Georgia’s State School Superintendent says the state needs another year to work on a teacher evaluation system. That's despite the threat of losing nearly $10 million in federal Race to the Top funding. Teachers support the delay.
U.S. Department of Education officials are warning that $9.9 million of Georgia's Race to the Top grant funding is in jeopardy. The federal government could withhold funding because the state has failed to implement a performance-based teacher and leader evaluation program.
State Superintendent John Barge says it’s a very complicated issue and they need more time than expected. “I’m not going to be pushed to implement a system that I know has flaws in it to begin with. We’re going to get it right the first time. It’s always more costly to go back and fix something.”
And Barge has the support of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. Spokesman Tim Callahan says he’s not worried about losing nearly $10 million in federal money. “In the great scheme of things it’s not going to be all that dramatic an amount of money. I think the department here in Georgia has some plans to work with the U.S. Department to ultimately get those funds.” he says.
Callahan says “The teacher evaluation piece is critically important. As Dr. Barge has said, it’s very important that they get it right. And it’s going to take a little time, a little more time than the feds think it does. We’d rather they do it right than fast.”
Barge says even if the feds withhold the money, it won’t impact existing programs.
he says “It’s not money that we have spent that we’re going to have to pay back. It’s money that hasn’t been used yet.”
$3.8 million of the money is supposed to be used for performance-based pay for teachers. Just over $6 million would be used for additional bonuses for high-need schools to reduce the achievement gap.
U.S. Department of Education officials say the letter merely demonstrates the department's intention to begin withholding funding if state officials don't reach a compromise by the beginning of this school year. Federal officials say this is only the first step in the process. They anticipate a final decision being made by the fall. A spokesman say the Department is concerned about the state backing down on its commitments in the Race to the Top plan, and will continue to work with state officials to support their work moving forward.
If the money is withheld, Georgia would be the first state in the nation to lose some of its Race to the Top funding.