Editorial: Teacher pay raises should be merit-based

State lawmakers may consider a pay raise for teachers in the next legislative session that begins in January. That was one of the messages from state Rep. Jason Ridley, R-Chatsworth, during a recent appearance before the League of Women Voters of the Dalton Area.

Ridley noted that Gov. Brian Kemp had promised teachers a $5,000 pay raise, and the legislature approved a $3,000 raise this year.

Ridley said lawmakers may look at providing the remaining $2,000 promised by Kemp, but he said they may not provide the full amount next year and the final part may not come until 2021.

We support pay raises for teachers, because, as Dalton Public Schools Superintendent Tim Scott has pointed out in this newspaper, "Research shows that an effective teacher is the most important factor contributing to student achievement in the classroom."

However, we believe that teacher pay raises should be merit-based, not across the board. Why should an exceptional teacher receive the same pay raise as an underperforming teacher? Why should an underperforming teacher receive a pay raise at all?

And why is this the governor's business, or that of the state legislators? Republicans (Kemp is one) are known for touting their belief in small government and local control. Here, however, the governor and the state legislators are making decisions about teacher pay raises that under the GOP political philosophy, and also common sense, should be left to local school boards and local education officials, who know the teachers best and can best evaluate their effectiveness.

We are strong supporters of teachers and celebrate all of the great work they do. We believe they should receive appropriate compensation. But that compensation should be based on how they perform, not just the fact that they happen to be a teacher.

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