Originally created 02/21/00

Tenure issue still in debate



ATLANTA -- Teacher groups remain opposed to ending tenure for new instructors, even though the education-reform bill now includes a compromise that guarantees a written explanation for terminations.

But the bill also has picked up a few endorsements during the week from the Parent Teacher Association, Georgia Association of Educational Leaders, the Georgia School Superintendents Association and others.

"While there are components of the bill with which we have concerns, we recognize that educational reform is a process that involves much give and take among stakeholders," wrote GAEL President Allene Magill and Jim Puckett, the association's executive director.

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators, though, made clear Friday to legislators it didn't endorse the bill, as had been reported.

"Despite some media reports and the `spin' being put out by those who have a vested interest in disinformation, PAGE is not ready to totally endorse House Bill 1187," said Barbara Christmas, PAGE executive vice president. "We still have a number of very important concerns and suggested changes."

PAGE members want teachers' annual evaluations to be done by someone other than their school principal to ensure personality clashes don't jeopardize educators' careers.

The Georgia Association of Educators, the other large teacher group, doesn't want tenure tampered with at all. It held a rally on the Capitol steps Saturday protesting the end of job protections for new teachers.

GAE released a survey last week showing 65 percent of respondents favor allowing teachers to appeal a dismissal to their local board.

Nearly the same number, 68 percent, said only a "fairly small number" or "hardly any" of their local teachers were performing poorly or unqualified to teach.

Yet the same survey reports 71 percent of those surveyed agree that "making it easier to dismiss poorly performing teachers" would improve public schools. Gov. Roy Barnes has said he wants to end tenure to simplify removal of weak teachers.

The poll by Atlanta-based Beth Schapiro & Associates of 500 registered voters has a margin of error of 4.5 percent.

"We hope that Gov. Barnes and all legislators will listen to Georgia voters before they pass legislation that will be unfair to all teachers," said GAE President Essie Stewart Johnson, a Savannah high school teacher. "If we hope to attract the best and the brightest to teach in Georgia, we need to assure them they will be fairly treated by our school boards."

Teachers who already work in Georgia schools are more likely to burn out and quit after having their schools graded based on pupil performance on standardized tests, warns Donald Ratajczak, nationally renowned economist with Georgia State University in Atlanta.

"Barnes is increasing accountability and reducing flexibility. That is a guarantee for stress," Mr. Ratajczak said. "I'm amazed that this hasn't been debated more vigorously."

Reach Walter C. Jones at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.