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WHITE HOUSE BEGINS PUSH FOR RECRUITING AND KEEPING HIGHLY QUALIFIED TEACHERS

The No Child Left Behind Act has generated a hot debate among administrators, teachers and parents alike. Some of the main issues involve the definition in the law of a “highly qualified” teacher and how school districts are going to recruit these new teachers given the overall teacher shortage that many already face.

Under the new law, every new teacher hired must be highly qualified by the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year. Meeting this requirement will translate into an additional 2.2 million teachers that school districts will need to hire over the next decade. With many states already facing teacher shortages, these new requirements are going to prove tough to meet, especially in inner cities, rural areas and other high-poverty locales. In an attempt to hop aboard the “highly qualified” train before getting run over, the White House has begun a big push to recruit new teachers.

During his radio address on March 2, President Bush began a campaign to attract new teachers to our nation’s classrooms. He aimed his first proposal at recent college graduates and sought to raise interest in the teaching profession among current college students with a loan forgiveness program. The program would forgive up to $17,500 of teachers’ college loans in exchange for a five-year commitment to teaching math, science or special education in poorer neighborhoods. In an effort to keep current teachers within the profession, he proposed a $400 tax deduction that would allow them to recover some out-of-pocket expenses for school supplies.

TIME Study: Elementary School Teachers Spend Over $1 Billion on School Supplies:

 

A new study found that the President’s proposed out-of-pocket school supplies tax deduction would benefit teachers, but would not fully cover their expenses. According to the study provided to Time magazine by the research firm Quality Education Data, elementary school teachers spend over $1 billion a year of their own money on school supplies for use in their classrooms. On average, a teacher spends $521 annually, which represents 35 percent more than the amount his school provides.

Teachers in the study, who have an average salary of $42,000, say the greatest need is for materials for at-risk students. Examples cited included books for a fifth-grade student who reads at a first-grade level, and visual aids for students who are not English proficient. Of the teachers surveyed, first year teachers, who happen to make the lowest salaries, spend the most ($701) on supplies.

 

In the same week, President Bush launched his “A Quality Teacher in Every Classroom” initiative in a Minnesota high school. The event promoted his effort to encourage recruitment and training of new teachers and school professionals. In addition to the student loan forgiveness program and the tax deduction, key parts of the program include:

  • Providing state grants to recruit and train teachers and principals
  • Recruiting high-quality individuals to become teachers
  • Expanding programs to train teachers in specific subject areas
  • Implementing the Teacher Protection Act which allows teachers, principals and other school professionals to undertake reasonable actions to maintain order in the classroom without fear of litigation
New Teacher Tax Credits Proposal Would Benefit Title I Teachers

 

President Bush was not the only person who had teachers on his mind last week. On March 3, Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) introduced a bill to provide tax credits for teachers in Title I schools. The bill would provide a $2,000 non-refundable tax credit for teachers, assistant teachers, principals and assistant principals who teach full time in a Title I school.

According to Congresswoman Wilson, the No Child Left Behind Act was an important first step in education reform, but more work needs to be done:

“I think we can do even more. I think we can support our teachers and give them the professional development and the resources they need to do their jobs. Next to their parents, the most important person in a child’s education is their teacher. I’ve visited over 100 schools in the last three years. We need to attract and keep the best teachers we can to the schools that need great teachers most.”

 

The bill targets Title I schools because they are in the poorest neighborhoods and undergo the greatest difficulty keeping experienced teachers. If the bill is passed, the tax credits would be available to teachers in the 44,877 Title I schools in the country beginning in the 2003 tax year.

 

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