My colleague Jim Galloway is reporting in his Political Insider blog that there is more resistance from Republican leaders to the governor’s proposal to criminally go after cheating teachers and administrators.
The growing sentiment seems to be that enough sanctions are in place for cheating, from suspensions to firings to loss of licenses.
In addition, teachers have come out in opposition, according a new AJC story.
Teacher groups also said the addition of criminal penalties amounts to overkill. Educators caught cheating face sanction by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, a state agency that polices teaching credentials. Sanctions can range from a reprimand to loss of license.
“While we do not condone cheating in any manner, current sanctions, in our view, are sufficient,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the 78,000-member Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “Educators found guilty of cheating on [state tests] stand to lose their jobs and their certificates, which means they, in effect, lose their careers.”
The smaller Georgia Association of Educators also condemned the proposal. That group and lawmakers seemed especially troubled by the proposal to strip an educator’s pension. “Legally, I don’t know if you can actually go after someone’s pension if they are vested,” Rep. Millar said.
But the bills’ supporters say harsher penalties will deter cheating. While educators already face sanctions, “it doesn’t seem to be deterring anybody,” Ramsey said.
Galloway reported Monday that state Sen. Chip Rogers was leery of treating cheating as a crime. Now, two more big names are hesitant.
According to Galloway:
This morning, the two leading members of the House Education Committee, Chairman Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth) and Vice-Chairman Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody), expressed doubts about the legislation – Millar more so than Coleman.
Coleman said he was ready to approach his Senate counterpart, Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody), about holding a House-Senate hearing on the test scandal, with testimony from the state Office of Professional Standards, the governor’s office, and state School Superintendent Kathy Cox.
“I’m very concerned about the cheating. I’m not sure what the punishment should be. They already lose their job,” Coleman said. The bills, HB 1111 and HB1121, sponsored by state Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), the governor’s floor leader, would make altering test scores a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a $1,000 fine – and loss of any pension.
“That’s getting pretty severe,” Coleman said, though he emphasized that he hadn’t yet read the legislation and hadn’t made up his mind.
Millar was more adamant. “To me, firing the people involved is enough. I think that it’s tragic that this happened, but I don’t think it worth getting deeper into legalities,” he said. “Some of these people might have been ordered to do certain things.”
It might also be worth noting that many legislators routinely boast of having spouses, children or parents who are public school teachers. That matters.