Georgia, like every state, is experiencing the most severe shortage of qualified classroom teachers in history.
A report by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (PSC) indicates that 25% of college graduates with a teaching degree never enter the profession, and 30% of beginning teachers leave the profession during their first two years of employment (Georgia Teacher Retention Study Phase 1 – 2001).
The Teacher Alternative Certification Program (TAPP), initiated by the PSC three years ago, has not been successful in solving the problem.
Enrollment in Georgia’s teacher preparation colleges and universities has declined annually for the last seven years.
Teachers responding to a PSC survey on items important for teacher retention indicated the following results:
Higher salaries (97); more effective student discipline procedures (95); better fringe benefits (92); decreased class size (92); safer school environment (92); providing teachers more authority in their school and classroom (92); providing better resources, equipment and materials for classroom instruction (90) and reduce the amount of required paperwork (90).
During this period of economic decline, many of the items identified to attract and retain teachers can be accomplished without a fiscal impact.
Legislators can continue to improve classroom discipline procedures, direct school boards to complete the class size reductions adopted and funded, give teachers additional authority to manage classrooms without interference from administrators, permit teachers to use school funds to purchase classroom teaching materials, remove non-instructional duties, and reduce paperwork.
New teachers indicate they are not prepared for the challenges of the classroom.
They believe they are often placed with the most disruptive students and receive little support from administrators.
It is imperative to initiate a strong mentoring program to team the beginning teacher with a quality veteran who has a reduced class load in order to spend time observing and assisting.
INCREASE GEORGIA TEACHER SALARIES
The average Georgia teacher salary ($45,533) has improved during the past decade moving from 34th to 15th nationally and falling only $289 behind the national average of $45,822. Georgia continues to lead the southeast in average teacher salaries. The top paying states include: California - $56,283; Connecticut - $54,362; New Jersey - $54,166; Michigan - $54,071; New York - $52,600; Massachusetts - $52,043; and Pennsylvania - $51,800.
Teacher salaries, however, are not keeping pace with other professional salaries, and the inability of school boards to compete for college graduates is contributing to the growing shortage.
“Education Week” reported in a 2000 article that teachers start behind other college graduates by about $8,000 and earn about $32,000 less than other college graduates with a master’s degree and twenty years experience. The starting teacher salary in Georgia is $29,259 compared to the following beginning salaries for professional positions requiring similar requirements: Chemical engineering - $51,137; electronics and communications engineering - $50,391; computer science - $49,413; mechanical engineering - $48,282; business data processing - $42,524; civil engineering - $41,193; banking and finance - $39,961; accounting - $39,494; business administration - $36,378; and marketing - $33,690.
(Source – National Association of Colleges and Employers)
GAE recommends increasing teacher salaries to become competitive with other professions and increasing the beginning salary to $32,000.
GAE also advocates the addition of salary steps and repeal of the two-year increment advancement requirement and increasing the increment from 3% to 5%.
GAE further encourages adoption of salary advancement opportunities to encourage teachers to remain in the classroom.
A career salary schedule should be created adding certification levels for master and mentor teacher recognition with a 10% salary increase on the state salary schedule.
History of Georgia Average Teacher Salaries vs. National Averages
2002 SOUTHEASTERN STATE SALARIES
ESP SALARY IMPROVEMENTS
Georgia’s dedicated paraprofessionals working in Title 1 schools are required to meet certification standards including earning an associate college degree, or two years of college credit, or meeting state or local standards. Although paraprofessional certification standards have increased, the salary remains embarrassingly low. The Southern Legislative Conference 2000-01 report of support personnel salaries revealed the following averages: Education Support Professionals (ESP) – Georgia $17,939 compared to West Virginia at 21,855; school bus drivers – Georgia $12,468 compared to West Virginia at $19,807; and custodians – Georgia $18,838 compared to West Virginia at $21,906. GAE advocates a statewide salary schedule for all ESP levels including a minimum starting salary comparable with other businesses and annual increment increases. ESP must be provided authority to maintain discipline and control without fear of being dismissed and must be included in the Whistle Blower Protection Act. Annual employment contracts must be required. ESP must also have an opportunity to improve retirement benefits with a 401K plan, increased PSERS benefits, and social security coverage. School boards should provide incentives and bonuses to attract ESP.