Cagle’s budget task force: Merit pay, online courses, increased lottery spending

Everybody is taking a swing at the budget crisis, and today Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle released the recommendations of his seven-member task force composed of private industry leaders.

Among the 50 recommendations that speak to education:

Coordinate the University System and the Technical College System to provide the most suitable education for all students.

Ensure proper lottery revenues are remitted to the state specifically for education purposes. The lottery gave 24 percent of its $3.5 billion in sales over to HOPE and pre-k education. Had it given 35 percent, education would have seen an additional $363 million.

Hold schools accountable for money management through financial strategic planning.

Allow voters to approve the flexible use of education special local option sales taxes (E-SPLOST) so funds can be used for operating expenses as well as capital projects.

Utilize the Georgia Virtual School and other online providers to increase course offerings. The task force notes that if one percent of students took two online courses,  the state would  save $4.5 million.

Create a merit-based pay system to attract and retain the brightest teachers.

Freeze automatic “step” increases to align teacher and other state employee compensation model.

Increase teacher contributions to their retirement fund to 6 percent in FY11. That would  save the state $39 million in one year.

Shift contribution plans to a “defined contribution” system that will allow individuals to invest  their own retirement savings.

72 comments Add your comment

Roach

March 16th, 2010
6:28 pm

It would be nice if the “defined contribution” plans included a defined contribution from the state. Folks in the Teachers Retirement System have been treated very well, while those who chose defined contribution plans years ago have been shortchanged by shrinking state contributions. Once the state phases out defined benefit, state contributions to teacher retirement will soon disappear entirely–in effect, another pay cut for teachers.

irisheyes

March 16th, 2010
6:29 pm

Before we enact merit pay, I want some empirical evidence. And not just “Oh look! Our test scores have gone up!” I want survey of teachers, students, and parents. What is the school climate like in a system that had merit pay the way the GA legislators are proposing? Is the teaching better? Are the students more prepared for high school and college? Or is this one of those “It sounds good so it must work”? I mean, we haven’t had THAT before in public education, have we?

irisheyes

March 16th, 2010
6:29 pm

Foiled by the filter again! I promise, there were no bad words! :)

bootney farnsworth

March 16th, 2010
6:32 pm

I don’t totally agree, but at last somebody is trying to think thru this debacle.

some particulars:

1) We in the two year college community are just fine with closer and better coordination with the tech schools. What we objected to was Sonny’s trying to give us to the tech schools under the cover of legistative darkness. We want a seat at the table so the best possible merger can occur.

DeKalb College & DeKalb Tech did just fine for years with sharing of resources, staff, and teaching.

2) Merit pay is a tough nut. There is no merit anything for BOR employees, except for the politically connected. Our big concerns about Merit pay include

a: there is no history of it in higher ed. It’ll require a whole new way of thinking, which both legislators and BOR admins do not wish to do.
b: how can it be fairly applied? what standards are reasonable? what about the non faculty population? Is it fair to judge GPC faculty against Ga. Tech faculty, given the very different populations they serve?

3) We can’t do distance learning well enough now as it is. It requires and infastructure which most schools who aren’t UGA or Tech don’t have.
Unless the legitlature is gonna find tubs of money to let us do it correctly, its a good idea paving a road to hell.

Also, DL requires a very motivated, prepaired student. Sadly most incoming lower classmen aren’t disiplined enough to do it and survive.

4) I’d like to know what increases in pay he’s looking at. Our pay has been frozen for at least three years. He knows -or at least he should – the way the state has abused the USG employees pay for the last decade.

5) Seems everyone is hot for our retirement plan. He should ask Sonny about what happens when politicans go after our self funded plan.

18 years as a teacher

March 16th, 2010
6:35 pm

How is creating a merit-based pay system going to attract and retain the brightest teachers? Are there other states that have this already? If so, which ones?

I believe that merit-based pay would only give teachers more of a reason to teach to the tests. Why would they feel the need to be innovative or to share their best practices with this system in place?

While school systems could likely benefit from some “industry” experience, they cannot help educate children. They should really ask teachers what will motivate them to do their best – and not through a skewed survey like Sonny already did. You might actually find out that many are already doing their best. Perhaps if they got teachers (experienced and new ones) to serve on a panel they would find answers that actually make sense.

