Like any good classroom teacher, I dont grade a student by one test. On the specific assignment of providing a minimal raise in tough economic times, I would give Georgia Gov. Roy Barnes an S for satisfactory.
But no classroom teacher would stop there. We would look at the full body of work encompassing the entire term.
In 1999, during the best economic times Georgia has ever experienced, Georgias teachers received a 4 percent raise while the state had a budget surplus of $750 million. In 2000, during continued unprecedented economic growth, the raise was 3 percent with a state budget surplus of $973 million. While growth continued into 2001, teachers received a 4.5 percent raise even as the surplus reached $906 million.
Nor, would a teacher grade on just one skill. The teacher shortage in Georgia is real. The causes and statistics are well known. A debilitating15 percent of first-year teachers leave our profession. Of that number, 20 percent of first-year high school teachers drop out, The Georgia Associ-ation of Educators knows from experience that an effective mentoring system would help. In this area, Id give the governor a grade of incomplete because it dooms Georgias children to another year of revolving door teachers.
Teachers leave the classroom because of lack of opportunity to advance as Mentor and Master teachers. This, too, is a deferred dream. Teachers leave before they have attained their full 30 years because salaries do not reward experience and dedication. They leave because of frustrating working conditions that include not enough supplies, too many non-instructional duties, little or no opportunity for a share of the decision-making pro-cess, and a retirement system that does not adequately reward them for staying.
However, Georgia has accomplished much in education. These accomplishments range from full-day kindergarten and lottery funded pre-K to HOPE scholarships and an unparalleled building program. Georgians continue to have much in which to take pride. We are moving ahead with class-size reduction, addressing the issues related to achievement gaps, and providing funding for teachers seeking National Board Certification and their compensation upon completion of their certification.
Why, then, are we content to maintain the status quo with regard to the most important issue facing education reform - Who will teach the children? Perhaps the 2002 elections and Georgias citizens will provide the answer.
(Ralph Noble, a fifth-grade teacher, is president of the Georgia Association of Educators.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.