The Jackson Herald
February 2, 2000
law change needed
Among the many items in Gov. Roy Barnes' education reform legislation
is a provision that would do away with teacher tenure for newly
hired teachers. It is a small part of the overall package, yet
it has come under attack from the state's teacher unions, who
oppose doing away with the job guarantee.
It was a predictable reaction. Anyone familiar with public sector
unions knows that such groups exist not for the public interest,
but rather for the narrow, self-serving interest of their members.
So it's not surprising that these groups are preaching gloom-and-doom
if tenure is abolished. Says the Georgia Association of Educators:
"It is difficult to imagine how 'at will' employees can
be innovative with the continual threat of being terminated in
an unfair or capricious manner."
Well, how about this: Teachers can be innovative in the same
way virtually all private sector employees who don't have a job
guarantee are innovative. Tenure does not breed innovation, nor
is it necessary for teachers to be successful. If Bill Gates
can build Microsoft with untenured, but innovative employees,
then schools should be able to educate children without such
It is true, of course, that ending teacher tenure is not a magic
solution for improving the state's education system. The issues
are complex and no single action will fix all the problems.
On the other hand, no one is suggesting that ending teacher tenure
is a magic solution. It is just one part of a larger effort to
raise standards in the state for both students and those who
teach them. It would be a double standard for the governor to
preach accountability in education, but to exempt teachers from
such accountability by continuing tenure.
The state's teacher unions would be wise to tone down their carping
on this issue. Their self-serving rhetoric only reinforces the
perception of public education as a bureaucratic system resistant
to change and accountability.
The Jackson Herald
February 2, 2000
be able to prescribe medications
As practicing optometrists in Georgia for a combined total of
20 years, we find it unfortunate that the Medical Association
of Georgia is using its political influence to prevent optometrists
from gaining the authority to prescribe certain oral medications
for the treatment of the eye. Doctors of Optometry sit in the
same pharmaceutical classes attended by medical doctors, and
35 states in the union already allow optometrists the type of
prescriptive authority we seek. Our members spend a minimum of
four years following an undergraduate program studying the eye.
This includes anatomy and physiology of the eye and entire body,
along with intensive pharmacology training related to eye medications
and how they react with the various systems of the body.
It is unfortunate that this issue of prescriptive authority has
become a turf battle and, to some extent, a litmus test of political
strength. Even more unfortunate is the fact that the people caught
in the middle are patients, who simply want high-quality eye
care delivered as efficiently as possible.
Jon M. Milford, O.D.
Gene Doss, O.D.
February 2, 2000
Dear Gov. Barnes
Dear Gov. Roy Barnes:
I see on your schedule that you will speak to members of the
Georgia Association of Educators this weekend. Isn't that a little
like walking into the lion's den, governor? As the state's leading
teachers' union, the GAE would like to rip you into eatable chunks
because of your proposal to abolish teacher tenure. Put on some
body armor, governor, you're going to need it.
Of course, you're right in your bid to abolish tenure. There's
no justification for teacher job protections now that school
superintendents are elected.
In taking that action, governor, you are sending an important
message to the egalitarian world of academia that accountability
is important at every level, from the classroom to administrators
to local boards of education. No one should be exempt from scrutiny
in the educational process.
But governor, as important as that message may be, ending tenure
isn't the solution to fixing all the woes in the state's education
system. While ending tenure is the right thing to do, it is an
evolutionary step, not revolutionary.
If you want a revolution in Georgia's education system, governor,
there are three laws you should get passed. After years of covering
local school systems and education issues, and as a parent interested
in public education, I can guarantee that these three laws would
overnight fix many of the problems in our public schools:
1. Pass a law that would allow elementary and middle schools
to group children in classrooms by ability. The threat of civil
rights lawsuits has forced public schools into mixing students
of different abilities in the same classroom, creating a terrible
problem for teachers. The lower achieving kids don't get the
extra help they need and the higher achieving kids don't get
challenged enough. The result is a watered-down curriculum that
really doesn't meet the needs of any child. So pass a new law,
governor, that protects school systems from the threat of lawsuits
when they group kids by ability.
2. Pass a law that caps the amount of funding that can
be spent on any single child in a school system. Although it
is a worthy thing to attempt to help children who have mental
or physical disabilities, a line has to be drawn somewhere. The
cost of these special education programs is growing faster than
the rest of school budgets, meaning that more and more funds
are being diverted away from the average kids to pay for a handful
of kids who have some kind of special need. Let's help those
children, of course, but let's put a cap on such spending so
that other kids aren't cheated out of what they need from public
3. Pass a law that does away with the double standard
for discipline between regular kids and special education kids.
The truth is, this double standard undermines the overall authority
of public education. If a kid is labeled as having some kind
of problem, he or she is virtually immune from serious discipline
by school officials. Let's treat all kids the same, governor,
and not let a certain group be exempt from punishment.
I realize, of course, that the federal government has had a major
role in the creation of the above problems. In fact, you will
likely be told that there's nothing the state government can
do to address these issues.
I disagree. You, Gov. Barnes, can be the voice of reason on these
issues. You can use your bully pulpit as governor to challenge
these inane rules. You can help middle-class, taxpaying parents
of average kids start a real revolution in education by challenging
practices that have had the effect of dumbing-down the curriculum
in pubic schools.
The truth is, governor, thousands of parents have had enough
of the overemphasis on "at risk" kids and the lack
of funding and attention being given to the rest of the student
population. Many of those parents have spoken with their feet
by taking their children out of public schools and putting them
in private schools, or by home schooling.
That trend will continue, governor, if something isn't done to
change the system. Georgia's public education will lose more
of its best students to other alternatives unless state leaders
act just as boldly to meet their needs as it does to meet the
needs of the "at risk."
All children are "at risk," governor. It's not just
those at the bottom of the achievement ladder who need assistance,
but all children in public schools should receive the kind of
education that helps them reach their potential.
That isn't being done, governor. It isn't the teachers' fault,
or the principals' fault or the local boards of educations' fault
- it is the fault of state and federal rules that focus 80 percent
of the effort on 20 percent of the children.
Change that, Gov. Barnes - start a revolution by restoring some
common sense to the classrooms of our public schools. Give teachers
and administrators the ability to maximize their talents in the
classroom rather than expecting them to juggle so many different
needs at once.
Abolishing tenure is important, governor, but not nearly as important
as abolishing the strangle-hold the politically correct have
gotten on our public schools.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.