ATLANTA– Governor Sonny Perdue discussed education, economic environment and transportation this morning at the Eggs & Issues Breakfast hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce at the Georgia World Congress Center.

“During these times we continue to focus on government’s core mission,” said Governor Perdue.  “Now more than ever we must make sure that we get out of government what we put into it.”

At the breakfast, the Governor announced three proposals to match the state’s educational spending with its desired outcome.  The first proposal recognizes the important role of leadership at the school level.  Under the proposal, high school principals who demonstrate improvement in graduation rate, SAT scores and End of Course Tests compared to their school’s most recent 3-year average will be eligible for a $10,000 performance bonus. Principals could also qualify by leading a school that is in the top 5 percent of high schools in the state in these three areas.

The second proposal recognizes the role that quality teachers play in producing positive educational outcomes.  The proposal for teachers is based on the Master Teacher program and would allow exceptional teachers who are willing to serve as instructional leaders and mentors in their schools to be eligible to receive pay increases of ten to fifteen percent.

In response to a shortage of math and science teachers and increased demand in these content areas, the Governor proposed taking a business-like approach to recruiting these teachers.  The Governor’s proposal, based on recommendations by the Alliance of Education Agency Head’s Math and Science Task Force, would start new fully-certified math and science teachers at the same salary as a fifth year teacher.  Teachers in these fields with less than five years experience would also be brought up to the fifth year pay level. In an effort to encourage and reward elementary teachers who increase their competency in math and science, the Governor’s proposal will also provide a $1,000 annual bonus to elementary teachers who hold a math or science endorsement. The three proposals all call for the incentives to be available beginning in 2010-11 school year, which would be the Fiscal Year 2011 state budget.

“It has long been one of the chief fallacies of government to focus on inputs, usually on how much you’re spending, instead of outputs – on performance and achievement,” said Governor Perdue.   

The Governor also proposed school board legislation to ensure that every student has the benefit of responsible leadership at the school system level.  The legislation will standardize board ethics policies and board training, clarifies law delineating the roles and responsibilities of superintendents and board members, creates minimum qualifications for board candidates and gives the state the ability to find responsible citizens to serve on school boards when existing members fail to serve the interests of their students.

“Never again, do I intend for the state to be handcuffed by our current law and powerless to help students who are being failed by the adults in their community,” the Governor said.

The Governor also discussed two pieces of legislation to improve Georgia’s business environment.  The first piece of legislation would protect companies with a significant presence in Georgia from lawsuits if their product received approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration.  The second piece of legislation will provide relief to individuals and companies wrongly sued.  If a claim is dismissed at the earliest possible stage, the litigant bringing the claim will be responsible for the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees.  And if the attorney fails to notify the client of this provision, that attorney could pay the award.  Last, the bill will make sure that the costly discovery process will not begin until the legal merits of a complaint have been tested.

“With the help of the General Assembly, we’ll make plain that the threat of meritless litigation is not a viable business strategy in Georgia,” said Governor Perdue.

The Governor’s Eggs and Issues remarks also highlighted the need for a transportation system that delivers value.  He noted that according to historic data, the common diagnosis of spending alone has not improved the state’s transportation system.  The Governor reiterated his belief that consensus will be reached on identifying new resources for transportation, and the state must ensure it is delivering value on the funding it receives.

“There is great promise that we can deliver value if we can execute on the findings of IT3,” said Governor Perdue of the findings of Investing in Tomorrow’s Transportation Today (IT3), which he commissioned to determine the benefits of increased investment.  “But there is no sense in investing if you cannot be assured of a dividend, of a return.”

Lastly, Governor Perdue updated breakfast attendees on the Statewide Water Plan and said that the Speaker, Lieutenant Governor, and he would soon be announcing appointments to the Regional Water Councils.