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Bill Shipp Needs Some Schooling

To whom it may concern: There goes Bill Shipp again irrationally making a statement about how every Georgia teacher, oh excuse me, let me use his word for educators, “nitwit,” is against any type of education reform (Talk of reform much cheaper than solutions, 12-10-08). Besides Shipp’s obvious disdain for those that work on the frontlines of public education reform, he also does not have a clue. It is easy to sit at a desk or on a television set and pontificate and banter about what isn’t or should be. But these are facts. Shipp credits us “nitwits” with unseating former Gov. Roy Barnes and his education reform efforts. While teachers did exercise their disdain for certain aspects of Barnes’ reforms, we have repeatedly indicated that nearly 90 percent of his legislation met our ongoing legislative priorities, but for some reason this fact continues to be ignored by certain journalists.In fact, GAE members traveled throughout the state to testify about much needed reforms when Governor Barnes had his "blue-ribbon" panel, which with only six classroom educators out of 64, was severely lacking the expertise and knowledge of those who actually worked in a school. In addition, while Shipp is correct in that elementary to high school students obviously cannot cast ballots, parents do, and they obviously agreed with the majority of teachers and other Georgians that at that time a new direction was needed. Shipp also resurrects the fair dismissal issue. However, the great disservice to readers is the continual misrepresentation that fair dismissal was "guaranteed employment" or "tenure." It continues to boggle the mind why Shipp does not do his homework and actually analyze Georgia's "Fair Dismissal Law." He would have discovered that Georgia's teachers only recourse minus fair dismissal was to file breach of contract, employment discrimination, and First Amendment lawsuits in federal or state court. This was, and still is, a much more expensive alternative that was bad for local school districts and taxpayers, but was good news to Gov. Barnes' trial attorney colleagues. Still, to be perfectly clear, taking away fair dismissal has nothing to do with accountability toward student achievement. Governor Barnes admitted as much in a New York Times article (Lagging in education, the South experiments, 4-4-2000). He was said to have “acknowledged that there is no statistical link between teacher tenure rights and student achievement.” Real education reform, which GAE wholeheartedly supports, cannot happen without caring, quality teachers in every classroom. GAE stands ready to work with whomever the people of Georgia elect. GAE is simply presenting the facts. Georgia voters will continue to make up their own minds. Jeff Hubbard President Georgia Association of Educators