Teacher’s group: We will not continue legal fight for National Board stipend after new setback

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators said today that it will end its legal quest to compel the state to pay stipends to National Board Certified Teachers after the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit.

On the 2010 session’s final day, the General Assembly passed a budget that eliminated pay supplements to more than 2,000 educators who earned certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The General Assembly’s decision amounted to a $6,000 to $8,000 hit for some of the state’s top teachers.

National board-certified teachers have long received a 10 percent salary supplement, but that was cut in half in 2009, at which PAGE filed suit arguing the state had no right to cut the supplements in half.

According to PAGE:

Georgia’s Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the lawsuit PAGE brought seeking payment of stipends to the state’s approximately 2,500 national board certified teachers. The stipends were ten percent of salary, paid annually.

PAGE filed the suit subsequent to the 2009 legislature inserting language into the law stating that the stipends would only be paid “subject to appropriations by the General Assembly.” After that language was put into the law, the Legislature ceased fully funding the stipends and since then has ceased paying the stipends entirely.

The decision centered on the Court’s support of the ability of the Legislature to decide each session what budget items it will fund. In its ruling the court cited the 1997 Buskirk case as a precedent: “The Court has said no one Legislature [can] tie the hands of its successors with reference to a subject upon which they have an equal power to legislate.”

The Appeals Court also sided with the lower court finding that teachers deprived of the stipends can sue their local boards because the employment contracts are between those two parties. PAGE General Counsel Jill Hay said that would not be a viable avenue for teachers since their contracts of employment contain language making salary contingent upon state funding. “Virtually all contracts contain this language,” she noted, “creating what would be in our view an insurmountable barrier for suing teachers to overcome, which is why we sued the state, the original source of the stipends.”

After consultations with outside as well as in-house legal counsel, PAGE will not pursue the lawsuit further. Tom Wommack, director of Legal and Legislative Affairs for PAGE, noted that additional appeals are not likely to be fruitful and would not be a prudent use of organizational resources – legal or financial.

“However, we do not regret bringing this lawsuit and we continue to believe that the legislature is sending a very negative message to the best teachers in the state and at the same time is creating distrust among all educators that the legislature will keep its word over time, particularly with regard to salary incentives,” he said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

43 comments Add your comment

Elizabeth

October 24th, 2011
4:48 pm

So, as usual, teachers must live up to every provision of the contract or be terminated; however, the state does not have to live up to any of its obligations, nor do the local boards of education. And we wonder why teachers are angry and frustrated???

Jordan Kohanim

October 24th, 2011
5:19 pm

“particularly with regard to salary incentives,”

As in merit pay? Agreed. After this lawsuit dismissal, many teachers will likely greet any incentive-based pay structure with suspicion.

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iTeach

October 24th, 2011
5:31 pm

Glad I decided not to join PAGE.

Not Renewing My Certification

October 24th, 2011
5:44 pm

Why bother since you can not recoup nearly $2000 in expenses. I had written getting paid again for this a long time ago. Now any local supplements will totally cut. Sadden but not surprised. A

@ITeach–I don’t blame PAGE, at least they tried. Where was GAE and AFT?

Mikey D

October 24th, 2011
5:53 pm

The court’s decision was the right one, based on legal precedent. The real fault lies with the legislators who chose to abandon a promise that was made to the National Board Certified teachers. Why on earth would we be surprised that our legislators ignored their word? The word of a Georgia legislator is pretty worthless and has been for quite some time.

catlady

October 24th, 2011
6:05 pm

Amen Mikey. Totally worthless. Most of them have the morals of an alleycat. Their favorite word? ME.

Yes, our contracts are with local BOEs. Yet the BOEs get their money from the legislature. I wonder, by the reasoning of the court, does that mean every year the legislators have to reaffirm the LAWS their predecessors voted in? Because they can’t be bound that those are the laws since they didn’t vote on them. Opens up a big can of worms, IMHO.

Cut to the chase: Teachers screwed. Again.

catlady

October 24th, 2011
6:06 pm

Note to myself: Vote for NO SPLOSTS, no Constitutional amendments, no special anything. And vote against every incumbent possible who has voed for these travesties.

iTeach

October 24th, 2011
6:23 pm

@Not..

