Bills To Bolster Teaching Ranks Win Qualified Praise
Washington--A major legislative package designed to bolster the ranks of the teaching profession goes far--but not quite far enough--to attract more members of minority groups into the field, witnesses told a Senate panel last week.
The testimony before the Labor and Human Resources Committee represented the first detailed reaction from the education community to three bills aimed at stemming shortages of teachers.
The bills--the "excellence in teaching act" (S 1675), the "national teacher act of 1989" (S 1676), and the "teacher's professional development act" (S 498)--were introduced by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the committee, and Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island and chairman of the education subcommittee. (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1989.)
Representatives Augustus F. Hawkins, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Bill Goodling, the committee's ranking Republican, are separately working on two House bills with similar aims.
The Senate bills, which call for more than $700 million in new spending, would create loan-forgiveness and scholarship programs aimed at increasing the number of college graduates, particularly from minority backgrounds, who enter the field.
S 1675, introduced by Mr. Kennedy, also would revive the Teacher Corps, a Peace Corps-style program created under President Johnson.
The bill's minority-teacher-recruitment provisions would provide $35 million a year to school districts, postsecondary institutions, and state higher-education agencies for programs to encourage more high-school students to enter teaching, strengthen teacher-education programs, and aid minorities moving into the field from other professions.
One part of Mr. Pell's major bill, S 1676, would authorize $40 million a year for competitive grant programs geared to attracting minority professionals from other fields.
Barbara Hatton, deputy director of the Ford Foundation's education and culture program, which funds several initiatives for recruiting minority teachers, praised the bills' proposals in that area.
But she also argued that such efforts need to be linked with all the programs in the bills--particularly the Teacher Corps--"to ensure the steady flow of a new pool of minority teacher-education candidates into the new teacher-preparation and placement programs."
"We don't want a stand-alone minority-teacher effort," she said.
David Rockefeller Jr., chairman of Recruiting New Teachers, a privately funded campaign to improve the image of teaching, contended that more money is needed to draw minorities into the field.
"The severity of the shortages dwarfs the money commitment provided in the legislation," he said.
The panel also heard from John I. Goodlad, president of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education and director of the Center for Educational Renewal. He said the task of recruiting minorities into teaching may take more than financial incentives.
Drawing on results from a five-year study of teacher education, Mr. Goodlad said minority students are not attracted to teacher-education programs in which they "repeat the experience of being a minority."
He said they now constitute about 8 percent of teaching students.