ATLANTA – Members of the commission rewriting school funding sought damage control Wednesday in terms of teacher concerns about a complicated pay proposal .
It began with commissioners taking turns trying to explain how the proposal would work.
“I can tell you, if we don’t understand it, imagine what it looks like to someone outside this room,” said Commissioner Dick Yarborough.
A retired public-relations executive, Yarbrough stressed the need to assure teachers.
House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, who’s also on the commission, agreed.
“I think we need to make clear that we intend for current teachers to be protected,” said England, R-Auburn.
The funding subcommittee of Gov. Nathan Deal’s Education Reform Commission spent a sizable portion of the morning session talking about how to soothe the concerns of teachers. The commission’s teacher-compensation subcommittee has recommended that the full commission switch how teachers are rewarded by paying new ones more for their effectiveness.
Local districts would continue to get state funding for existing teachers based on their years on the job and the number of college degrees they hold.
The funding subcommittee is trying to incorporate the compensation recommendation into an overall formula to update the law on how the state allocates money to districts.
All but two districts already have the authority to change how they base teacher pay. But so, far, no districts have strayed from the standard training-and-experience basis the state uses, although a handful is considering changes.
In Wednesday’s discussion, commissioners agreed that any districts that do change should give veteran teachers the option to stick with the training-and-experience formula.
“I strongly recommend it,” Yarborough said.
He served on the commission in 1984 that devised the state’s current funding formula and has noted the importance of public support.
The committee is fine tuning its recommendations on funding for students, too. Early grades would get the top priority, while certain shop classes and those for disabled students would also get more. The commissioners said they wanted to give priority to elementary students so districts would get students reading on grade level by the end of the third grade.
But every alteration in the money flow provides district officials incentives here and disincentives there to. And the commission is trying to make sure they line up as hoped.
“I’m concerned about unintended consequences,” said Commissioner Erin Hames, Deal’s former education aide. “I’m trying to think about what we’re not thinking about.”
The commission meets again next week and plans to complete its work before the General Assembly convenes in January.
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