Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) this morning expressed doubts about two bills backed by Gov. Sonny Perdue that would make it a crime for teachers and administrators to fudge school test scores.
HB 1111 and HB 1121, introduced this month by state Rep. Matt Ramsey (R-Peachtree City), would make test-tampering a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by a $1,000 fine or up to 30 days in jail, and loss of pension.
The bills have yet to pass a House committee, so there’s been very little talk about the issue on the Senate side of the state Capitol. That said, Rogers – the leader of the Senate GOP caucus — urged Republicans to take care.
“I’m very hesitant to create any more crimes,” he said. “I think we need to solve this problem. This cheating scandal is damaging to the confidence of everyone in Georgia, on how our education system is performing. But most importantly it hurts students.
“But to criminalize it, I think, is something we must be very careful about doing. I haven’t read the legislation, but at this point I’d be very cautious,” Rogers said.
The Senate majority leader is the first Republican of rank to raise concerns about legislative reaction to the testing scandal. Educators suspected of cheating are already subject to sanctions from the state Office of Professional Standards. Penalties can include the loss of teaching certificate.
Two Democratic candidates for governor, Roy Barnes and DuBose Porter, expressed opinions similar to Rogers in this Sunday post. Porter is the House minority leader, and so could very well be asked to cast a vote on the matter.
Here’s this morning’s update on the testing scandal, by my AJC colleague Margaret Newkirk:
When Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Office of Student Achievement released its devastating report on suspected test tampering in Georgia schools last week, Perdue said the state was serious about getting to the bottom of the problem.
“We will not allow this to be whitewashed,” he said.
But even a testing expert who praised the state’s actions last week said the state may have a problem going forward.
Both the OSA and the state Board of Education have ordered investigations at the 191 schools statewide — more than half of them in metro Atlanta — where an audit found erasure marks on 2008 standardized tests unusual enough to suggest the possibility of cheating.
But the investigations will be handled by the school districts themselves, even in districts where the state found multiple schools with questionable erasures in 25 percent or more of classrooms.
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