Teaching Profession

Liability-Insurance Bill Irks Georgia Teachers’ Union

By Linda Jacobson — March 30, 2005 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The Georgia Association of Educators is not impressed with a state legislative proposal to provide liability insurance to teachers—a plan that some say would take away one of the most attractive benefits of union membership.

Written by Rep. Earl Ehrhart, the Republican who chairs the House rules committee, the plan has already been approved by the full House, 110-59. It would offer liability coverage, paid for by the state, to all 130,000 certified personnel who work for public school systems.

The insurance, which is already available to those who teach at the college level in the state, would protect teachers when they have to defend themselves legally against accusations made by a student or parent.

But Merchuria Chase Williams, the president of the 40,000-member GAE, an affiliate of the National Education Association, said the state’s insurance would do nothing to protect teachers when they are involved in grievances with their employers.

“There is still a need for protection that is more in-depth,” she said, in reference to what the state’s offering would cover. “Even student-teachers need to have liability insurance with an organization like GAE.”

But Mr. Ehrhart said that no liability insurance covers “job actions,” and that the legal representation the union now provides to its members if they are accused of wrongdoing, say, by a principal, is a service separate from the insurance coverage.

Fighting Words

Mr. Ehrhart’s plan, which would cost about $5 per person, is an amendment to Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue’s “master teacher” bill. That legislation passed the Senate last month, without the liability-insurance provision. The bill may yet have to go to a House-Senate conference committee before ending up on the governor’s desk.

The amendment has received support from conservatives in the state.

Among them is Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jim Wooten. He lambasted the GAE in one of his columns, calling education unions “a major obstacle to most any reform that does not result in more jobs or higher pay.”

Many teachers join the union, he wrote, only to receive the liability protection.

“What Ehrhart did was diminish the attractiveness of organized labor, a group that fights bitterly to block most legislation that conservatives would consider reform,” Mr. Wooten wrote.

Those words have angered some GAE members almost as much as the amendment itself. Susie Garmon, a teacher in the 3,400-student Lumpkin County district, wrote in a response to the newspaper that the “true intent of Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s bill is to try to convince teachers that they do not need a professional association looking out for them.” She added that she hopes her colleagues throughout Georgia “are not gullible enough to think that the true intent of such legislation is to protect good teachers from parents gone wild.”

Duplicate Policies?

But Rep. Ehrhart counters that his reason for drafting the amendment was to extend coverage to the 30,000 teachers in the state who don’t belong to either the GAE or the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a 60,000-member nonunion group.

Florida, which competes with Georgia for teachers, he added, already provides such coverage.

The lawmaker called the accusation that he is trying to undermine the union’s efforts to attract teachers “foolish.”

“I’m not in the business of worrying about the recruitment of GAE or PAGE,” Mr. Ehrhart said. “It begs the question, ‘Is that all they provide to their members?’ ”

Tim Callahan, a spokesman for PAGE, agreed that the legislation is an effort to “take a poke at professional associations.”

But, he added, the coverage proposed by the legislature merely duplicates the liability insurance that most districts buy on their own.“It’s a nonbenefit benefit.”

Related Tags:


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Classroom Technology Webinar
How to Leverage Virtual Learning: Preparing Students for the Future
Hear from an expert panel how best to leverage virtual learning in your district to achieve your goals.
Content provided by Class
English-Language Learners Webinar AI and English Learners: What Teachers Need to Know
Explore the role of AI in multilingual education and its potential limitations.
Education Webinar The K-12 Leader: Data and Insights Every Marketer Needs to Know
Which topics are capturing the attention of district and school leaders? Discover how to align your content with the topics your target audience cares about most. 

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion Teacher Power Can Be the Force for Education. What Would That Look Like?
Teachers working in new and different ways with each other and their students could be the solution to learning that has evaded us.
Michael Fullan & Joanna Rizzotto
7 min read
Screen Shot 2023 09 22 at 7.12.31 AM
Teaching Profession Teachers Work 50-Plus Hours a Week—And Other Findings From a New Survey on Teacher Pay
Planning, preparation, and other duties stretch teachers' working hours long past what's in their contracts.
5 min read
Elementary teacher, working at her desk in an empty classroom.
Teaching Profession From Our Research Center How Many Teachers Work in Their Hometown? Here's the Latest Data
New survey data shows that many teachers stay close to home, but do they want to?
1 min read
Illustration of a 3D map with arrows going all over the states.
Teaching Profession In Their Own Words 'I Was Not Done': How Politics Drove This Teacher of the Year Out of the Classroom
Karen Lauritzen was accused of being a pro-LGBTQ+ activist. The consequences derailed her career.
6 min read
Karen Lauritzen stands for a portrait on the Millikin University Campus in Decatur, Ill., on August 30, 2023. Idaho’s Teacher of the Year moved to Illinois for a new job due to right-wing harassment over her support of the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matter.
Karen Lauritzen stands for a portrait on the Millikin University Campus in Decatur, Ill., on August 30, 2023. Laurizen, Idaho’s 2023 Teacher of the Year, moved to Illinois for a new job due to harassment over her support of the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matter.
Neeta R. Satam for Education Week