So, how do you all feel about Senate Bill 184, which would require local school systems to use teacher performance as the primary factor in layoffs?
I wrote about this idea earlier this year after a call from Cobb school board member David Morgan, husband of state Rep. Alisha Morgan, D-Austell.
Morgan told me about the trip that he made to Colorado with his wife and state House Majority Whip Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta, to talk to the sponsor of a teacher reform bill that passed there with bi-partisan support.
(Alisha Morgan could not move her bill, so she is now backing SB 184.) At the time, Lindsey told me that any bill here would consider the input of educators. Any teachers out there ever contacted? I know some of you tried to set up meetings with Lindsey.
The Senate bill is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons.
According to a news story today on SB 84:
Supporters argue that policy change will give job security to the best educators and give middling teachers incentive to improve.
“If we want the best students and to improve our education system, we have got to have the best teachers,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, the measure’s sponsor. “Anything else is contrary to keeping the best employees.”
Opponents say the legislation isn’t necessary because job performance has been included as a factor in decisions on layoffs for years. They worry the issue draws focus away from school funding cuts the state has made for years.
“It’s not really necessary,” said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. “We have some legislators who feel the need to chase national stories.”
Cash-strapped school districts have been handing out pink slips by the hundreds, even thousands, for the past few years. That’s led to closer scrutiny of last-hired- first-fired policies.
Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma and Rhode Island have recently written into law or policy that seniority will not be the primary factor in deciding who is laid off, said Emily Cohen, district policy director for the National Council on Teacher Quality.
But for the majority of school districts, seniority is the most important determinant of layoff decisions, Cohen said. The question hit Georgia last year, when as many as 9,000 of the state’s 125,000 teachers were projected to lose their jobs from budget cuts.
Many of those workers kept their jobs after an influx of federal stimulus money, but by then, stories were beginning to surface that some top-notch educators were gone because they lacked tenure or seniority.
State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, a Democrat from Austell, heard about one teacher in Cobb County who lost her job despite being her school’s teacher of the year.
Federal money got her re-hired, and Cobb changed its policy to look first at performance for its teachers, she said. Still, the situation stuck with Morgan, whose husband serves on the county school board.
Morgan proposed legislation (HB 257) that would have made teacher performance – including student achievement – the main factor for layoffs in Georgia school districts. Her proposal stalled in the House Rules Committee, so she has taken up the Senate version to get a new policy in place.
“Their claim is, of course, they use performance, but what they do in practice does not match up,” Morgan said of districts where teachers let go included department heads and other outstanding educators. “The fact is, looking mainly at years of service is problematic if your goal is to do what’s in the best interest of the kids.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog