Kate Walsh was invited to be a guest columnist for AllOnGeorgia to discuss the policy of teacher pay in the United States. Kate Walsh has served as the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality since 2003, leading work to ensure that every child has equal access to effective teachers. Walsh launched the first-ever review and rankings of the nation’s teacher preparation programs. Previously, Walsh worked at The Abell Foundation in Baltimore. Walsh has also served on the Maryland State School Board of Education.
Currently, Georgia hovers around a ranking of 23rd to 28th in the nation with the average teacher’s yearly salary around the range of $53,091 to $55,532, depending on specific polls.
These are the views of the author and not the views of AllOnGeorgia.
Pay matters. The importance of pay generally isn’t disputed, except when it comes to teachers. In their case we’ve allowed a fiercely anti-tax movement to prevail over the last several decades instead of making sure that teacher salaries remain competitive. Teachers have been losing ground since the 1990s, resulting in a 20 percent disparity between theirs and comparable jobs. From Twitter to Time Magazine, the issue is gaining visibility.
We’ve got a lot of ground to make up. The American public appears to recognize that need, as made clear in the recent USA Today/CBS News poll—so much so that they are willing to support teachers leaving the classroom to go on strike.
As the nation sets out to achieve some semblance of competitive teacher salaries, it would be a mistake to view this issue in isolation and overlook other issues raised in this poll. Chief among them is that the American public is not nearly so supportive of teachers unions, primarily because unions are too often in the business of protecting teachers who ought not to be in the classroom.
Union leaders are doing their members no favors by fighting efforts to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom, as that provides reticent state legislators and school boards all the evidence they need to resist pay increases. This is unfair to good teachers everywhere and a reason why teachers themselves are frustrated by their union leaders, as polls consistently report.
Regarding pay and dismissal policies, these two issues, like it or not, go hand in hand. NCTQ urges states and districts to not only address the pay disparity, but reform the laws and policies which they’ve allowed to stand, making it far too difficult to protect the quality of the teaching profession.
For a review of how your state’s dismissal policies stack up, go here.
For a review of the pay policies in the nation’s largest school districts, go here.
Below is information related to Georgia as researched by the National Council on Teacher Quality – It is important to know that it is illegal in Georgia for teachers to unionize and participate in collective bargaining. Georgia’s teachers can join a professional association.
Analysis of Georgia’s policies
Link to ineffectiveness: Georgia makes teacher ineffectiveness explicit grounds for dismissal. The state’s teacher evaluation system mandates that “a rating of ineffective shall constitute evidence of incompetency.”
Due process distinction: Georgia does not distinguish between the due process rights of teachers dismissed for ineffective performance and those facing other charges commonly associated with license revocation, such as a felony and/or morality violations. The process is the same regardless of the grounds for dismissal, which include incompetency, insubordination, willful neglect of duties, immorality, and inciting, encouraging or counseling students to violate any valid state law.
Appeals process: Georgia’s tenured teachers who are terminated may appeal multiple times. After receiving written notice of dismissal, the teacher has 20 days to request a hearing before the local school board or a tribunal. After that decision has been rendered, the teacher then has 30 days to file an appeal with the State Board of Education. An additional appeal to the superior court of the county within 30 days of the state board’s decision is also permitted.
Recommendations for Georgia
Ensure that teachers terminated for poor performance have the opportunity to appeal within a reasonable time frame.
Nonprobationary teachers who are dismissed for any grounds, including ineffectiveness, are entitled to due process. However, cases that remain open over multiple years drain resources from school districts and disincentivize districts from terminating poor performers. Therefore, Georgia must ensure that the opportunity to appeal occurs only once and only at the district level. It is in the best interest of both the teacher and the district that a conclusion is reached within a reasonable time frame.
Distinguish between the process and accompanying due process rights for dismissal for classroom ineffectiveness and dismissal for morality violations, felonies or dereliction of duty.
Although nonprobationary teachers should have due process for any termination, it is important to differentiate between loss of employment and issues with far-reaching consequences that could permanently affect a teacher’s right to practice. Georgia should ensure that appeals related to classroom effectiveness are decided only by those with educational expertise.
State response to our analysis
Georgia recognized the factual accuracy of this analysis.
Georgia school districts reviewed –