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Being a classroom teacher and the volunteer (my dues are waived for my time, but that is all) president of Hall County Education Association, the local division of Georgia Association of Educators, left me no time to read any information that was not student- or school-related, or that was not related to the endorsement that I am adding to my teaching certificate. My apologies to our members for the delay in responding to Ms. Smith's letter last week.
I'd also like to point out that Ms. Smith admitted that she has not been a member of GAE or HCEA for at least one year. So in essence, she was not speaking for anyone but herself.
The following response is from me speaking as the voice of HCEA, not me. This voice is derived from members' concerns our HCEA board has heard over the last year.
Candidates announcing specifics on issues, not generalizations, will attract the teachers' attention and support for the answers each individual education employee or citizen likes best. Three points the candidates may want to hone in on are merit pay, how profession learning units (PLUs) will be handled once they are again required, and the proposed anonymous peer evaluation within Race To the Top. (Please note: GAE and HCEA membership includes members from all levels of education employment. These three issues happen to be teacher-centered.)
Merit pay, in its entirety, is flawed. To base a teachers pay on a test score from a child whose parents may have argued that morning or decided on separation the week before, or the child whose parents are under or unemployed and nutrition is not up to par, or the child who got a detention from that teacher and wants to extract revenge is unfair. Merit pay as a bonus when teachers get to choose their students may be a better option, and to obliterate pay based on education level diminishes and degrades the very idea of education itself. What would that do to all of the colleges of education run by the state of Georgia?
Many members have already earned or are currently earning expensive (in time and in money) PLUs even though the legislators have given teachers a reprieve from the mandatory professional learning to renew teaching certificates during these tough economic times. How will each candidate for office handle this issue?
Anonymous peer evaluation? The law of the land the U.S. Constitution provides that the accused, in this case the evaluated, can face his or her accuser or evaluator. This portion on Race To the Top must never be enacted in our members' opinions.
HCEA is currently collecting opinions on two of the November races, the governorship and the state school superintendent's race, via an electronic survey of members. HCEA will release the findings next week via a press release.
Individual teachers (and all responsible citizens) must vote their conscience based on issues important to themselves. It is important to note that GAE and HCEA endorses based solely on educational issues and nothing else. Therefore, an endorsement by GAE or HCEA denotes that the candidate's educational stance is aligned to the legislative priorities voted on by the elected delegates of each local association that convenes once per year in Atlanta.
Bridget W. Rodriguez
president, Hall County Education Association, Flowery Branch