ATLANTA -- The tone of discussion on education reform is rising in pitch after hundreds of teachers took a day off from work Monday to lobby legislators against Gov. Roy Barnes' proposal to end tenure for new teachers.
Mr. Barnes unveiled a retooled version of his education-reform bill Monday designed to address many of the criticisms leveled at it during the past three weeks. It's now 26 pages longer than the original, but it still would stop job protections for new teachers, the most controversial provision.
Carrying signs and chanting, the teachers held a morning rally on the Capitol steps before going inside to buttonhole lawmakers from their respective districts. They were members of the Georgia Association of Educators, and they were still seething over comments Mr. Barnes made to them in a speech Sunday night.
The governor told GAE members during a legislative conference that parents are demanding either teachers be removed from substandard schools or that students be allowed to choose other schools with tax-funded vouchers for private-school tuition.
GAE officials figure Mr. Barnes is ignoring a third option, fixing the schools.
"The choice is to help these low-performing schools," said Ralph Noble, vice president of the association.
The teacher group says higher academic standards and more rigorous curriculum would improve public schools.
Instead of weakening job protections, Mr. Barnes should strengthen them by establishing collective bargaining for public teachers, said Mr. Noble, who teaches elementary school in Catoosa County.
"Teaching conditions equal learning conditions," he said.
Mr. Barnes says teachers have been riled up for little reason.
"I don't understand those who are alarming folks, because this does not affect one teacher who is presently hired. It only affects new hires," the governor said Monday.
Education major Kambria Brantley, a senior at Augusta State University, hasn't started her teaching career yet, but she objects to the idea that she wouldn't have the promise of tenure available to veteran teachers.
"Because Georgia is an at-will state, it could come down to a disagreement with an administrator or how I am teaching," she said.
The House Education Committee is expected to take up the revised bill today.
You can read a copy of the revised bill at www.ganet.org/services/leg on the Internet.
Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424.
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