The Georgia Association of Educators is suing the state education department over what it sees as a misinterpretation of a law designed to reward teachers for becoming nationally certified.
According to the National Education Association affiliate, the law gives teachers an additional 10 percent of their salaries for each of the 10 years they are certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. And when their salaries climb, the state association says, the supplement should rise as well.
But in a memorandum from the education department, local districts were instructed that the bonus should be 10 percent of what the teacher was earning in the year that he or she was certified by the national board.
“That’s not the spirit of the law,” argued Drew Allbritten, the executive director of the teachers’ group.
The lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, is on behalf of a Rockdale County teacher, Carolyn Kay Cribbs, who became nationally certified in 1995. But a decision in the case could affect the more than 100 teachers in the state who have earned the credential, according to the GAE.
Schrenko Backs Teachers
The incentive program began as a 5 percent bonus under then-Gov. Zell Miller. His successor, Gov. Roy E. Barnes, won approval to increase it to 10 percent last year. The current state budget includes $490,000 to help teachers pay the cost of applying for national certification and for mentors to help them through the process. Another $560,000 is budgeted for the salary supplements.
Even though she is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, state schools Superintendent Linda C. Schrenko has indicated that she agrees with the union’s position. A Republican candidate for governor in next year’s election, the superintendent has recently sided with the GAE against the Democratic governor on a variety of issues.
According to the teaching-standards board, based in Arlington, Va., 30 states help applicants pay the fees for board certification, and 31 provide salary supplements. In addition, close to 300 districts reward teachers for becoming nationally certified, the board reports.