My son-in-law, Dr. Ted Wansley, teaches at Whitewater High School in Fayette County and coaches the school's cross-country teams. He is also a National Board Certified teacher.
Ted got his doctorate at evening classes at Georgia State University while teaching high school during the day. He could have been satisfied with that achievement, but he aspires to be the best at everything he undertakes, so he devoted several more years to earning his National Board Certification. Ted was told certification would bring him an additional 10 percent bonus from the State of Georgia.
Ted was told a lie.
It turns out that our 2,500 certified teachers are taking larger pay reductions than Georgia's other 120,000 teachers because of the state's decision to renege on the 10 percent bonuses they were promised for earning certification. It is just one more slap at teachers in a state mired at the bottom of the nation's education rankings and without the political and moral leadership to get us out of the mire.
Not only is Ted Wansley losing the money he was promised - not to mention taking furlough days, salary cuts, increased insurance costs and cheap shots by ignorant talk show yakkers - now Gov. Sonny Perdue's press spokesman, Bert Brantley, grandly informs the media and the rest of us that the certification process "is not tied to any student achievement. There is definitely a benefit you get from going through the process. But philosophically, do you reward achievement and performance (of students) or certification and training?" Philosophically, that is a pile of mule manure.
If our politicians had been truly interested in the issue, there was ample evidence available that National Board Certified teachers do have a positive effect on student achievement.
However, this isn't about performance. It isn't about the state's economy. Rescinding the certification program is intended as a slap at former Gov. Roy Barnes, who instituted the A+ Education Reform Act that encouraged teachers to seek certification - on their own dime - and promised the 10 percent salary increase if they did. Incidentally, both Democratic gubernatorial candidates Barnes and DuBose Porter and Republican candidate John Oxendine are on record as opposing the cut.
The Professional Association of Georgia Educators has filed suit in Fulton Superior Court because while the National Board Certification program has been gutted by our politicians, there is a little matter of a breach of contract with those currently certified teachers who were supposedly grandfathered in by legislative action. If PAGE is successful in its lawsuit, organization executives say it will cost the state about $5 million, or "about 20 percent of the cost of the "Go Fish' program." Zing!
While PAGE is standing up for certified teachers, I have an assignment for the rest of you teachers in the state. Visit with your local legislator and ask him or her how they propose to improve public education in the next legislative session. Be nice, but be firm. Ask specific questions. Get specific answers. Politicians excel at obfuscation. If you don't like their answers, encourage someone to run against them. Warning: Some legislators who hold positions of leadership in the House and Senate may bridle at the audacity of being questioned by mere mortals like school teachers. If they do, let me know. Pricking oversized egos is my specialty.
As for Sonny Perdue and Bert Brantley and members of the General Assembly, I have another assignment: Spend a few days in a Georgia classroom and see first-hand what teachers deal with on a daily basis. While you are there, think about the emphasis being placed on education in other areas of the world and figure out how our state is going to be competitive in the global marketplace if we keep furloughing teachers, cutting their pay, breaking faith with them and demanding they do more with less. Maybe, just maybe, you will come to the realization that public education must be a priority in our state - not a political "gotcha."
When you have done all this, then tell Dr. Ted Wansley and the other teachers in our state why they should believe anything you say.
E-mail columnist Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.