House Education vice chair: Votes not there for merit pay framework bill

I just spoke to the vice chairman of the House Education Committee about the chances that the merit pay framework bill — my name for Senate Bill 521, not the governor’s — will pass on the final day of the Legislature tomorrow.

“The votes aren’t there to pass it,” said state Rep. Fran Millar, speaking on the phone from New York. “It is not going to pass this year.”

To update you on this fast-moving story: Gov. Sonny Perdue could not get a pure merit bill through the Legislature, but wanted to show the federal government that Georgia was at least warming to a system that used student performance/scores to assess and pay teachers.

The White House wants states to adopt performance-based pay, believing that it spurs higher student achievement, and has made merit pay a consideration to win a Race to the Top education reform grant.  Georgia did not win the $400 million grant it sought in the first round of Race to the Top, coming in third after the two winning states of Delaware and Tennessee. Georgia is now redoubling its efforts in this final round, believing the grant would be a boon to schools in the state and to reforms already under way in our schools.

Last week, Perdue successfully added a diluted merit element to another education bill on dual enrollment. Under the Perdue amendment, teachers would be evaluated in part of how well their students perform but their pay would not directly be affected. Teachers saw the amendment as a conduit to merit pay down the line and protested the measure.

It appears that their protests have paid off or at least made the General Assembly wary of the amendment.

While he doubts the amendment will succeed tomorrow, Millar said that teachers have to accept that student performance will eventually become part of their evaluations. “I do think we are going to go in that direction,” he said. “But it’s in its infancy now.”

Please keep in mind that with or without this amendment, the 23 systems that have signed onto Georgia’s Race to the Top application have agreed, in essence, to test merit pay. No details on how the merit pay system would work are spelled out in the RTTT application, but merit pay is part of the state’s reform model.

So, while the teacher protest may have stalled the change, I also believe that it is coming and that Georgia teachers ought to grab a seat at the table, even if they have to elbow their way into the discussion.

79 comments Add your comment


April 28th, 2010
12:44 pm

If these guys really wanted to make a difference in education for Georgia’s students, they would sit down with teachers across the state and listen to what they have to say. For now, they would rather hide behind closed doors, listen to myths, and pass laws that make it look like they are doing something to improve education. Based on the piece from Brantley that was posted yesterday, you can tell they are not interested in hearing from those on the front lines.


April 28th, 2010
12:59 pm

I dont believe any teacher worth her wage minds demonstrating that she or he is making a difference in the demonstrable growth in student performance. The tool or tools that are used MUST be trusted to include the beginning middle and end effects of instruction. There has been no discussion of portfolios, quarterly measures of topical standardized measures which can be combined for a rating on learning and performance. One annual assessment in grades k-8 is not fair to anyone.- teachers or students. We fear the method not the event. To mandate, before a method has been created and tried, would lead to the cheapest and easiest tool, I find that these are usually developed for the END user( the state interpreters of data) and not for the front user to implement and adapt teaching styles toward. All schools do not have the same technology, or student populations and the tool should have leeway for the differences that exist in the huge variety of learners we face each day. We have to meet the child where they are to bring them forward to our goals and beyond. ALso how are the 70% of teachers in the state who do not give tests going to be evaluated, such as Librarians for example. I am an integral of planning development and implementation of lesson plans at my school. How would you measure My value and worth?

Chalkboard Flu

April 28th, 2010
1:10 pm

What’s it like to be valued as a teacher?

It must just simply be true that some places value education more than others.

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2010
1:14 pm

I think there are quite a few details on how the state intends to measure merit for purposes of determining pay in these systems.

The discussion starts on page 94 of the app.


