It's time to catch up on several topics. Sorry the last item is so long, but it's important.
State Board of Education
The State Board of Education completed its two-day meeting yesterday. All items were moved to a consent agenda except for the following:
- Proposed changes to State Board rules 160-3-1-.07 Testing Programs - Student Assessment and 160-4-2-.34 Dual Enrollment -- Move On When Ready. No one spoke to the proposed changes in the public hearing and the State Board voted to adopt both.
- Amending State Board bylaws to allow meetings outside Atlanta -- this aligns the bylaws with a change made in statute a few years ago
- Posting two new courses that will first be used in a pilot next semester in Hall County if approved next month. Post Secondary Math and English would serve as course alternatives to current requirements. They are not designed as a less rigorous choice or alternative pathway. Students have to meet certain criteria to be included in the courses. Standards for the courses are aligned with secondary and postsecondary courses to ensure the students could place in a postsecondary class.
- Reversing local board decision 2017-01
The State Board will next meet for a one day meeting on December 8th. Committee meetings will start at 10 AM; the Committee of the Whole at 1 PM.
Following the State Board meeting, they convened to hold a hearing on the Dooly County Board of Education in accordance with 20-2-73(a). For those unfamiliar with the process, state law requires the State Board to hold a hearing when a district or school "is placed on the level of accreditation immediately preceding loss of accreditation for school board governance related reasons by one or more accrediting agencies." The State Board voted unanimously to recommend to the Governor that he suspend all five members of the Dooly Board. The Governor will render his decision and, if he removes them from office, name replacements that meet the qualifications for serving on the Board.
ESSA State Plan
The Department of Education has all the information related to development of the new state plan to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) posted here. They completed their public feedback sessions last night. The online survey is still available, and they would like to get as much feedback as possible.
On the right side of the ESSA page, the Committees are listed. Clicking on the Committee name will take you to the information and summaries from their meetings. Committee members are also online if you wish to contact them about a particular area.
Summaries of comments from two of the feedback sessions are also listed in the right hand menu under "Information and Resources." The timeline for the work is at the bottom of the page.
Education Reform Commission Update
You may recall that the Governor appointed a 90 member Teacher Advisory Committee to review the Education Reform Commission recommendations and give him feedback. The Committee, chaired by Rep. Amy Carter, has submitted its final report. The Governor and his staff will consider these comments as they develop legislation for the next session. If you can't find time to read the 13 page report, be sure to read the Executive Summary to get up to date with this process.
As you meet with your legislators before the session, let them know that there currently is no inflation factor proposed for the new formula. If they move forward with having each district create its own teacher compensation time, ask them to ensure enough lead time for districts to carefully and thoughtfully create one before implementation. This isn't one of those things that can be thrown together.
The 3% Raise Controversy
In recent news stories, it was reported that there is anger in some quarters that the local boards did not give a 3% raise to teachers "as they were supposed to do." So let's do a bit of a review here. On January 13th, the Governor gave his State of the State Address and included this:
Over the past five years, members of this General Assembly and I have shown our appreciation for our teachers by making public education a priority, and we will do so again this year by appropriating an additional $300 million for k-12 education, which is more than is required to give teachers a three percent pay raise.
We will distribute this money to your local school system under the existing QBE formula, but it is our intention that your local school system pass the three percent pay raise along to you. If that does not happen, it will make it more difficult next year for the state to grant local systems more flexibility in the expenditure of state education dollars, as recommended by the Education Reform Commission.
We have given local school systems large increases in funding for the past three years and given them the flexibility to decide how to spend it. Based on a survey by the State Department of Education, 94 percent of school systems used those funds to reduce or eliminate furlough days. With the additional funding this year, furloughs should be a thing of the past and teachers should receive that three percent pay raise.
The FY '17 budget contained a $300 million appropriation to "Increase funds to offset the austerity reduction in order to provide local education authorities the flexibility to eliminate teacher furlough days, increase instructional days, and increase teacher salaries." According to the 2017 Formula Adjustment Survey Results Summary, 71 districts (40%) reported giving a one-time salary supplement and 72 (40%) reported giving a salary increase. The others reduced or eliminated furloughs or provided step increases only. That sounds like the local boards followed the budgetary language.
Surveys on the use of the funds added to the budget to reduce the austerity cut each of the last three years are available here. We would also point out that the funds were reducing the cut to the funding of the QBE formula. We are still making our way back to the state being able to fund its portion, but that is expected to happen in FY '18. Back in the day, salary increases were appropriations in addition to the state portion of the QBE grant. Those days may be gone, but it is still a formula.
It is based on the FTE counts and a beginning teacher's salary (additional funds for experience and degrees are a separate calculation) and includes funding for guidance counselors at 1 per 450 FTEs, psychologists and social workers at 1 per 2,475 FTEs, media personnel and materials, and other costs. The numbers are plugged in to get the total which is then split between the local five mill share from school districts and the state.
Salary and benefits for teachers are by far the largest part of the total generated. When the state can not pay its portion, the district must pay from local funds, increase class sizes to eliminate teachers, eliminate classes, or decrease the number of days in the work year. In the aftermath of the economic collapse, all those things were done.
Gov. Deal entered office with the state in a terrible place financially. As we have said before, he stopped increasing the austerity cuts that Gov. Perdue instituted in 2003 and started filling in the hole as soon as the state revenue began to rise. In FY '15, we asked that the austerity reduction be appropriated so that the districts could use it to do what they needed to do. The first priority was to get the instructional time back for the students. Adding days of work would also provide more income back to teachers. Circumstances were different all across the state so flexibility in spending was necessary.
IN FY '17, 35 more districts were able to eliminate furloughs so we are down to ten districts with a shortened year. A lot of hard decisions have had to be made by the Governor, legislature, superintendents, local boards, teachers, and other staff over the past several years. As you meet with your legislators over the next couple of months, please be sure to talk with them about the budget decisions you made.
Only 65 days till the 2017 session of the General Assembly starts -- get ready y'all!