Deal pledges pay hikes for teachers, state employees

[private]Georgia’s public school teachers and state employees will be getting a 3 percent pay raise this year if the Legislature goes along with Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget recommendations.

Deal unveiled the pay hike proposals Wednesday in his annual “State of the State” address to a joint session of the Georgia Senate and House of Representatives.

The governor was clearly attempting to placate teachers’ groups that are unhappy with the recommendations of his education reform commission, which include a proposal that local school boards implement merit pay for teachers.

Teacher groups have pushed back strongly against the merit pay idea, contending that the new pay scales would punish teachers by depending too heavily on standardized test scores.

“Teachers believe in accountability and are dedicated to the success of their students,” said Craig Harper of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE).  “Their success with students cannot be accurately or appropriately measured by standardized tests and student learning objectives.”

“Just because we’re examining ways to more appropriately allocate taxpayer dollars . . . it does not mean that you are not appreciated,” Deal said. “I fully understand that there are many factors that impact test scores and graduation rates, and many of these are not within the control of teachers.”

Deal said he would include $300 million more in his budget for K-12 schools to provide the funding for the teacher pay raises.

That extra money “is more than enough to give teachers a 3 percent pay raise,” Deal said. “We will distribute it to local school systems under the QBE formula, but we expect local systems to pass along that 3 percent pay raise to you.”

With the additional funding, “furlough days should be a thing of the past and teachers should get that 3 percent pay raise,” Deal said.

“We are obviously pleased with his proposal to give teachers a well-deserved three percent raise after eight years of having to go without,” said Sid Chapman, head of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE).

“However, we will be working to make sure it passes the legislature and then monitor local systems to help guarantee that the raise is actually passed along to teachers,” Chapman said.

Funding will also be included in the budget to provide the same 3 percent pay raise for state employees, with some money on top of that for employees at the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), Deal said.

Deal spent the greater part of his speech talking about education and teacher pay, but he also fired back at people who have criticized him for not accepting more than $3 billion a year in federal funding under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid coverage.

If Georgia accepted the federal funds and expanded Medicaid coverage, the state would also have to spend $209 million more to cover the administrative costs of handling the additional Medicaid and PeachCare patients, Deal said.

“We must put $2.1 million in next year’s budget just to turn in the paperwork (required by the ACA for teachers and state employees covered by the State Health Benefits Plan),” Deal said. “I assure you, those funds could have been put to better use rather than on bureaucratic paperwork.”

DuBose Porter, state chairman of the Democratic Party, said Deal “has turned down a myriad of opportunities to share in our nation’s prosperity — from Medicaid expansion to investments in transportation and infrastructure. The Republican leadership’s stonewalling of smart policy has crushed the backbone of Georgia’s economy — the middle class.”

With the delivery of the State of the State address out of the way, the governor’s office is scheduled to release Deal’s proposed state budget on Thursday.

© 2016 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Nathan Deal , PAGE , state employee salaries , State of the State , teacher salaries