April 28th, 2010
1:18 pm

It is amazing to me that Perdue cannot see the fatal flaw in his approach. If this was something he wanted done, he should have armed himself with teachers by his side and a clear and understandable plan for implementation. Throwing survey statistics out there is NEVER going to sit well with highly educated teachers without a good and sustainable plan. I have tried to give Perdue the benefit of the doubt through his term but the last few months have shown the lack of intelligence of this man. It makes me angry because if he would have WORKED WITH TEACHERS and developed a CLEAR PLAN, then he and his task force would have the cooperation and dedication needed to secure the RITT funds. As I see it now, Perdue’s lack of leadership and planning will keep us FAR away from any of the much needed federal funds. HE WILL BLAME IT ON THE TEACHERS!!!!! I GUARANTEE IT!!!!


April 28th, 2010
1:21 pm

Barnes and Purdue both said they value teachers, but neither ever really listened.

What we really need are really carrots and sticks for students.

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2010
1:22 pm


April 28th, 2010
1:23 pm

In the age of information, the govt. can no longer pull the wool over our eyes, and they don’t like it. Congrats to everyone who joined in the email campaign. Now I wonder how long it will be before govt. finds a way to stop and/or censor the information.


April 28th, 2010
1:27 pm

It is not dead until the legislators go home.

However, Ms. Downey, teachers DO want a seat at the table. They want to be able to inform the discussion. They want to help frame the question. They want to bring their experience and education to the discussion.

Short of walking in with some sort of weapons, it seems unlikely to happen. It is a lot easier to tell someone how/what to do than to do it yourself, especially if you get to decide if they are “successful” at implementing what you have told them to do (even if they have no clue), and then you can “punish” them for not meeting your “standards” and save money doing so!


April 28th, 2010
1:36 pm

We would be gald to “elbow” our way into the discussion if we were allowed to. So far we have not been allowed to be a part of the discussion. This begs the question: why should we have to “elbow” ourselves into the discussion? We are tho ones who would have to implement and perform under this plan? We should be at the top of the table helping to drive this plan. Yet we, the teachers, are ignored, shunted aside, and villified because we ask to be included.

Gretchen Bell

April 28th, 2010
1:37 pm

As a veteran teacher, I have no problem with my evaluation including a FAIR measure of student performance as ONE of the factors used to determine my effectiveness. However, I have very little confidence that state bureaucrats with little or no classroom contact or experience will develop a fair tool to measure student progress. Also, as a teacher at a rural school that had no classes flagged at any level in the “cheating scandal,” I worry that all the systems flagged as severe “offenders” are among the systems that will be piloting the merit pay plan should Georgia be awarded the Race to the Top money. Finally, the legislature’s track record of actually funding their mandates is poor at best. I have already been victimized by their refusal to fund my National Board Stipend, resulting in a $600/month take-home pay cut. I have no confidence they would actually fund a merit pay plan. There is nothing happening with regard to education in Georgia to encourage optimism. I just pray things get better!

Just A Teacher

April 28th, 2010
1:47 pm

I have been opposed to this merit pay idea since it was first came to light. I do not trust Sonny Perdue, Kathy Cox, Arne Duncan, or Barrack Obama to pass any legislation which will improve teachers’ salaries. Since the recent economic downturn, elected officials have “helped” me by cutting my salary, increasing the cost of my insurance, laying me off (that is what furlough days really are), and increasing my workload. That is why I don’t believe any of these people have the best interests of teachers in mind. It is simply because I am not stupid enough to believe anything they say. Actions speak louder than words, so don’t steal food from the mouths of my children and tell me you are doing it for my own good.


April 28th, 2010
1:50 pm

which candidate for governor should teachers get behind? I dont know which party or candidate will give teachers and education the most support? This will all happen under a new guy…. any thoughts as to which one will listen

governor for hire

April 28th, 2010
1:58 pm


April 28th, 2010
2:03 pm

Merit pay is not a bonus. It will not raise a teacher’s pay. This is a plan to pay teachers less! What company loses billions of dollars and wants to restructure the pay scale and pay the workers more? None! Ha! I will take my old fashioned (somewhat) guaranteed pay scale thank you!


