12:41 pm April 28, 2010, by Maureen Downey
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.