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Measures To Bolster Teaching Ranks Move to the Fast Track After Hearing

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Washington--A Senate panel last week held the first of a planned series of hearings on proposals designed to improve teacher training and recruitment.

Comments by key legislators at the hearing and in a recent interview suggest that the legislation has a good chance of winning Congressional approval.

The legislation--introduced in the form of two separate bills--would authorize as much as $600 million a year in federal spending. The measures call for a variety of programs to improve training for new and existing teachers, recruit more minority teachers and teachers of mathematics and science, and revive the idea of a "teacher corps," whose members would receive scholarships and loan forgiveness in exchange for teaching. (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1989.)

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee and the primary sponsor of one of the bills, promised last week to put the proposals on a fast track. Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island and sponsor of the other bill, said in a statement that the proposals would be "a primary focus" of the panel's education subcommittee, which he chairs.

The Bush Administration has not yet taken an official position, but Education Department officials say it is likely to oppose at least parts of the plan.

Republican Support

But three committee Republicans joined last week in praising the legislation, arguing that the federal government has an appropriate role to play in stemming the teacher shortage predicted by many experts in the field.

"I'm not sure this is the total answer, but it's a statement of concern and a willingness to work with the state and local governments," said Senator Thad Cochran, Republican of Mississippi.

Representative Augustus F. Hawkins, Democrat of California and chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said in a recent interview that he planned to back teacher legislation in the House, and predicted it would win wide support.

"I'm very much concerned about the teacher shortage," he said. "Senator Kennedy spoke to me about the teacher bill, and I think we have a basis on which to work."

Mr. Hawkins said he was particularly interested in the idea of creating national "teacher academies."

At last week's hearing, an education professor and two university deans praised the Senate proposals, which have received the backing of virtually every major national education organization.

The witnesses emphasized the need to recruit more mathematics and science teachers. They also called for stepped-up efforts to train all teachers to cope both with the educational expectations of a technologically advanced society and with the increasingly multicultural classroom.

"New teachers need a new kind of teacher education," said Beverly Chafee Glenn, dean of Howard University's school of education. "We can no longer train teachers solely to interact with students from middle-class families."

Also testifying were former Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger; Maurice Sendak, the children's writer and illustrator; and Brian Dennehy, the actor. The three recalled teachers who had a powerful impact on their lives.

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