April 28th, 2010
2:05 pm

Did anyone read the link posted by Attentive Parent? page 94:

The bottom (as usual) of the accountability list are teachers. They (we) are solely responsible for making sure that all of our students are performing to their highest ability level, regardless of their transient status, disability, socio-economic class, etc. Furthermore, if one examines that model, no where does it actually guarantee that the district and state will provide us with the necessary funding needed to achieve our goals! Ugh- this state continues to disappoint me.. please email your Senators and Representatives and urge them to vote against this bill!!!

Graca Carroll

April 28th, 2010
2:12 pm

No for merit pay. Pay scale shold remain the same until1) the economy is stable and 2) you find human being who do not show favortism to those they like.


April 28th, 2010
2:14 pm

I welcome the opportunity to sit with the powers that be and discuss how best to implement such a pay structure for my specific area. As a non-core teacher it will be more difficult to determine how to use student achievement for evaluation. We are at the mercy of the administrators in our building in reagrds to our teaching schedules. Give me students every week for a minimum of 45 minutes on the elementary level and I can show progress. The difficult part is keeping in mind that field trips, assembly programs, poor behavior in homeroom (this is my pet peeve) and CRCT prep can mean we may not see ALL of our students every week. This impacts student achievement. Since we’re not state mandated courses, I truly wonder how this would be addressed. Will schools be forced to actually “respect” our content areas?

Lynn Gary

April 28th, 2010
2:18 pm

The exact reason Georgia didnt win the money. As listed in a Delaware Newspaper- No input from Teachers or Teacher Organizations. Tennessee as well as Delaware won the money because Teachers were involved every step of the way and even voted as an organized body to include merit pay for half of there salary. The reason why Georgia is so far behind and out of touch with Education is because of the lack of serious funding to education. Georgia pays triple the amount on each prisoner as it does on the average student. Cut funding- Cut it in YDC or in the jails they dont need computers and/or video games to serve their time.

small class sizes and the 65% solution

April 28th, 2010
2:29 pm

Barnes took class sizes way down – high school was capped at 28 students per classroom. I beleive primary was only 21.

The local school superintendents and administrators kept saying they just couldn’t cut admin and support and Barnes was going to make the school systems fall apart. Well, guess what happened. The school systems ran better than ever. They might have hated small class sizes being mandated, but the teachers and students loved it. We might have had more teachers and less admin and support, but that’s what we need. That’s what Perdue should have done. Just held the line on class sizes and let the superintendents of bloated systems like DeKalb and Cobb figure out how they would trim the “fat”. Now the “lean” is being trimmed and the “fat” will take a greater percentage of our school tax dollars than ever before.

What I would like to know is what happened to the 65% solution – this mandated 65% of all expenditures in a school system were to be “in the classroom”? It was supposed to take effect 2008.

SUMMARY: The Act requires schools to spend 65% of all funds on direct classroom expenditures. Direct classroom expenditures are defined as expenditures for activities related to student-teacher interaction including, but not limited to, teacher compensation; educational materials and supplies; classroom-related activities such as field trips, physical education, music, and arts; and tuition paid to out-of-state school districts and private institutions for special needs students. School districts not meeting the 65% requirement must increase their direct classroom expenditures by a minimum of two percent per fiscal year and each fiscal year thereafter until they reach the 65% level. The Act also provides one-year renewable achievement or hardship waivers for schools not in compliance with the 65% spending requirement.

AZ girl in GA

April 28th, 2010
2:32 pm

It is nice to see the ones who matter the most (students) in this issue willing to speak up and do something on behalf of the teachers. I think it is time for students (who want to learn) and teachers (who want to teach) unite, fight, and work together to begin doing something the politicians will never truly be able to do…reparing the broken vessel that is our educational system.

Bright Idea

April 28th, 2010
2:32 pm

I never have understood how teachers can really be held accountable when teachers do not have the true authority to hold students accountable. Just keep them in class and pass them on so a school can make AYP but expect all kids to actually pass some big test at the end of the year. Splain that to me please!

