Legislative Priorities and Alerts
PAGE is a grassroots organization. This principle is reflected by the way in which we generate our legislative priorities. The tentative legislative priorities are developed at a spring meeting of the PAGE Legislative Task Force whose representatives hail from each of our organization’s twelve districts. Those tentative priorities are distributed to the PAGE membership through electronic and print means over the summer and throughout the early autumn. PAGE members are strongly encouraged to comment on the priorities. The PAGE Legislative Committee recommends a set of legislative priorities to the PAGE Board of Directors. The board-approved priorities become PAGE’S formal legislative agenda.
Click here to see the specific PAGE Legislative Priorities
An Open Letter From PAGE to Our Charter School Members
Dear Charter School Members,
It is unfortunate that events both legislative and legal have caused some concerns to develop – concerns that are being exploited by some. We take this opportunity to communicate with our members who may serve students at any of the more than 200 charter schools in our state.
PAGE SUPPORTS CHARTER SCHOOLS AND THE GOOD WORK THEY ARE DOING.
In fact, we are one of the only organizations which has consistently supported charter schools. We support start-up and conversion charters as well as district-wide charters.
WE ARE PROUD TO HAVE CHARTER SCHOOL EDUCATORS AS MEMBERS.
Our affinity for, and consistent support of, charter schools over the past several years has been because we believe in the charter concept of “thinking outside the box” and we know charter school educators have a strong desire to provide high quality teaching and learning to all children – a bedrock belief we share.
WE BELIEVE THAT LOCAL SUPPORT IS A CRITICAL INGREDIENT FOR THE LONG-TERM SUCCESS OF ANY CHARTER SCHOOL.
Which is why we supported the Georgia Supreme Court ruling last summer that underscored this important principle, a principle that would be trampled if the constitutional amendment is passed this November. Because of this we stand opposed to this amendment. We are joined by some charter districts in this opposition.
ALL BUT A HANDFUL OF CHARTER SCHOOLS ARE UNAFFECTED BY THIS CONTROVERSY. PASSAGE OF THE AMENDMENT WILL CAUSE FINANCIAL HARM TO EXISTING CHARTER SCHOOLS.
The only charter schools that will be affected by this amendment are those which were created by the state charter commission. Locally approved start up charters and public schools which have converted to charter status are not affected by this amendment, but should the state get voter approval of this amendment the subsequent creation of a parallel system of state created and funded charter schools will almost certainly create a loss in funding to currently existing and locally approved charter schools. In fact, legislators have already briefed leaders of such charter schools on the likelihood that this will occur.
PAGE OPPOSITION TO THE AMENDMENT DOES NOT MEAN WE ARE TURNING OUR BACK ON THE CHARTER SCHOOL CONCEPT, NOR ON OUR CHARTER SCHOOL MEMBERS.
We regret it if some members feel this way, and it is extremely unfortunate that the polarizing politics around this issue are being exploited for gain by those with an agenda we cannot support.
We believe ours is a principled stand, one that we do not take lightly. We know some members may disagree with us, but we believe our position is in the best long-term interest of both charter schools and traditional public schools and thus in the best interest of all educators and most importantly all students regardless of their circumstances and which schools they are able to attend.
TRS Board Approves Changes for Future Retirees
At its March 28th meeting the Board of Directors of the Teacher Retirement System approved a change that will affect educators who retire after January 1, 2013. The main reason for this change, they noted, is to continue to make the system actuarially sound and financially stable.
The change is related to judicial and legislative actions that occurred in 1989 and 1990. In 1989 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that all pension funds had to be taxed equally. Prior to that, Georgia exempted state pension funds from state taxes.
So that retirees would not be harmed by this ruling, the General Assembly in 1990 voted to allow retirement system trustees to increase benefits to offset the loss of the former tax break. TRS voted at that time to increase retiree benefits by a one-time 3% for the first $37,500 in retirement benefits.
The General Assembly also voted (in 1990) to exempt a portion of retirement income from state tax. The amount exempted has risen steadily since that year. Currently, for those ages 62 to 65, the first $35,000 in retirement benefits are exempt from state tax. For those 65 and older the first $65,000 in retirement income is exempt from state tax.
The result of these three actions is that TRS members have been getting a redundant benefit, receiving the one-time increase of 3% on the first $37, 500 of benefits from TRS and also receiving the tax break from the state on retirement income.
In their March 28 action, the TRS board voted to eliminate the one-time 3% increase. This will take effect only for those retiring on or after January 1, 2013. Those who retire prior to that date will continue to receive the 3%. TRS staff stressed that no one who received the 3% increase will lose the increase.
This action does not affect cost of living increases or COLA’s.
We recommend that educators contemplating retirement within the next two years contact TRS for individual counseling.
Questions can be referred to PAGE’s representative at TRS meetings, Sean DeVetter firstname.lastname@example.org directly to TRS at 1-800-352-0650.
Teacher Evaluation Information & Resources Available
Legislators are proposing major legislation to dramatically change the ways teachers are evaluated. Georgia's "Race to the Top" application indicates that initially 26 participating school systems will be re-doing their evaluation systems. Will a new evaluation system be introduced for every Georgia school system? PAGE has launched a new site to provide news, information, opinion and resource material regarding the proposed revisions to the teacher evaluation system. Visit the site here.
Common Core Standards
Georgia has joined with forty-four other states in developing core standards for K-12 in English language arts and mathematics. The Common Core State Standards are intended to provide a consistent framework to prepare students for success in college and/or the 21st century workplace. The current timeline calls for:
- January-May 2012: Grade-by-Grade Teacher Professional Learning
- 2012-2013: Classroom implementation
- 2014-2015: Projected date for common assessment
For more information click here.
Understanding the PSC Rule on Certificate Upgrades
In December of 2010, Georgia PSC Rule 505-2-.41 Educator Certificate Upgrades, significantly altered the system of educator compensation based on completion of advanced degrees. While recent legislation (HB455/923) restricted salary increased for “Unused Leadership Degrees”, the new GAPSC rule impacts upgrades in all other advanced degree fields.
To help clarify the rulings and the legislation, the Georgia PSC has issued a memo and provided several website resources to assist educators. You can read the memo and obtain the links to these resources byclicking here.