Georgia House Speaker David Ralston: I disagree with governor on merit pay

In a recent meeting with teachers in his home county of Gilmer, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said he's leery of merit pay for the state's teachers.  Teachers will be happy to hear that as many of them are also wary of Nathan Deal's plan to tie their pay to the performance of their students. ( See previous post for a former Gwinnett teacher's poetic take on merit pay.)

Gov. Deal intends to push for pay for performance as part of a sweeping package of education reforms that includes a new funding formula.

(You can watch video of Ralston's comments here and read a detailed account at

House Speaker David Ralston

"I try to support our governor when I can and, when I can't, I tell him very respectfully that he and I disagree. I told him as recently as yesterday at 2 o'clock that I cannot go with him on this yet," said Ralston. "I support his efforts to move education forward in Georgia, and, when you say merit-based pay or pay for performance, it sounds very good but I am going to have to become a lot more convinced than I am to support including that piece."

"I want to see the metric," Ralston said. "I know a little about football. Georgia State University is thrilled to death with a coach who finished with a 6 win, 6 loss record. The University of Georgia, my alma mater, just fired a coach who was 9 and 3. Coming up with a plan that accurately measures that, I am not sure we're  there."

Joining Ralston at the teacher meeting were House Education Committee Chair Brooks Coleman, R-Duluth,  and House Appropriations Chairman Terry England, R-Auburn. Coleman predicted extensive debate about the merit pay.

Teachers in the audience were polite but skeptical about using student test scores to decide a teacher's worth.

"More testing is not going to solve the issue," said one teacher in the audience. "On top of that, have we thought about what this is going to do with teacher retention and people going into the profession?"

"We agree with you," said Coleman. "Our committee has been hearing for years we are over testing. We need to look at testing that helps you diagnose and teach your children."

"I hear that frustration everywhere from people in teaching," said Ralston. "A point we don't make often enough, our public schools in Georgia are doing a lot better than we give them credit for."

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About the Author

Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey
Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.