It just seems to me that no one understands that the teachers do not buy in to a merit-based pay system. Without buy-in you just make teachers angry. Without rewarding experience and advanced degrees you end up with few teachers who stay and even fewer who learn new strategies, etc.

bootney farnsworth

March 16th, 2010
6:38 pm

There are things we could do he didn’t seem to cover

1) four day school week
2) actually allow folks who can work from home to do so
3) not allow Presidents to launch new initatives like GPC’s Atlanta Center without a full vetting.
4) take the territorial restrictions off schools. If Clayton state can offer services Brunswick wants, let them do so. Provided they can make it pay.
5) find new sources of revenue, like casinos and beer sales on Sunday.

and mostly

6) cut back on college athletics. there is no right for schools to have sports if they can’t afford them.

Athenian

March 16th, 2010
6:39 pm

@ bootney

There are plenty of examples of merit pay in higher education. I am a BOR employee, and our raises (in past years, clearly) were entirely merit based.

Tony

March 16th, 2010
6:39 pm

The document should be good reading. One of the recommendations made is one I would like to see taken one step further. The use of the Virtual High School model could be further enhanced by allowing students to exempt courses by testing out of them. This would save even more money. Do away with the traditional “seat time” requirement for students to earn carnegie units and let the have an exemption test.

bootney farnsworth

March 16th, 2010
6:40 pm

@ 18,

I’m not ready to dismiss Merit outright, but the pols need to bring us
a working model to look over and discuss.

but I’m totally against it being forced on us.

bootney farnsworth

March 16th, 2010
6:43 pm

@ Athenian,

at UGA perhaps, but not so much for the rest of us.
how much merit can there be when eveyone gets 1-3%
regardless of job performance – or lack thereof?

Merit means you get compensated as you’re worth, not on
a preset scale regardless.

Unless of course you’re politically connected…
then the sky’s the limit.

bootney farnsworth

March 16th, 2010
6:46 pm

what about signifgantly higher fees for international students?

I’m glad to have them here, but we need to be educating Georgians first.

bootney farnsworth

March 16th, 2010
6:53 pm

why are lottery executives getting bonuses anyway?

Maureen Downey

March 16th, 2010
6:53 pm

irisheyes, Enjoy your holiday this week. You weren’t in the filter so I am not sure what caused a delay in your comment’s appearance.
Maureen

Oh no!

March 16th, 2010
7:13 pm

Freeze automatic step increases for next year(which we already knew would happen) or forever??

Jordan Kohanim

March 16th, 2010
7:42 pm

Oh no–

for ever.

CCSD teacher

March 16th, 2010
7:44 pm

How do we decide Meritt pay? Based on student performance…So if little Johnny, in a family where mom and dad both lost their job and have lost their home, doesn’t perform well then MY FAMILY SUFFERS! I don’t think so. You can’t attach someone’s financial stability on the shoulders of a 5 year old boy. Instead of teachers reaching out to Johnny, staying after school on thier own time and tutoring him for free, he will be seen the reason their paychecks are so low. Please don’t take the heart out of teaching. Those of you out there in the business world that have meritt pay, it’s based on YOUR PERFORMANCE…NOT A CHILD’S…Meritt pay will kill the one reason teachers go in to teaching….to make a difference in a child’s life. We’re only human….We can’t do that at the sake of our OWN children and families! Tread carefully Cobb County!

tryingtoteach

March 16th, 2010
7:51 pm

The Cagle Contributions do not have merit when it comes to Merit Pay. As a state we need to consider the education equation differently. Instead of focusing on how to motivate teachers, we need to focus on holding students and parents more accountable. I am telling you, merit pay will put teachers past the point of diminishing returns. Teachers are maxed out. Only thing that will happen is a further erosion of motivation for teachers and an increase in defensive teaching or teaching to the test. The focus now needs to be on how students can be held more accountable. This shift in focus will bring about more improvement in education than anything else Cagle has come up.

Oh no!

March 16th, 2010
7:57 pm

Freezing pay and not being able to explain the new plan(because you haven’t made one yet!)sounds like a surefire way to attract the best and brightest!

why not

March 16th, 2010
8:15 pm

How much could be saved by droping all of these tests and all the cost associated with the layers and layers of test data. How about hiring professionals and then hold them accountable for doing the job. We do not need to spend millions to evaluate progress. Students and teachers have made progress for years before all of the standard testing was introduced.

high school teacher

March 16th, 2010
8:26 pm

The fact that merit pay is listed among the Top 50 recommendations for cutting the budget sends the message that legislators expect teachers to fail. How else could it be a way to save money?

