds appropriated for schools under the current or prior supervision, management, or operation of the Opportunity School District, all in the manner provided by and in accordance with general law."

The state already has the power to take over schools in OCGA 20-14-41 without our local tax dollars leaving our systems.  This amendment isn't about education and schools, it is about money and power.  And, in the process, diminish the power of our vote and accountability to us. 

 Is there any other aspect of government in which you would support an executive office coming in, taking over your locally funded division of government (including all funds, all materials, and still requiring you to pay for the upkeep)?  And don't limit your thinking to just state level - would you be as supportive of the Federal government coming in to the state to do the same thing?  If your answer is "I wouldn't support that!"  then how can you support this? Look behind the curtain of "schools"  to the larger issue of governance.

BetterDog
BetterDog

Teachers Unions in Ga.  Common Core.  Too many admin. employees that are not needed.  Teachers have lost control of classrooms.  Federal Dept. of Education started by stupid ole JImmy Carter.  Only hiring black school supers.  The public schools in Ga. are basically doomed.  I don't blame the Governor for trying to slow the tide of this cultural and moral rot. 

David Beeland
David Beeland

What are the specifics of how the Governor will turn around those schools? Be informed.

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

I am just as curious about what the districts plan to do to turn around the schools so that a take over would not be necessary.  THAT should be every local citizen's question of their school board.  

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Notice that the governor NEVER gives any specifics about what the OSD will do differently. Why?


And why do so many on this blog support giving away local control of their school system to a state takeover that has no plan. Remember, the wording of the ballot measure allows the state to set whatever standard it pleases for a state takeover. In a few years when GA goes blue, some of you might not like the standards that can be set to allow the state to takeover YOUR schools.

jerryeads
jerryeads

Remember the OLD folk song with the refrain "when will we ever learn  -"  The FACTS (sorry, pig, I know those confuse you) are that the New Orleans schools were really bad before, and indeed Jindal's privatization did have a fairly strong effect on them - they became MUCH worse.

I actually think Deal - for economic reasons - wants to see schools get better. Like governors (and legislators) in every other state, he just doesn't want to face up to what it'll take, so instead of biting the pay and other bullets, he wants to fiddle around the edges. if you want better people you need to pay them. Beating them with sticks until morale improves hasn't worked for what, two hundred years? What, you say money doesn't make a difference? Ask the parents who send their kids to places like Paidiea for $23k plus a year.

The state's evaluation system, while taking into account a few other useful factors, is primarily driven by very poorly made tests. But even decent tests primarily measure parental income (and hence learning opportunities outside of school), not school "achievement". YES good teachers make differences, but if a test score is 90% how much mommy and daddy make and only 10% what a school does, even fantastic teachers can't turn that upside down (yes I know, the film industry is replete with misrepresentations of exceptions). SO, the schools Deal seizes for state control will most likely hurt kids even worse than their current situations.

I'm also going to guess that his effort WILL scare the heck out of the districts with many low income kids and they'll focus even more on testing, which in turn narrows curriculum and makes teaching even worse. (That's fact, but I know some folks don't like to be confused by reality).

The recent Connecticut court ruling does highlight the egregious flaws in current school funding. Here, the Gwinnetts and Fultons with their huge property tax bases do very well overall, and the Clays and Stewarts get by with whatever pittances the state begrudges them. "Local control" is okay for rich folks, not so much for the not so rich.

Sure am glad I retired.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

The OSD in New Orleans did not improve student performance, but it did take jobs from black teachers and give them to white teachers. It also took control and money from local black school districts and gave control to white charter school management companies. 


Who will get control of the $Millions in OSD money under the governor's "plan"?


Astropig
Astropig

@AvgGeorgian


I wondered when the race card would start being played. There it is-right on cue.


Just a note,amigo-it didn't work with the charter amendment and won't work any better this go-round.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian Give me a break. Katrina disrupted New Orleans in many was - a lot of the black population relocated to places like Atlanta, Baton Rouge and Houston. Many stayed.there. It's like the student body in New Orleans is different than it was. If the New Orleans resembled Atlanta, DeKalb and Clayton it consisted of poor, intellectually deprived children who had trouble with academics and needed a lot of help.  Many black teachers are unable to speak standard (TV) English, so they can't teach it to their students.  Grammar is also a problem; you see it on this blog occasionally. These are teachers who barely scraped by any (non-rigorous) examinations they're required to take, attended all-black, inferior high schools, then inferior colleges, without learning the basics they need to teach. If we could recruit enough qualified black teachers (and there are a number of them on this blog) that would be nice, but truly competent black folks get better paying jobs easily.  The kids of New Orleans, DeKalb, Atlanta and Clayton need good teachers and incompetent teachers should be replaced by competent black, white, Asian, Hispanic or whatever-they-might-be teachers.  The schools should be for the benefit of the kids, not about providing secure, middle-class jobs for people who shouldn't hold them.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik @AvgGeorgian Starik- black colleges produce some exceptional educators. Visit the school of education there before your generalize about the quality of any graduate from an HBCU.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik @AvgGeorgian What the kids of the school systems you mention need, is good solid parenting that instills a value for education.  The school house cannot do that alone- considering that New Orleans benefited from a much smaller student body and gentrification after Katrina- it is comparing apples and oranges to the districts in and around Atlanta whose student populations reflect a poorer constituent.  Teachers can only take them from where they are and take them as far as they are willing to go.  

