Budget Bill Touches on 'Highly Qualified' Issue
School districts have some funding information to go on for the next six months, thanks to a bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 13 and is expected to gain approval in the Senate.
The continuing resolution on the budget also allows teachers participating in alternative-certification programs to be considered "highly qualified" through the 2013-14 school year.
The move is part of the House bill that extends funding for almost every federal agency until March 27, 2013.
Under the still-not-reauthorized No Child Left Behind Act, teachers are supposed to have a degree in the subject they're teaching, plus state certification. But it was unclear as to whether teachers currently in alternative-route programs should count.
In writing regulations for the NCLB law, the Bush administration, in essence, allowed teachers in a recognized alternative-route program to be considered highly qualified.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco, however, ruled against the regulation. So, in 2010, Congress—with NCLB re-authorization in the wings—put language into an unrelated spending bill allowing teachers in alternative-certification to be considered highly qualified until the end of this school year.
In a deal worked out between the House and Senate this summer, the provision was extended for one year. The bill calls for the Education Department to report on just how many disadvantaged students, English-language learners, students in special education, and rural students, are served by teachers considered highly qualified because they are participating in an alternative-certification programs.
"I'm pleased," said Lindsay Jones, the senior director of policy and advocacy at the Council for Exceptional Children, in Arlington, Va. which advocates for students in special education and gifted children. "This is a data point that's missing,"
For their part, alternative-certification programs are happy with the extension.
Such programs "are an effective source of teachers, and many of these educators spend their careers working to ensure all kids have access to an excellent education," said Carrie James Rankin, a spokeswoman for Teach for America, in an email.
Vol. 32, Issue 05, Page 19