GAE President Meets With State School Superintendent Richard Woods

GAE President Charlotte Booker met with State School Superintendent Richard Woods on Monday of this week to discuss priorities for the upcoming 2019 Legislative session. Superintendent Woods expressed his willingness to work with and on behalf of the education community in its efforts to ensure that public education in Georgia maximizes outcomes and opportunities for ALL students and teachers.

The meeting revealed that many of the Department of Education’s (DOE) policy priorities align with GAE’s legislative agenda. Regarding the state salary schedule, Superintendent Woods would like to see quicker movement up the salary scale for early educators to help them payoff college debts, and add steps at the top for veterans, something GAE endorses. “We wholeheartedly agree with Superintendent Woods that the $5,000 promised to teachers should be a permanent “raise” as opposed to a one-time bonus,” said Booker. Going even further, he added that DOE has plans to work with the Teachers Retirement System of Georgia to ensure that retirement benefits are competitive and funded at a level to fulfill the obligation to educators who paid into the retirement system. This was welcome news.

Another issue that is ripe for future collaboration concerns possible modifications to the TKES evaluation appeals structure so that all educators have the opportunity for meaningful appeals above and beyond procedural violations. While GAE was unable to secure a firm commitment that DOE would push for change, Superintendent Woods did not posture against the suggestion and seemed open to continuing conversations on the issue. GAE Vice-President Jim Barrett spoke eloquently on this issue, stressing that the only way to strengthen the current “weak appeals process” is to allow teachers to appeal both “qualitative and quantitative content of the evaluation.” GAE will continue conversations on this matter and hopes to persuade the legislature to pass legislation that codifies this change during the 2019 session.

The meeting also provided an opportunity for GAE leadership to inquire as to DOE’s position surrounding the legislature possibly mandating a statewide school calendar. Superintendent Woods stated that there was no indication from conversations with the incoming administration that there was an “appetite” for taking on such a “divisive issue” during its inaugural year at the helm of state government. GAE leadership stressed that calendar decisions should remain in the hands of local districts and that business and tourism interests should not supersede district autonomy.

GAE leadership will hold additional conversations with other educational leaders during the legislative session.