It’s more so my dislike with the so-called teacher unions in general. Because GA is a right to work state and teacher unions have no collective bargaining rights, I never joined. They can’t legally argue for all of us in court and have little clout. Honestly, what’s the point.

Even in regards to “legal protection” as a reason to maintain membership, a teacher must have substantial evidence/documentation in their favor before a union will take the case, even if he/she is a member.

Just my opinion.

teacher&mom

October 24th, 2011
6:28 pm

Perhaps it is time to abolish teacher contracts and allow teachers to walk away from their position with a reasonable 2 weeks notice….ya’ know….like they do it in the “real” world. :P

Ron

October 24th, 2011
6:37 pm

It’s a shame that these people were promised this stipend for going through a VERY rigorous course load to receive this certification. It isn’t easy to get, and in states like North Carolina, is preferred for certain job titles. I’ve been seriously looking at how this issue is being handled in neighboring states, and Georgia is the only one I know of that cut the stipend entirely. Yet another reminder of the importance of education in a state that is struggling to pull itself up the achievement scale. The real shame is the demoralization of some excellent teachers. Other states may benefit from their expertise as they find out where they will be paid for this certification. And it definitely discourages anyone else in Georgia from ever seeking this.

Ron

October 24th, 2011
6:39 pm

teacher&mom: I couldn’t agree more! Contracts are only important in education right now when one wants to get out of them to move to a better job. Some systems allow breaking a contract if the principal agrees or the position one is leaving for is a promotion of some sort, but many do not allow it at all.

iTeach

October 24th, 2011
6:51 pm

@teacher&mom: I wish. Don’t most teacher contract stipulate something about how if we attempt to break the contract, they can sue us?

iTeach

October 24th, 2011
6:52 pm

“teacher contracts.”

MsCrabtree

October 24th, 2011
6:53 pm

No surprise, but just another indication of the low level of respect the state legislature has for ALL educators in Georiga.

teacher&mom

October 24th, 2011
6:54 pm

@Ron…To the best of my knowledge, GA is the ONLY state that has decided NBC is unimportant. Other states who won RttT grants included INCREASING the number of NBC teachers in their proposals.

teacher&mom

October 24th, 2011
6:59 pm

Teacher contracts serve one purpose…to protect the school system. Just another example of how GA “values” its educators.

MsCrabtree

October 24th, 2011
7:05 pm

Dubose Porter and Kathy Ashe were two legislators who were very vocal in their support of National Board teachers during this whole process. Unfortunately the people in this state, including teachers still keep voting for anyone who has an “R” next to their name. And yes, what teacher will take “pay by performance” seriously? Next thing to be eliminated will probably be salary steps for advanced degrees.

Jordan Kohanim

October 24th, 2011
7:24 pm

Ms Crabtree-

I thought they already eliminated salary steps for advanced degrees. Am I incorrect?

down and out

October 24th, 2011
7:25 pm

@ Ms. Crabtree. You are right. Eliminating salary increases for advanced degrees is in the works as we speak. Now, who would want to work in a state where teachers do not receive pay raises, but are expected to perform miracles. Georgia should anticipate and prepare for a mass exodus of teachers.

MsCrabtree

October 24th, 2011
7:28 pm

One more year after this, and I am gone (retiring) And yes, I agree, who in their right mind will want to teach in GA?

down and out

October 24th, 2011
7:42 pm

This is also my last year in the “great” state of Georgia. Apparently, education is not a valued commodity in this state. Perhaps the government needs to dust off the cotton gin, plant cotton seeds, and train its citizens to pick cotton. Georgia is sure to be the laughing stock of the country. At least your neighbors to the west are not demoralizing, dehumanizing, and devaluing teachers. Everyday, it is some BS in the paper about Georgia. Like Marvin Gaye says, “Makes you wanna holler, throw up both hands!”

down and out

October 24th, 2011
7:49 pm

Is there another county in the state that would allow the superintendent to rescind a bonus and force the teachers to sign a promissory note? Now the superintendent is hiding in his ivory tower. I wonder why?

Tony

October 24th, 2011
7:59 pm

Broken promises. The Georgia General Assembly and governors have never kept a promise to teachers.

Wondering...

October 24th, 2011
8:26 pm

down and out, has anyone seen him this year?

