Georgia Commission Releases Reform Recommendations

Published February 10, 2016

A Georgia government commission released a report in December 2015 detailing recommended reforms lawmakers should consider during the recently convened legislative session.

The commission called on the state’s legislature to fund charter schools in a more equitable manner and provide more support for districts wishing to explore tying teachers’ pay to student performance. The commission was composed of private-sector leaders, local and state education officials, and lawmakers.

The stated goal of the Georgia Education Reform Commission is to “[provide] recommendations intended to improve our educational system, increase access to early learning programs, recruit and retain high-quality instructors and expand school options for Georgia’s families.”

Georgia charter schools are currently excluded from government capital funding programs, and state charter school funds have been drying up in recent years.

Real Race to the Top

Ben Scafidi, a professor of economics at Kennesaw State University and a senior fellow with the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, says treating charter schools and traditional government schools equally under the law helps everyone.

“Suppose all schools, public and private, had to compete for students,” Scafidi said. “Suppose that, when a given Georgia student enrolled in a school, all taxpayer funds devoted to her education followed her to that school. Under such a universal school choice plan, each school would have a powerful incentive to recruit and retain the very best teachers possible.

“Schools that did not have excellent teachers would lose students to schools that did, as it would now be possible for all parents to choose the best schools for their children,” Scafidi said. “Low- and middle-income families would be able to choose the best schools with the best teachers.”  

Tying Outcomes to Rewards

Brittany Corona, a state programs and government relations director at the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, says merit-pay programs, such as those suggested by the Georgia Education Reform Commission, use basic economic incentives to reward teachers for providing excellent service.

“For most school districts across the country, teacher compensation is determined by the time spent in the position, certifications, and other measures that are input-based and fail to reflect performance outcomes,” Corona said. “With teacher merit-pay reforms, teachers who work hard and demonstrably improve student outcomes will be rewarded for their success in the classroom.”

‘Win-Win for Everyone’

Corona says pro-parent and pro-student reforms, such as school choice and merit pay, benefit students, teachers, and parents.

“When parents are empowered with their child’s education dollars, they can send their child to the best school and teacher for their child,” Corona said. “When teachers are rewarded for their performance, instead of by time spent in a position, they are incentivized to perform better. This is a win-win for everyone.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.