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Georgia Weighs Teacher Incentives
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The Georgia General Assembly is debating two bills that would give 10-percent annual bonuses to teachers who earn national certification or to experienced educators who transfer or remain in low-performing schools. Legislators hope the measures will improve teacher quality not just in disadvantaged schools but also throughout the state. Included: Descriptions of the incentives in the bills.

Georgia is aiming to boost the number of nationally certified teachers in the state and entice more-experienced teachers to low-performing schools through incentives in two proposed legislative bills.

Both bills were passed by the senate of the Georgia General Assembly by late February. Both also have the support of the Georgia Association of Educators, the state's National Education Association affiliate.


Senate Bill 368, which addresses national certification, calls for annual salary increases of 10-percent for teachers who pass the national certification exam. The current bill actually is a clarification of an earlier bill, which stated teachers would be granted a one-time 10-percent increase, according to Sen. Faye Smith, one of the bill's sponsors.

Funding has been approved for the bill, Smith, a former teacher and president of the GEA, told Education World. "This means they have gone the extra mile for that certification," she said. "It is a very, very tedious process to earn that extra certification, and this will help ensure we have better teachers."

The teachers union goal is to have at least 1,000 of the state's 100,000 teachers earn national certification, and the salary increase is a good incentive, according to Ralph Noble, president of the Georgia Association of Educators. Currently between 200 and 300 of the state's teachers have national certification.

"We are very supportive of this," said Noble. "We already have seen an increase in people beginning the certification process since the bill was introduced. We are working on training people to help others with certification."


Senate Bill 329 is designed to help reduce teacher and principal shortages at schools most in need of experienced educators -- those considered low performing.

Under the terms of the bill, teachers and principals with five or more years of experience and five or more years of satisfactory or above performance ratings would also would receive 10-percent annual increases if they opted to transfer or remain in a low-performing school.

To qualify as low performing, a school would have earned a D or an F under the state's school assessment program.

Georgia already is experiencing teacher shortages -- the state expects to hire about 14,000 teachers next year, and Georgia colleges estimate they will graduate only about 3,500 education majors next year, according to Noble. "We have huge shortages at schools perceived as being low performing," he said. "Then when we get some senior teachers there who look to transfer out, that compounds the problem in those schools. We need incentives to attract the best teachers to the schools that need the most help."

Sen. Gregory Hecht, one of the bill's sponsors, said friends who are educators had urged him to address the teacher shortage in low-performing schools. "I've heard it's been getting worse and worse."

Hecht told Education World he sees multiple benefits to the bill. "Children in the classroom get increased educational quality, and younger teachers get mentors."

If it is approved, funding for the measure could be available in 2004. Noble said the bill is a good first step at aiding low-performing schools. "It [the 10-percent increase] still may not attract teachers to schools in economically-disadvantaged areas," he said. "But it's a start. Georgia simply has to get more creative in attracting teachers in general, especially to schools in economically disadvantaged areas."