RBN

October 24th, 2011
8:35 pm

Can’t wait till January for another dose of “How much Georgia values its teachers.” dribbling out of the Gold Dome. Even Social Security recipients will get a 3.6% increase this year for cost of living increases. What will teachers get come January? Their choice of an 11% increase or a 17% increase in our insurance care and a great “Thank you” along with another round of voucher bills and attacks on our rights fromn Chip and the Boys. Sad!

down and out

October 24th, 2011
11:03 pm

No one has mentioned his name. What do you think?

d

October 25th, 2011
5:40 am

@Not…. it’s very difficult to work on a solution (and GAE was told by members of the General Assembly) that the PAGE lawsuit shut down any ability to fix the problem) if you are suing the people you are trying to work with.

mountain man

October 25th, 2011
6:21 am

So you wonder why anyone would want to become a teacher. So don’t be surprised if the only teachers applying for the jobs are in the bottom 50% of college students. But wait, you only want excellent teachers so you are only hiring those who graduate in the top 10%. It is no wonder that teachers are leaving the profession in droves.

teacher&mom

October 25th, 2011
7:04 am

@d: I have no doubt the members of the General Assembly told GAE the PAGE lawsuit shut down negotiations….but why did it have to come to a lawsuit?….Perhaps it was the unwillingness of the General Assembly to negotiate in the first place?

If that is honestly the excuse the General Assembly used to cover their actions, I find it very childish and petty.

This coming from the same General Assembly that two years ago (I think that is the correct leg. session?) WASTED an entire crossover day to discuss an obscure abortion bill while ignoring key education bills. The result was a delay in teacher contracts and budgets for local systems.

The same General Assembly that diverted much needed funds to special education vouchers that are actually only available to metro area students. Private schools in rural areas are few and far between….and, as a general rule,.. not accepting special education students (costs, staffing issues, all those pesky little details).

The list could go on but I’ve only had one cup of coffee and it’s too early for my blood pressure to be so high.

The General Assembly, as a group, is one of the most passive-aggressive bunch of ideologues I’ve ever witnessed.

teacher&mom

October 25th, 2011
7:51 am

Thought of another “great” idea from the Gold Dome…

Go Fish…gotta love that budget item. Sure schools had to cut electives and supplies but what the heck….we’ve got a facility that is the ENVY of the WORLD. Who needs books and an education when you can Go Fish?

Go Fish was Perdue’s final gift to education in GA…after eight years of significant budget cuts (even in times of plenty), loss of NBC stipends, and a shady attempt to take an obscure teacher survey and twist the results to fit his political agenda…etc., etc., etc.

And who stood by and supported these moves? One too many GA Assembly members….

d

October 25th, 2011
8:34 am

I’m not giving credit or props in any way to the General Assembly. Sonny led – and they blindly followed…. most of them anyway. Sonny has held public education in contempt during his entire time in office…. billions cut from QBE and all we have to show is the aforementioned fishing pond in his home county.

Teacher Reader

October 25th, 2011
9:22 am

Education is not valued in Georgia. Beverly Hall and everyone involved in any cheating on CRCT should have lost their teaching certification indefinitely, never to get it returned or to work with children again. Teachers have given back each year and have not received step increases in DCSS, not sure about anywhere else, for the past few years. Teachers even stopped receiving the annuity that they were promised instead of SS, so now teachers are not getting Social Security or getting anything that would replace that in DCSS. The district is saving a bundle because they are not having to pay SS for its employees. I suspect any law suits on the annuity in DCSS, to come down to a similar decision.

Batgirl

October 25th, 2011
9:39 am

As “d” noted above, GAE has been working with the legislature to try to resolve this issue. I spoke with my GAE Uniserv(sp?) rep who said that he has been to the capitol many times to discuss it and has spoken with the speaker of the house on a number of occasions. For what its worth, he and others have been told that when the economy rebouns, the legislature will consider returning these salary cuts.

The negotiations between GAE and the legislature are ongoing, but the legislature is not willing at this time to consult with PAGE because of their lawsuit. Is it petty? Maybe, but I really wouldn’t want to deal with anyone who sued me either.

As for AFT, their numbers are very small in Georgia and, therefore, they don’t have much of a presence at the capitol.

No matter what PAGE, GAE or anyone else tries to do, however, nothing is going to change until our governor and legislature stop giving tax cuts to business and the wealthy. As long as they are giving money to those groups, they have to take it from someone else.