Chalkboard Flu

April 28th, 2010
2:41 pm

Attentive Parent,

Never heard of Matthew Tabor before, but he seems pretty political. It’s an old trick of the right: attack everyone else for being political while denying that you are just as political.

Tonight is the last concert ever of Sharon Anderson’s elementary orchestra at Shakerag: the day the music died.

Garry Owen

April 28th, 2010
2:41 pm

I retired after 32 years in education.. It is amazing how many education “experts” that are out there that never set foot in a clasroom after graduation. Also, take the State Board of Education away from the Govenor. Let each area of the State elect their representative to the State Board of Education and let this body appoint a State School Superintendent. This would require a change in the State Constitution but the change would give the people of Georgia more say in the operation of the schools!


April 28th, 2010
2:44 pm

I’m really curious what they are doing in Tennessee and Delaware that teachers are willing to go along with a merit pay system. Teachers in this blog seems to write off any merit pay system – demanding a completely fair and objective system is unrealistic – but teachers in TN and DE seem to be ok with their plan.

I also wonder which teachers prefer, a merit pay system or a complete school choice.


April 28th, 2010
2:58 pm

The next Governor of Georgia will be the cnadidate who stops attacking teachers and starts listening to us about how to solve problems.


April 28th, 2010
3:02 pm

Is the Race to the top even worth it? It’s something you have to ask since NCLB has not been worth all the hoops in my opinion.


April 28th, 2010
3:04 pm

It is sad that students are becoming packages. Some systems hire a lesson planner that comes up with exactly what all teachers in that county should be teaching on that exact day. The joy of teaching is becoming like a person who is on an assembly line back in the 20’s. Why all of sudden merit pay pops up–The truth is it is a way to pay less. The standard will be set high and hard to achieve. Why then would teachers want to do nothing more than a 4year degree if it passed. Every student is an individual with his or her on specific needs not a product. If you look at the profession that have merit pay -there really aren’t that many—but if it is suppose to work for one type of State employee-why don’t they pass it for all included for the idiots that run this state or should say ruin this state

An advocate for public education change & choice

April 28th, 2010
3:04 pm

@ Garry Owen: I agree with your thought that the state should broken up into regions (simular to what’s done for Public Service Commission seats) and each region be given a seat on the State Board of Education. The superintendent as I understand it is already elected. The voice of the people in each area of the state should be heard and the power returned to the people. This is why we have so many hairbrained schemes as it is. The voice of the people impacted is often ignored.

@jjt: The big fear in this state is for the concept of school choice to be interjected into the public education arena in a whole new way. This would open the door to true competition and then we would see the kind of innovation when its comes to instruction that would breed better academic outcomes. The aim it seems of all sides in the debate right now (save the families affected by ineffective public policy) is to maintain the status quo. The current budget crisis will not be short lived and will IMHO put more pressure on local boards and the state to bring about some real changes.


April 28th, 2010
3:07 pm

The concern isn’t the merit pay itself – we all want an opportunity, just like anyone else, to have a fair shot at a boost in our salary.

Forgotten in all of the discussion is a couple of things. One, if we can’t pay teachers with the funding system we have today – how will Georgia fund such a variable as merit pay?

Number two, what happens when Georgia doesn’t want to, or can’t pay for the merit pay of teachers that earn it? See National Board Certified Teachers for that answer – they take the bonus away.

We know merit pay is the next big thing – it’s the next buzz word and next thing to prevent the last third of a child’s education from being implemented – parent responsibility. When parents share the same burden of responsibility in helping educate children, we will see results – argue, cuss, fuss, pass the blame – but the community, school and parent must work together to get the child to the academic levels they must achieve. As it stands now, the Teflon coating on the parents deflects any blame for any failures that their children have in their academic lives.

