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Governor pushing bill that rewards performance

ATLANTA -- Gov. Sonny Perdue is pushing legislation that would pay Georgia's teachers based on student performance, not their advanced degrees.

Sen. Don Balfour, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, is introducing the bill.

Perdue said the state's current system rewards teachers for their level of education instead of classroom achievement.

''Focusing on student improvement with other measures like peer evaluations aligns state funding with our policy priority: improving the education of our students,'' Perdue said in a statement Monday. ''The new pay model will help the state attract, reward, encourage and retain top teachers.''

Under the proposal, teachers and principals would have the choice to opt into the program. The State Board of Education would have to require a statewide evaluation system that factors in student improvement and peer observation of planning and instruction by July 1, 2011.

Education advocates were critical of the proposal. Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators representing more than 78,000 teachers, said the bill raises more questions than answers.

''How is the state going to afford this?'' Callahan asked. ''And the political cycle will quickly take over the policy cycle. The governor will be gone in nine months. The new governor may or may not be interested in continuing this kind of thing.''

Georgia Association of Educators President Jeff Hubbard said educators were not fully consulted as the legislation was being drafted. He said he hoped lawmakers would work with school systems as the process continues.

''Run it past everybody in a show of good faith, see how they feel now that the details are exposed,'' Hubbard said, adding that a lot of the proposal is based on criteria not yet created, such as the evaluation system and pay scale.

''It's almost like you're handing over a blank check to the Legislature,'' Hubbard said. ''Our members are deeply concerned about it.''