Cere

March 16th, 2010
8:42 pm

“Allow voters to approve the flexible use of education special local option sales taxes (E-SPLOST) so funds can be used for operating expenses as well as capital projects.”

No way. No. We voted to pay a penny sales tax to fix our decrepit buildings. Schools like Lakeside, Cross Keys, Chamblee and Dunwoody have been waiting for our turn for a very long time. The school system has been sitting on $100 million in SPLOST construction money for quite a while – maybe they had a head’s up on this idea?!! No. This is just wrong.

Happy Teacher

March 16th, 2010
8:56 pm

Jordan – where do you get that information? In the text of the bill? I only found the following, which seems to indicate otherwise…

“…In any fiscal year in which such personnel receive an increase under the minimum salary schedule, a local unit of administration shall not decrease any local salary supplement for such personnel below the local supplement amount received in the immediately preceding fiscal year by those personnel of that local unit of administration unless such local unit of administration has conducted at least two public hearings regarding such decrease, notice of which hearings, including the time, place, agenda, and specific subject matter of the meeting…”

Anonymous Jones

March 16th, 2010
9:12 pm

Politicians will never understand why merit pay won’t work until they teach for a year. I say the sooner we can get Cagle out of office, the better off Georgia will be.

Disgusted

March 16th, 2010
9:18 pm

So fix the mess we made on the back of the teachers. How nice.

wwww

March 16th, 2010
9:19 pm

High School Teacher: excellent point.

18 years as a teacher

March 16th, 2010
9:50 pm

Are there any examples of merit pay in the K-12 environment? On a statewide scale?

I haven’t seen anything that says there are. If you know of any, please enlighten us.

Alison

March 16th, 2010
9:53 pm

so exactly where is the cost savings coming from if we all do “our job” well and deserve to get our merit pay? Nay…the state makes it clear right on this paper they already expect us to fail or they wouldn’t have it as a cost saving measure. It justifies thier great big salary cut they plan on bringing in. As I’ve said….teachers that are good see the writing on the wall and are already making plans to get the heck out of dodge.

The Right is Always Wrong

March 16th, 2010
10:10 pm

Had enough yet?

This is yet another sad example of the deleterious effects that follow when you put republicans in charge. Cagle said that he wants Georgia to be known as a low-tax state, so that’s what the future looks like for us—and for our children. Teachers are low-value employees of a state that does not care about education. Go fish!

On another note, Katie Reeves had the nerve to show up at an orchestra concert at Webb Bridge Middle School tonight. She made her usual vacuous speech about how nothing can be done and she doesn’t have any idea how this bad financial situation happened. Tax cuts are the answer to all problems. Here’s the kicker y’all: Reeves claimed that the Board and Cindy Loe (aka Dolores Unbridge) had no influence at all in deciding to cut orchestra. None. According to the dissembling Katie, it was the elementary school principals’ idea to do this, and the Board could hardly turn them down. She just doesn’t know who is at fault in creating the sorry state of the schools.

Of course, Katie dismissed all citizens’ ideas and comments with a smugness that would have made W proud. She knows the answers to all questions before the questions are even asked. Thus, she is an ideologue. Most noticeable was Katie’s outright refusal to even consider the idea of raising revenue. Wealthy republicans might have to ante up some money for our schools, and we just cannot have that, can we?

Fulton County Schools is being run as a Stalinist organization, where employees are expected to applaud the efforts of those in power to demoralize and destroy the very system the Board is supposed to safeguard. Katie Reeves and Ashley Widener, you are both disgraceful.

Fulton County Schools – Where Failed Republican Ideology Always Comes First

The Right is Always Wrong

March 16th, 2010
10:11 pm

Information about a Katie Reeves appearance at Webb Bridge caught in the filter: drat!

