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Teachers to protest furloughs, pay plan today at Capitol
GAE members oppose linking compensation to student success
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Members of the Georgia Association of Educators are heading to the state Capitol today to protest job furloughs and proposed teacher pay legislation.

The association hopes to tell legislators how cuts are affecting children in the classroom so they will be informed when they consider legislation or additional cuts. Members are expected to gather at 1 p.m.

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced an initiative that would tie teacher pay to student performance.

The proposed payment system is a substantial portion of the state’s Race to the Top proposal that seeks between $200 million and $400 million in federal funds.

Phyllis Marshall, a retired Habersham County teacher and a member of the GAE, is one of many worried about how such as system would be carried out.

Because the student achievement would be based on the results of the state’s standardized Criterion-Referenced Competency Test, Marshall believes there is too much room for error.

Many teachers have classrooms that include students who do not speak English well or have special needs, Marshall said. Low test scores from such students would not accurately reflect the proficiency of the teacher.

“It’s not fair to grade them on this,” Marshall said. “In a classroom, you can have children of all abilities.”

Marshall believes the initiative also could discourage teachers from pursuing additional education if pay is based on student test performance.

“It will keep them from getting into higher education,” Marshall said. “Why go for that if you’re not going to get a raise?”

Many teachers are also concerned about the effects unpaid furlough days are having on teachers and students.

“Our legislators are in the process of making very critical decisions regarding the status of Georgia’s education budget,” said Georgia Association of Educators President Jeff Hubbard in a news release. “Our members want to ensure that legislators have all the facts about how our children and classrooms are currently being affected and how they would further be affected by additional paring of the budget. They are being asked to do a yeoman’s job with constantly dwindling resources.

“And yes, while these educators will represent families that will be impacted by salary and benefit cuts, this coming together is about the impact on our classrooms and school operations and the subsequent impact on our children.”