I would love to make a bunch more money – that is the greedy side – but I’m very worried that what the great State of Georgia giveths one year – is taketh the next – concrete it up with some numbers and I think we all will be on board! Numbers haven’t been mentioned in any of this – so what company employee goes to work in an environment that says we will pay those that perform the best with the best salaries – Oh – by the way – we don’t know what the salary will be? The Sunny Governor of Fish needs to put some numbers out there and start selling it to us rather than hemming and hawing and beating around the bush about it – Georgia needs to know, not just the teachers -

high school teacher

April 28th, 2010
3:11 pm

“If these guys really wanted to make a difference in education for Georgia’s students, they would sit down with teachers across the state and listen to what they have to say.”

But Tony, they sent us this survey.. lol


April 28th, 2010
3:20 pm

I am an elementary school teaching in gwinnett. I see the children that come to my school everyday without homework, school supplies, or the strive of to be successful. Why would I put my pay on the line for their lack of effort and poor behavior? I can educate the minds of any student WILLING to accept a free quality education provided by our local and state governments. However, I do not accompany these students home. I cannot make them do their homework, or get in bed at an appropriate time. That is the responsibility of the absent parents I never see in my classrooms, or at parent teacher conferences. Yet, no one is discussing the outside factors that effect what occurs in the classrooms around our countries. I know that I am a good teacher, but I am sick of caring more than most of my student’s parents. How would Sonny Perdue ever be able to truly evaluate that!!???

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2010
3:36 pm


Please quit stereotyping, you’ll miss out on lots of useful info. I think I first heard of Matthew Tabor from Eduwonk. No one thinks of Andy Rotherham as being on the right.

The reformer Tabor mentions in the link isn’t on the right either.

In your honor, however, I am providing this link from this morning:

I still do not understand why you think wanting academic excellence is a right wing concept.

I think it’s the gateway for moving beyond the circumstances you were born into.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Elaine Ong, Derrick Love and Classroom Supply, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: House Education vice chair: Votes not there for merit pay framework bill [...]

Proud Black Man

April 28th, 2010
3:45 pm

Yall voted for these clowns in the legislature and executive office so quit whining! Were you really that naive to believe that these white right politicians wouldn’t try to throw educators under the bust the first chance they get?


April 28th, 2010
3:54 pm

The concept of RTTT (RT3) is emerging. Join the process and be a part of the change.

@proud black man

April 28th, 2010
4:00 pm

There are 118,000 teachers and 10,000,000 people in georgia. Not all the teachers voted the same. It is not the teachers who elected the Governor, it is the citizens of the state of Georgia. And yes teachers are not whining they are voicing concern–if you don’t want to read the concern then stay off the EDUCATION BLOG.


April 28th, 2010
4:01 pm

Teachers would be willing to joing the RTTT but Perdue said he doesn’t want the teachers input, so how can teachers be a part of the change?


April 28th, 2010
4:09 pm

Race to the top is only $400 million for the whole state. Gwinnett lost over $100 million this year! Is all this worth it? Oh yeah and the $400 million is a one time deal, not a yearly payment!


April 28th, 2010
4:11 pm


You’re right. He’s political. Unlike, say, teachers unions, which are just bastions of apolitical activity who provide such glowing results for our school children.


April 28th, 2010
4:16 pm

I think it’s one of the dumbest legislation out of the Governor’s office to date. How can Governor Perdue bring himself to draft up such when there is no accountability on the part of the students/parents? I am a parent of a student at Martin Luther King Jr High School in DeKalb County and during my Parent/Teacher meetings I sometimes find myself consoling the teachers because of the horrible circumstances in which they are required to teach; sometimes the teachers are taking over half of the class period just trying to maintain order because of a few troublemakers whose parents rarely make an appearance.

Instead of tying the students’ performance to the teachers’ job evaluations, Governor Perdue needs to find a way to fund the position of ‘Evaluators’ who will have the task of personally sitting in on the teachers, one that knows the subject and who can give objective assessments based in part on how well the teacher disseminate information to their respective classes and how well the peform in making sure every student is equip to make the best grade possible and in part on how order is being maintained which should include following school guidelines in issuing proper disciplinary actions so that the few will not affect the entire classroom.


