Georgia teacher groups may pay for opposition to governor’s Opportunity School District

Georgia teachers and their professional organizations may pay a price for their opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal’s Opportunity School District, which is faltering in a new AJC poll released today.

The Governor's Office has filed an Open Records request for information about how local school districts utilize payroll deductions for educators' membership dues in the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Association of Educators. The request appears to be a fact-gathering mission for legislation that could prevent educators from using payroll deductions to join professional organizations.

"We see this as punishment for the opposition of teachers to the Opportunity School District," says Craig Harper, spokesman for PAGE. "We are hearing from districts that they have gotten this Open Records request and are concerned about it and see it as indicative of this governor's penchant for state intervention in things that don't require it."

Harper said Deal seems determined to undermine the appeal and scope of teachers' groups, citing the state's newly introduced educator liability insurance. Many teachers join professional groups for the liability coverage.

Deal likely sees PAGE and GAE opposition to the Opportunity School District as a direct affront. The governor is keen on loyalty and rewards people for it -- even over competency and qualifications -- as demonstrated by his recent top-level appointments. 

After writing about education for 19 years in Georgia, I absolutely believe teachers need someone in their corner as there are few legislators championing their cause. There is no shortage of lip service under the Gold Dome, but little sincere and abiding concern for teachers or respect for what they do. PAGE and GAE serve as early warning systems about bad legislation or hidden provisions in bills damaging to educators and schools. Without their lobbying efforts, student test scores would still count for half of a teacher's annual rating. A bill approved this year reduced the weight of test results in teacher evaluations to 30 percent.

Here is the email from Chris Riley, Deal’s chief of staff, to school districts. The email was copied to Deal's executive counsel Ryan Teague as well:

From: Riley, Chris

I am emailing you to obtain the following information we are compiling from all school systems statewide. Once compiled, a full copy of the findings will be available for your review at OPB. Under the Georgia Open Records Act ? 50.18.70 et seq, the Governor's Office is requesting the following information from each local school system:

1. Records of dues collected by the school system for the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE) and Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE):

a- total dollars collected per month for Fiscal Year 2016;

b- total dollars collected per fiscal year for 2016.

2. Does the school system charge an administrative fee to collect the dues for PAGE and GAE? If so, what is the amount of the administrative fee?

As provided for by Georgia law, please provide this information electronically. If there are any fees for searching or copying these records, please inform our office. Please submit the information to the following email address:

The Georgia Open Records Act requires a response time within three business days. If you are unable to meet this requirement, please indicate accordingly. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and attention the request.


Chris Riley

Chief of Staff

Governor Nathan Deal

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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.