AKA

October 25th, 2011
11:19 am

AFT in Georgia is dead, they just collect dues from members and do nothing unless they are forced, i.e. the Atlanta cheating scandal.

Good Mother

October 25th, 2011
11:40 am

There are cutbacks everywhere. We are all required to do more with less. By “WE” I mean all of we working people, not executives. That’s what the Occupy Wall Street protests are all about. The executives at the top make millions in bonuses while laying off employees and running the businesses into the ground.

Be thankful the bonus is still there and not demolished altogether. In my own experience, we were REQUIRED to gain a certification that costs us $3,000 and we were required to pass it. We were promised we would be reimbursed for the training after we passed…and guess what? The corporation wouldn’t pay up. We were threatened with our jobs. If we don’t have X certification, we lose our jobs.

So we paid for the $3,000 training, pass the certification and guess what? The corp didn’t reimburse us.

It is happening everywhere to all real working people, not just teachers.

Please

October 25th, 2011
11:40 am

“Is it petty? Maybe, but I really wouldn’t want to deal with anyone who sued me either.”

Maybe not – but it is how adults act and do business – - – Our legislators need to stop acting like spoiled brats when they don’t get their way or someone has a different idea.

d

October 25th, 2011
12:39 pm

@Good mother – we’re not saying it’s not happening…. but if promises are made, they should be kept, regardless of if it is a private corporation in your case or the State of Georgia in the case of NBCTs. However, I am a realist and I know why it happened. It just goes to show what lack of protections I have in my chosen profession…. yes I chose it, yes I know the risks, but how many other contracts are so one-sided? I’m not hired “at will” because that is bad for the children, but I have virtually no protection. My contract states an amount that “can increase or decrease dependent on funding.” It’s a dirty truth. If I decide to break contract, I can’t ever teach in Georgia again, but if the state breaks contract, oh well, it’s my fault for choosing my profession, right?

mountain man

October 25th, 2011
12:45 pm

It IS your fault for choosing the teaching profession! Maybe when teachers are a scarce commodity, they will actually be valued.

LOL

October 25th, 2011
5:11 pm

By the time the legislators decide that the economy has rebounded, most of the National Board certifications will have expired anyway. Doubt that there are many teachers newly pursuing this certification.

to d Good Mother

October 25th, 2011
5:24 pm

I think you’ve missed the point, d. It’s not just your chosen profession. It’s everywhere. Promises are broken everywhere, even those in writing. The teaching profession is not alone in this lack of protection and lack of fairness. I live on a contract that can be broken by the corporation at any time…and there’s no three year contract. It’s six months and sometimes less. I have no protections and neither do many people. The corporations can fire us for no reason whatsoeve.
Those who are protected are those who least need it, the highly paid executives. It isn’t fair. It isn’t ethical and it isn’t just the teaching profession.

d

October 25th, 2011
8:50 pm

Good Mother – I said that it is happening everywhere. No teacher that I know of in Georgia has a 3-year contract. I work year-to-year. The only protection I do have that an at-will employee doesn’t have is the right to a due process hearing (yeah I know that’s one perk) but any principal doing his or her job will get rid of any teacher that doesn’t do his or her job. A teacher with less than 3 years on the job (longer probation than most professions) can be dismissed for any reason whatsoever – and usually has a stain on his or her record that can’t be easily erased.

I’ve worked at will plenty prior to becoming an educator, I don’t feel much safer, even with my so-called contract.

Katie

October 26th, 2011
8:36 am

Good mother, the bonus is NOT there any longer for any NBCT in the state. Since it was cut in 2009, I have lost approximately $13,000 from my salary and am now working three jobs to make up the difference. The NBPTS is trying valiantly and desperately to help us NBCT’s, and we still hold out hope that a little bit of $ will come our way in the new year, but of course it can never make up for what we’ve lost.

Only one other state that I know of, Oklahoma, voted to cut the stipend completely, but the legislature changed its mind due to a huge backlash. That didn’t happen here in GA; the story was pretty much shoved to the back burner. We NBCT’s feel forgotten and rejected but are still hopeful now that Sonny (our Emperor Palpatine) is gone. Nathan Deal is not against NB philosophically as Sonny was; he just realizes that the budget is in such horrible shape that the $ may not be there even if everyone wants us to have it. Of course, the counterargument to that is that everyone, individually and collectively, finds money for what is considered valuable and important.

Sigh.