18 years as a teacher

March 16th, 2010
11:03 pm

In other school systems principals are being asked to list things/programs/personnel that can be cut. As it has been put elsewhere, it’s time to look around and see what we can do without. It’s not pretty. It also means cutting great programs like elementary band/orchestra. These are hard times and the cuts are not going to make anyone happy. It’s too bad that no one is interested in finding ways to increase revenues – yes I mean raising taxes.

It’s a shame that these business minded people that worked on Cagle’s task force have not spent a year or two in the shoes of a teacher.

d

March 16th, 2010
11:33 pm

Casey has lost my vote over this.

The Right is Always Wrong

March 16th, 2010
11:44 pm

Why are we letting the Reeves of the state control the discourse? I mean, here we are all talking about cutting this and cutting that, and I fear that many teachers have bought into their rhetoric. Remember that they are ideological, and if we accept their premises, then all we can do is operate in their terms.

Why not ask lots and lots and hard questions? Make them answer. If Reeves doesn’t know how we got into this position and doesn’t think that we can do anything to fix the problem, why don’t we make her step aside and let somebody else have a shot.

Don’t accept their premises. I read recently that increasing taxes on homeowners by less than $20 a month would solve the budget crisis. So, raise taxes already. Your children are worth fighting for.

td

March 17th, 2010
12:08 am

I am a conservative but for the life of me do not understand the mentality of some conservatives that feel they can attach spread sheets and business models to social services. You can not put a quantitative number on child. What is the successful number for a child that comes to school after their parents get into a fight at home, or if mom was running late and Johnny did not get breakfast? All children and situations are different and you can not place a set number on how he will react on any given day or on any given test.

Postsecondary educator

March 17th, 2010
12:27 am

I have never seen the like of such whining K-12 teachers. You made the choice to teach. It’s a tough job and it’s not going to get any easier. If you are not happy with your work and the circumstances that you face…go find another job. Try the corporate world…see how you like that! The state of GA owes you nothing except the pay you earn for doing the job you signed on to.

I would be delighted to be paid based on my ability to recruit, retain and graduate students that are well prepared to enter the workforce.

I think it’s time to either move on or move forward with the work that must be done to educate our students in the 21st century.

my own 2 cents

March 17th, 2010
12:29 am

Lt. Gov Cagle,

1. On this budget task force, where are the teachers? If children were inanimate objects, then corporate execs would be able to save money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
2. Also, if you force every child in Georgia to take a Virtual school or other online course, how are they going to be able to access the site from home if they don’t have internet access? In the school system where my child attends, about 40 % of the students do not have internet access at home.
3. Merit pay…how are you going pay for it? I thought the state was broke.

No teachers (notice I did not say educators, educators are bureaucrats…teachers actually teach) were consulted on how to fix the problem. That would be like reforming health care without talking to doctors. Oh wait, we are already doing that.

Steve

March 17th, 2010
3:33 am

For gosh sakes bring casino gambling to Georgia and get out of the dark ages. We already have the lottery and look at the revenue it has provided. Lets quit giving to the other states and keep it here!!

Concerned Teacher

March 17th, 2010
5:54 am

Technology has made society cold and impersonal so far. Communications skills are waning. And we need to have more virtual schools? I don’t think so. Where is the consideration for the education of the whole child in all of this? Lost in the beauracracy, I’m afraid.

Teach

March 17th, 2010
6:07 am

RE: the 4 day school week, an idea from a colleague …
Monday through Thursday
~ required
~ free just like now
~ a little longer day
~ core curriculum
Friday
~ optional
~ fee based; paid for by those whose children attend
~ programs include lessons for specialized arts/music/sports, tutoring, enrichment, technology, etc.

Parents who work continue with the 5-day childcare they need. Special programs continue to exist but are funded by those who use them. Teachers can opt in or out of working Fridays. Title I schools can be creative with Friday funds for needy students.

Teach

March 17th, 2010
6:11 am

caught in the filter?

ScienceTeacher671

March 17th, 2010
6:11 am

Postsecondary educator says “I would be delighted to be paid based on my ability to recruit, retain and graduate students that are well prepared to enter the workforce.”

Perhaps the difference is that postsecondary education gets to recruit, and elementary and secondary education take what they get. But hey, prove yourself and your abilities – move down to the HS level and let’s see what you’ve got! :-) (I’ve heard that high schools pay better than colleges anyway.)

