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Governor Perdue Introduces Education Legislation

Originally Published Feb 5, 2009, 8:59am (Updated Feb 5, 2009, 8:59am)
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Governor Sonny Perdue announced that five pieces of legislation were introduced Wednesday to improve education in Georgia.

“Even in challenging economic times, we can continue to improve education in Georgia,” said Governor Perdue. “The proposals we introduced today will pay dividends for years to come as more students prepare for the opportunities of the future.”

The first bill, SB 84, introduced by Senator Bill Heath, transforms school board governance to make Georgia a model for the nation. The Governor’s legislation would ensure that every student has the benefit of responsible leadership at the school system level. It will standardize board ethics policies and board training, clarify law delineating the roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board members, create minimum qualifications for board candidates. It also 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.

“SB 84 makes sure that school board members understand their role and responsibilities,” said Senator Heath, one of the Governor’s floor leaders in the Senate. “It ensures that boards serve the students’ best interest, not their own.”

The legislation is based on recommendations of the Commission for School Board Excellence. The Commission included leaders from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, AdvancED and other stakeholders.

“This legislation includes key recommendations of the Commission for School Board Excellence that was conducted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber, the Georgia Chamber, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and AdvancED (parent organization for SACS),” said John Rice, the co-chair of the Commission. “We support Governor Perdue’s legislation and appreciate his leadership on this critical issue. If Georgia adopts a significant majority of the commission’s recommendations, our state will be a leader in providing a model for good school board governance. We owe it to all the children of Georgia to support this legislation."

Three other pieces of legislation match the state’s educational spending with its desired outcome. The first proposal, SB 93, introduced by Senator Bill Cowsert, an Administration floor leader, recognizes the important role that principals play in student achievement. 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.

“SB 93 rewards principals who make the extra efforts that result in substantive improvement in student achievement,” said Sen. Bill Cowsert.

The second proposal, HB 282, introduced by House Education Chairman Brooks Coleman, recognizes the role that quality teachers play in producing positive educational outcomes. The proposal would reward teachers for improving student achievement. It is based on Georgia’s Master Teacher program and would allow exceptional teachers, willing to serve as instructional leaders, to be eligible to receive pay increases of ten to fifteen percent.

“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’s third proposal, HB 280, also introduced by Rep. Coleman, is based on recommendations by the Alliance of Education Agency Head’s Math and Science Task Force. It 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. To encourage and reward elementary teachers to increase their competency in math and science, the legislation will also provide a $1,000 annual bonus to elementary teachers who hold a math or science endorsement.

“These pieces of legislation will help Georgia attract the best teachers that will enable our students to thrive in the global economy,” said Rep. Coleman. “They focus the state on teachers who excel and get results for their students.”

All the three incentives would be available beginning in 2010-11 school year, which would be in the Fiscal Year 2011 state budget.

The fifth piece of legislation, HB 278, introduced by House Administration Floor Leader Rep. Matt Ramsey, would temporarily give local school systems more control over state-funded expenditures. Lifting expenditure controls will give school systems additional tools to address budget shortfalls brought about by a downturn in the national economy.

“I am proud to sponsor this important legislation,” said Rep. Ramsey. “This measure will provide school systems the needed flexibility to manage their budgets in difficult economic times.”

Governor Perdue, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker Glenn Richardson agreed on the need for the legislation as the economy started to worsen last fall and alerted school systems that legislation would be introduced giving them a two-year window for maximum flexibility.

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