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Chiefs Ponder State-Federal Program to Hike Number of Minority Teachers

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Indianapolis--The Council of Chief State School Officers is poised to adopt a recommendation that the federal government, working in partnership with the states, create a tuition-free scholarship program for minorities interested in teaching as a career.

Under consideration, according to those taking part last week in the ccsso's annual meeting here, is a proposal patterned after the kinds of programs now available to students attending the U.S. military academies or taking part in the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Minority students entering the program would be obligated to complete a specified period of service as teachers after graduation.

Although some of the plan's specifics have not yet been agreed upon, Gordon M. Ambach, the council's executive director, said its governing board would most likely vote on the idea at its January meeting.

During the meeting here, the school chiefs expressed deep concern over the fact that minorities now account for less than 12.5 percent of the teaching force. Although some states are experiencing an increase in the number of students entering teacher-training programs, they said, the number of minorities going into education is shrinking.

"If we intend to make a difference, there has to be some scholarship offer," said Harold Raynolds Jr., superintendent of education in Massachusetts. "Education is as important as the academies or rotc"

According to John T. McDonald, commissioner of education in New Hampshire and chairman of the council's teacher-preparation committee, the state and federal governments would form a "scholarship partnership" under the proposal.

A college student receiving four years' free tuition--whose cost would be shared on some basis by the two "partners"--would be required to teach in that state for an equal amount of time.

"Here is a real statement saying 'we want you in teaching and we're willing to pay for it'," Mr. Raynolds said.

Mr. McDonald added that unless the states and the federal government are willing to provide scholarship support, the recruitment of minority teachers will continue to be difficult. The proposed scholarship program could operate on a state-by-state basis, he said, with those states having difficulty recruiting minority teachers being able to offer the tuition guarantee.

Vocational Education

In other action, the council adopted recommendations on the reauthorization of the federal Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act. The law is up for renewal by the Congress next year.

In their recommendations, the school chiefs urged that lawmakers change the name of the law--to the Carl D. Perkins Vocational-Technical Education Act--to reflect technology's growing role in the job market.

The recommendations also called for an increase in program-improvement allocations, with the new money targeted to students most in need. The council did not specify an amount by which the $842-million program should be increased.

It suggested, however, that greater effort was needed to coordinate the efforts of the various federal agencies responsible for vocational education, job training, welfare reform, and other related areas.

"There has to be greater flexibility in providing those services to young adults," said Thomas McNeel, superintendent of schools in West Virginia and chairman of the council's legislative committee.

He said the organization was not calling for a merger of the various job-training programs financed by the federal government.

Reauthorization of the vocational-education program is a priority for the council, Mr. McNeel said, because vocational education is a powerful tool for reducing the nation's dropout rate.

"We can't afford for any young man or woman to be without basic skills or the skills needed to be employed," he said.

U.S. Undersecretary of Education Linus Wright, who was a featured speaker at the meeting, said he had reviewed the chiefs' recommendations and agreed with them.

The U.S. Education Department is currently developing its recommendations for the reauthorization, he said, noting that they would be similar to the chiefs'.--nm

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