ScienceTeacher671

March 17th, 2010
6:13 am

Virtual schools are great for some students and some courses. However, even for graduate studies, they don’t work for all students and all courses.

Teach

March 17th, 2010
6:19 am

RE: 4-day school week (an idea from a colleague)

Monday – Thursday
- Required
- Free as is now
- Longer day
- Core curriculum
Friday
- Optional
- Fee based; paid for by those who use it
- Programs include music/arts/recreation/ technology, tutoring

Working parents keep the 5-day childcare they need.
Teachers opt in or out of Friday.
Title I schools use funds to subsidize Friday for those in need.

Teach

March 17th, 2010
6:21 am

RE: 4-day school week (an idea from a colleague)

Monday – Thursday
Required
Free as is now
Longer day
Core curriculum
Friday
Optional
Fee based; paid for by those who use it
Programs include music/arts/recreation/ technology, tutoring

Working parents keep the 5-day childcare they need.
Teachers opt in or out of Friday.
Title I schools use funds to subsidize Friday for those in need.

Jordan Kohanim

March 17th, 2010
6:31 am

Happy Teacher (AKA Warren Buck-)

Ok- if you say so. I keep forgetting you know everything. In the words of Shakespeare’s Marc Antony, “I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,/ But here I am to speak what I do know.” I base it off the fact that I have yet to see a STEP increase. In fact, for the past two years my contract hasn’t even been honored. I base it off the fact that they have no plan for implementation. Yet, I’m sure you know–you being the resident honorable expert.

I’m sure you know the answer to all of these responses.. After all, in the words of Marc Antony, “For Brutus [Warren Buck] is an honorable man,”

Tell you what, Warren, it sure is great you know everything. At this rate, you’ll be the only teacher teaching. Your school of less than 50 kids will get a big boost. Have fun saving all of GA education by yourself.

After all, Warren, you are an honorable man.

d

March 17th, 2010
6:34 am

My own two cents — educators actually consist not only of teachers, but also paraprofessionals, custodians, cafeteria workers, school administrators, counselors, and so on.

Oh no!

March 17th, 2010
7:06 am

@ Postsecondary Educator. You are exactly right! The state of Georgia owes us the pay we SIGNED ON for. Oops, I forgot, the contract only has to be honored on our end, not theirs. Funny how the Wall Street executives had to be paid their multi million dollar bonuses because it was “in their contract” but teachers’ contracts are written so loosely that they can pretty much do anything they want to us after the fact. They had no problem threatening those who wanted to move to a different county and had already signed their contracts a few years ago when things were going well. Then they needed us to sign our contracts early….now it is late. I don’t mind doing my part when things are bad, have taken the furloughs(X2 in our household), etc… I hardly think standing up for ourselves makes us “whiney”.

Warren Buck

March 17th, 2010
7:14 am

Wow, very mature personal attack Jordan. Especially when I only ask for evidence to support a claim that you made. And when I just provided evidence that seemed to contradict your claim in the bill itself…

I am actually still trying to piece everything together myself, as my main point has been for teacher inclusion in the final drafting of this plan (just read my op-ed again). I am quite concerned, actually, that Cagle has included this in his cost-cutting plan, and was wondering if you could actually lead me to more evidence that I had missed.

I had come to expect a higher level of discourse from you at least…

Mac

March 17th, 2010
8:08 am

I have to give Cagle and his Task Force credit on one point (which is hard as I am not a Cagle fan by any means), at least they had the cajones to attach the committee names and positions to their document unlike those who drafted the Race to the Top application.

Any word on making those names and positions public Maureen? Why the secrecy? I thought this was something to be proud of!

Mac

March 17th, 2010
8:10 am

Tonya T

March 17th, 2010
9:00 am

Happy Teacher:

No offense, but discourse with you can get a little tiring. It seems you have no children, and have only been teaching a few years. Your experience with the system is fairly limited. Yet, you continue to say that we need to give politicians a chance. Despite the fact that the current crop of politics have dumped on education every year since they came in power.

You are an optimist, and while cute, isn’t enough to substantiate the changes being recommended. Most people here are realists, who truly want the best outcome but are challenged by the previous and current precedents set by our elected leaders. Teacher buy-in? Seriously, if you’re holding your breath waiting for that at the state level, despite the lack of it on even the local level, I’ve got a horse park I want to sell you…