The governor’s attempt to begin reforming how Georgia teachers are evaluated as a means of ultimately changing how they are paid never came to a vote Thursday in the final session of the General Assembly. (I watched the session until 11:45 p.m. and then went to sleep, figuring there was no way lawmakers would tackle that issue in 15 minutes.
But my colleague Kristina Torres made it to the midnight hour and filed this report:
By taking no action, lawmakers rebuff Perdue on his biggest education initiative this year. Their lack of action also came despite attempts by Perdue and supporters to soften the bill’s language as a concession to critics.
A try Thursday evening by the bill’s original sponsor in the Senate, Sen. Dan Weber (R-Dunwoody), to find another bill in which to add the same language was unsuccessful, denying new life in the waning hours of this year’s legislative session.
In the House, Rep. Brooks Coleman (R-Duluth), chairman of the House Education Committee, said the bill, with its current language, had only a “very slim” chance of being called for a vote Thursday, the last day of this year’s session.
Because the evaluation language was added as an amendment to a different bill — SB 521 — passage by the House would not have been enough for final approval. The amended bill still would have required an OK by the Senate by midnight. It never came.
The bill in its original form would have provided more support for students who are dually enrolled in college. Coleman supported that but said he was uncomfortable with the amended language that included the evaluations mandate.
Perdue’s push was widely seen as an attempt to demonstrate Georgia’s commitment to school reform at a time when federal officials are offering billions of dollars to states that embrace it. But members of the state’s two largest teacher groups, which together total more than 118,000 members, spent the week lobbying to kill the bill, discrediting it as an end run toward a merit pay system.
The question now is how much this lack of legislative action handicaps Georgia’s effort to win a Race to the Top grant. I don’t think it does, as few states have merit pay in place or even a solid blueprint to move toward it. And we are not the only state facing teacher dissent over RTTT.
I think, however, the state has to show more buy-in from districts as a whole for its ambitious Race to the Top application, which several folks lately have derided to me as a fairytale, alleging that the application exaggerates the progress of education reform in Georgia. (I would not say it exaggerates as much as puts on the best face possible, which is what everyone does in grant applications. I think evaluators know that.)
What will be more relevant to the RTTT evaluators is how, if Georgia gets a grant, faithfully and enthusiastically a new administration in the Gold Dome will embrace the reforms proposed in our application. We will definitely have a new governor and possibly a new school superintendent, although unseating an incumbent is not easy and, despite her critics here on the blog, Kathy Cox has a lot of supporters throughout the state.
So, we have finished with the Legislature. Now, we have to move into the governor’s race. I think the next governor will have a great impact on education in this state.