Here is a copy of a press release from Govenor Sonny Perdue’s office:
Governor Perdue Announces Proposals to Transform Education and Improve Economic Environment
Tuesday January 13th, 2009
ATLANTA– Governor Sonny Perdue discussed education, economic environment and transportation this morning at the Eggs & Issues Breakfast hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at the Georgia World Congress Center.
“During these times we continue to focus on government’s core mission,” said Governor Perdue. “Now more than ever we must make sure that we get out of government what we put into it.”
At the breakfast, the Governor announced three proposals to match the state’s educational spending with its desired outcome. The first proposal recognizes the important role of leadership at the school level. Under the proposal, high school principals who demonstrate improvement in graduation rate, SAT scores, and End of Course Tests compared to their school’s most recent 3-year average will be eligible for a $10,000 performance bonus. Principals could also qualify by leading a school that is in the top 5 percent of high schools in the state in these three areas.
The second proposal recognizes the role that quality teachers play in producing positive educational outcomes. The proposal for teachers is based on the Master Teacher program and would allow exceptional teachers who are willing to serve as instructional leaders and mentors in their schools to be eligible to receive pay increases of ten to fifteen percent.
In response to a shortage of math and science teachers and increased demand in these content areas, the Governor proposed taking a business-like approach to recruiting these teachers. The Governor’s proposal, based on recommendations by the Alliance of Education Agency Head’s Math and Science Task Force, would start new fully-certified math and science teachers at the same salary as a fifth year teacher. Teachers in these fields with less than five years experience would also be brought up to the fifth year pay level. In an effort to encourage and reward elementary teachers who increase their competency in math and science, the Governor’s proposal will also provide a $1,000 annual bonus to elementary teachers who hold a math or science endorsement. The three proposals all call for the incentives to be available beginning in 2010-11 school year, which would be the Fiscal Year 2011 state budget.
“It has long been one of the chief fallacies of government to focus on inputs, usually on how much you’re spending, instead of outputs – on performance and achievement,” said Governor Perdue.
The Governor also proposed school board legislation to ensure that every student has the benefit of responsible leadership at the school system level. The legislation standardizes board ethics policies and board training, clarifies law delineating the roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board members, creates minimum qualifications for board candidates, and gives the state the ability to find responsible citizens to serve on school boards when existing members fail to serve the interests of their students.
“Never again, do I intend for the state to be handcuffed by our current law and powerless to help students who are being failed by the adults in their community,” the Governor said.
Make a note of the part in bold above. There is a big elephant in the room. Can you spot it?
Our beloved governor is referring to the critical teacher shortages in certain subject areas (math and science), promising bonuses for those who choose to move into or get certified in those areas. But he left one out. He always leaves this one area out in his pet incentive programs. In his Master Teacher Program (designed to be an alternative to National Board Certification)…he left it out.
Just where does special education fit into all of this? Special education has been identified federally as one of those critical shortage areas and it is equally true in the state of Georgia as it is for the nation. The failure to mention or address this area is either blatant ignorance, flagrant incompetence out outright discrimination on the part of him and his educational advisors. In fact, he has introduced a measure that promises to make the shortage of special education teachers worse!
I just recently received an email from another special education teacher who was asking about the GACE because she was looking to migrate away from special education and into science. And this was composed and sent before our governor announced his plans to transform the education and fix the economy through incentives for math and science teachers. And I passed my GACE science last last year, so am in a good spot to migrate if I choose. By failing to address the special education teacher shortage, Gov. Perdue is promising to turn the disturbing migration of special education teachers out of the field into even more of a crisis. As it is, people are being nabbed off the street in order to fill empty positions. Now there is even more of an incentive for special education teachers to move out of their specialty area and create more openings that will go unfilled and result in more of the most disadvantaged students being underserved.
A visit to Georgia’s teacher recruitment website (www.teachgeorgia.org) shows where the shortage areas are. Yes, there are quite a few math and science openings. But special education dominates the vacancy list. Throw in speech language pathology, ESOL and a few of the other categories and special education as a field totally rules the teacher vacancy positions in the state of Georgia. Special education has ruled the vacancy list for the last 20 years. It will probably rule for the next 20 years, thanks to this governor and his incentive dis-incentive.
I suppose someone might try to make the case that special education does not add economic value like math and science. To them, I would point out that special education students, as a group, represent the subgroup most likely to drag a school into “Needs Improvement” status. The unemployment rate of this subgroup is well over 50%. And current educational policy seems absolutely bent on marginalizing them (and their teachers) even more. So in a sense, having a large cadre of highly paid engineers is going to be necessary in order to bear the economic and social costs of carrying people who the current educational system chooses to leave behind.
C’mon, Governor! Are you addressing teacher shortages or not?
This just further illustrates and underscores the pervasive culture of discrimination that seems to always be perpetrated against individuals with disabilities and those who serve them.
Just to add one more bit of news along these lines, the waiting lists for those waiting for various medical or transition services has been totally frozen since the economic downturn. One of my former students who aged out last year is still on the waiting list. Which means he is pretty much just sitting around at home. The money should have been in place the second he graduated since he had been on the list since middle school. But once again, individuals with disabilities are shunted aside in favor of other priorities. They are at the bottom of the list, even in the best of economic times, and in today’s climate they are totally abandoned.
What kind of economic recovery is it when it is borne by those who are least able to carry the rest of us? While we bail out auto executives we keep kids on a waiting list for needed services. Not a very noble picture is it?