April 28th, 2010
4:20 pm

@ @RWPATRICK, YOU ARE SO CORRECT…How can the governor, or anyone else, make intelligent decisions about schools-classrooms-students if the ones that are on the FRONTLINE are not involved in the process?

Attentive Parent

April 28th, 2010
4:21 pm


One time grant payable over 4 years. One half to the state and the other to the particpating districts based on Title 1 for the most part.

Best case then is the state level gets $50 million for all this angst.

They volunteer to be the guinea pig on merit pay and Common Core for a mere drop in the bucket compared to the state’s annual ed budget.

$50 million is less than too many metro districts spent on worthless math textbooks like Investigations at the insistence of the State DOE.

Pearson and McGraw Hill both are talking in their earnings reports about how much Common Core will mean to their bottom line from new textbooks and tests.

It won’t be either the state or the feds trying to find this money.

Implementing Common Core will put more pressure on school districts budgets.



April 28th, 2010
4:22 pm

I think it’s one of the dumbest legislation out of the Governor’s office to date. How can Governor Perdue bring himself to draft up such when there is no accountability on the part of the students/parents? I am a parent of a student at Martin Luther King Jr High School in DeKalb County and during my Parent/Teacher meetings I sometimes find myself consoling the teachers because of the horrible circumstances in which they are required to teach; sometimes the teachers are taking over half of the class period just trying to maintain order because of a few troublemakers whose parents rarely make an appearance.

Instead of tying the students’ performance to the teachers’ job evaluations, Governor Perdue needs to find a way to fund the position of ‘Evaluators’ who will have the task of personally sitting in on the teachers, one that knows the subject and who can give objective assessments based in part on how well the teacher disseminate information to their respective classes and work to make sure each student has the proper tools in order to make the best grade possible and in part on how order is being maintained which should included following school guidelines in proper disciplinary actions.


April 28th, 2010
4:48 pm


Can or did the House Rules chair, Hembry, put SB 521 back to the full house for Thursday in opposition to the majority of the rules committee members who said no to SB 521?

Is this even possible? This maneuver has stink all over it.

Is a record of YES/NO votes on this bill available from the committee?

Teaching in FL is worse

April 28th, 2010
4:52 pm

I don’t get how people keep interjecting teacher’s unions into this debate. The “teacher’s unions” have little or no power or influence. This is a right to work state.

I can only speak for myself, but the only reason I belong (and did in FL too) is for the liability insurance.

Maureen Downey

April 28th, 2010
5:01 pm

I think it was a voice vote and I don’ think there is a record of it. The issue is whether the bill be brought to a vote tomorrow.


April 28th, 2010
5:12 pm

I don’t know any teacher who doesn’t want to have a fair evaluation of their work. Unfortunately, teachers in this state have few rights. I’m not in favor of any changes to the current teacher evaluation instrument unless there are substantial safeguards for the rights of teachers.

If a principal wants to fire a teacher all he has to do is to give that teacher a failing evaluation and not renew the teacher’s contract. This effectively ends the teacher’s career. That teacher will have to report that she was denied a contract, for cause, every time she applies for another teaching job. The current “tenure” system in this state only guarantees a teacher the right to a fair dismissal hearing when this happens. It doesn’t guarantee the teacher a job.


April 28th, 2010
5:36 pm

we don’t have a union – the general public must understand from all teachers that the Georgia NEA and PAGE are not unions – we don’t/won’t strike and don’t do the collective bargaining of a typical union and don’t negotiate like those unions do!

Jordan Kohanim

April 28th, 2010
5:50 pm

Colin- GA is a right to work state. There is no collective bargaining, thus no real union. Please turn down your talk radio and research before espousing such misinformation.