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House Education and Labor Committee Focuses on the Role of ESEA Reauthorization in Supporting Teachers and Leaders

“In almost every school district across the country, the schools and students most in need of funding often get the fewest resources.”

On May 4, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held its own hearing on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education. The hearing focused on how to best support teachers and leaders in schools and featured superintendents, teacher advocates, researchers, and representatives from teacher preparation programs.

In his opening statement, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller (D-CA) discussed his Local Jobs for America Act, which would provide $23 billion to stave off state education budget cuts and support education jobs for teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, guidance counselors, and principals.

Noting that 14 percent of teachers stop teaching after their first year and almost 50 percent leave the profession within five years, Miller said the federal government must do a better job at recruiting, retaining, and rewarding excellent teachers and leaders. He also stressed the need to ensure that teacher talent is distributed equally within school districts.

“In almost every school district across the country, the schools and students most in need of funding often get the fewest resources,” Miller said. “Children in the highest poverty and high minority schools are assigned to teachers without strong backgrounds in their subject matter at twice the rate as children in wealthier schools.”

Miller blamed these disparities in resources and quality teachers for the “embarrassing and persistent achievement gap in this country,” which he said pose a “real threat” to our economic recovery and our global competitiveness—specifically when students drop out of school. “High school dropouts can have an enormous economic impact on our nation as a whole,” Miller said. “Altogether, dropouts from the Class of 2008 will cost this country nearly $319 billion wages over their lifetimes.”

To help attract and retain bright teaching talent, Miller said teachers need to be treated like professionals, with the respect, recognition, and resources needed to do their jobs. He called for rewards for teachers whose students make significant gains in the classroom, but stressed that teachers must have a seat at the table when those reforms are considered. “If we’re serious about closing the achievement gap, about ending the high school dropout crisis, about regaining our global competitiveness in the world, then we have to be serious about supporting teachers,” Miller said.

In his opening statement, Representative Mike Castle, senior Republican on the Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, noted that Republicans have championed programs, such as the Teacher Incentive Fund, to improve teacher effectiveness in the classroom and reward effective teachers. He warned against “one-size-fits-all” federal solutions to ensure effective teachers are in every classroom and suggested that Congress can learn from states and local school districts, encourage innovation around the country, and remove harmful barriers at the federal level that stand in the way of student achievement.”

Watch video from the hearing or read witness testimony.

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