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian I'd bet that teachers who graduate from the best HBCUs, like Morehouse and Howard, do fine, even the average students or slightly below.

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian Agreed, that's why it's apples and oranges with the student body before Katrina. The kid who lives with a mama with addiction, drugs or alcohol, who doesn't, and can't speak read or write English well and lives in a neighborhood that's the same will have no chance of getting out of that neighborhood unless the kid is taught, from pre-K to high school graduation, by teachers who use correct English at school. 


Dialect is fine, but not in the public schools.

gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik @gactzn2 @AvgGeorgian Check the research on Pre-K, particularly with black males.  It has not always proven to be effective for that segment of our society.  Despite its existence- we are still unintentionally excising a segment of our population in educational sectors-black males.  I believe that early job training in high school be mandatory for all students. Cut some of the AP stuff- it is only reaching a few.

Starik
Starik

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian I've dealt personally with many hundreds black males in the criminal justice system; not all are stupid. Given the help that they needed as children they would have been solid citizens. I know you regard me as a racist, but what I want is assimilation of black folks into the mainstream community.  Isn't that what integration is all about, or should have been about?



gactzn2
gactzn2

@Starik @gactzn2 @AvgGeorgian Uhhhh- NO- emphatically NO.  It is tolerance, acceptance, and the ability to make room for others differences and embrace the talents they bring to the table as well.  It is FULL inclusion.  We have to learn to tolerate EACH OTHER- not just one tolerating the other.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@gactzn2 @Starik @AvgGeorgian


A quote that speaks volumes from Starik, "I've dealt personally with many hundreds black males in the criminal justice system; not all are stupid." That is the starting point for Starik - need anything else be said about his/her posts?

Ugaboss
Ugaboss

You are certainly right Jindal's plan in Louisiana failed. That is the blueprint for Deal's plan in GA.

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @gactzn2 @Starik How much contact have you had with the underclass? Do we have to tolerate a culture where to "get paid" means steal it from other people?  Where what matters in a high school is sports? Have you ever met a real live gang member? A murderer? An armed robber?  Is ghetto culture to be admired and protected? 

Starik
Starik

@AvgGeorgian @Starik They may have been different students than before, due to Katrina. For all I know, New Orleans found teachers, white ones, who were no better than the black ones. We need schools where the kids who start behind in what matters in education, reading and writing and speaking above all, don't stay behind.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Astropig @AvgGeorgian Correct me if I am wrong--I am sure you will--but aren't ALL the schools on the OSD "pre list" majority-black?  Seems like the race card is already being played--by the state!

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Starik @AvgGeorgian Yeah, let's talk about "black teachers' speech" and ignore the very poor, incorrect English as spoken up here in the mountains by native citizens!  Like the speech teacher with a specialist degree who routinely says, "We had went to the store."  And, "They had did it."

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

@Wascatlady @Astropig @AvgGeorgian


You know, I'm just really, really glad someone is putting their foot down on behalf of the kids - whatever color they are - to ensure they get an adequate public education.  It is shameful that we allow ANY kids to graduate unable to read or to support themselves and their families.  

Steve Morris
Steve Morris

Over 100 failed schools in APS and Dekalb vote yes

Andy McClure
Andy McClure

We do have the final word. Vote the amendment down in November.

Andy McClure
Andy McClure

Name something where government intervention had a good result.

Steve Morris
Steve Morris

Joe Whitfield then have 35% graduation rate

Beth Allen
Beth Allen

Fund the schools adequately and hire qualified teachers.

Katrina Bishop
Katrina Bishop

So "somebody" should do "something" but that somebody shouldn't be you "the taxpayer" and that something is "not your concern"? No thanks, I'd rather have a say in how my tax dollars are spent and I'd rather have the ability to fire people locally vs waiting on the governor to do that...

CharterStarter_Too
CharterStarter_Too

Beth, I just posted on this topic above. But to clarify, under the current system, the districts are provided both the state base AND adjustment for training and education for every teacher.  Furlough days are local decisions based on local budgets generated by local boards - and not all districts gave them. 

Bethany Hayes
Bethany Hayes

The problem with Gov. Deal's OSD, Mr. Morris, is that it has been tried in numerous states and not a single one has had success. They have been disastrous. Do we have failing schools? Yes, unfortunately. Are some charters successful? Yes. But chartering a failing school, and turning it into a for profit organization does not help the students.

Steve Morris
Steve Morris

Bethany Hayes keep them stupid hope you don't live where crime is high. Whatever APS and Dekalb are doing isn't working. Close any government school that has failed