Senators Unveil Bills To Bolster Teaching Ranks

By Peter West — October 04, 1989 6 min read

Washington--Calling teaching a “profession in crisis,” Senate Democratic leaders last week put forward a major legislative package of financial incentives and other programs aimed at encouraging young people to join the ranks of the nation’s teachers.

The proposal was introduced in the form of two bills, sponsored by Senators Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee, and Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, chairman of the panel’s education subcommittee.

The measures, which call for a total of $700 million in new federal spending in their first year, would use financial-assistance and loan-forgiveness programs to increase the number of college graduates, particularly members of minority groups, who enter the profession.

Both bills also seek to reduce the shortage of qualified teachers in poor and urban school districts. In addition, Senator Kennedy’s plan would attempt to encourage veteran teachers to stay in the field.

The two bills are designed to be complementary, rather than competing, but they cover some common points. In the areas in which they overlap, Senator Kennedy’s bill would provide more generous funding levels than does Senator Pell’s.

The bills also would fund state-level demonstration grants in school restructuring and support state efforts to train teachers in such areas of critical shortage as mathematics and science, early-childhood and bilingual education, and the education of the handicapped.

The package, unveiled at a Capitol Hill news conference attended by the leaders of the national teachers’ unions and other prominent educators, was announced the day before the opening of the national education summit convened by President Bush.

“The measure we are proposing is only a beginning,” Senator Kennedy said. “We have set an ambitious national goal to enhance the quality of teaching in America and it is time to start meeting it.”

No hearings on the two measures had been scheduled as of last week.

Senator Kennedy’s “excellence in teaching act” would re-establish the Teacher Corps, which was created under President Johnson but folded into a block-grant program during the Reagan Administration.

Under the legislation, those accepted into the Teacher Corps would receive a scholarship of $8,000 annually for two years of graduate or undergraduate education in exchange for a commitment to teaching.

Candidates could work for five years in a geographic area experiencing a teacher shortage, teach for four years in an inner-city school, or join a special program for math and science teachers for four years.

The bill would also require those enrolled in the program to act as mentor-teachers during their fifth year of teaching.

The bill authorizes $99.6 million for the program in fiscal 1990. Local school districts also could apply for funds to establish or expand their own programs.

The bill also would establish “professional-development academies” administered by school districts in partnership with postsecondary institutions.

The academies would be responsible for such activities as the induction and training of new teachers, including those enrolled in the Teacher Corps; recruitment of minority teachers; establishing linkages and exchange programs with business and industry; and providing training for school-based management.

The bill authorizes $43 million in fiscal 1990 to be distributed to state education agencies or to school districts in nonparticipating states.

Senator Kennedy’s bill also authorizes about $35 million a year to recruit minority students into the teaching profession.

Most of the money would be available to school districts, postsecondary institutions, and state higher-education authorities for programs to encourage high-school students to enter teaching, strengthen teacher-education programs at institutions with high minority enrollments, and aid minorities in shifting from other professions into teaching.

The bill also earmarks $9 million of the total to create a Summer Institute for Future Teachers under the Trio programs, which help poor and minority students attend college.

In addition, the bill would amend the Magnet Schools Act to allow magnet schools to be formed around the theme of careers in teaching.

Other parts of Senator Kennedy’s proposal focus on increasing the numbers of teachers trained to work in the areas of mathematics and science education, bilingual education, and education of the handicapped.

The measure would provide $36.5 million to be distributed by the National Science Foundation to states, school districts, and postsecondary institutions to fund improvements in math and science instruction.

The bill also earmarks $34.5 million for bilingual-education programs, $17.2 million for early-childhood education, and $7.5 million for education of the handicapped.

Another $5 million would be earmarked for school districts to experiment with school-based management programs.

The measure also would establish a Senior Teacher Corps, composed of educators with a minimum of eight years of state-certified teaching.

Senior teachers could take a half-year paid sabbatical to develop professional skills or learn new teaching techniques. In exchange, they would have to promise to stay in teaching for another five years, or to teach for four years in an inner-city school.

The bill authorizes $12.1 million for the program in fiscal 1990.

Senator Pell described his proposed “national teacher act of 1989" as a “modest, targeted approach to enhancing the teaching profession.” The bill would authorize spending of at least $400 million a year in its initial stages.

Like Senator Kennedy’s proposal, the Pell bill also focuses on recruiting minorities into teaching. It earmarks $40 million a year beginning in fiscal 1991 for competitive-grant programs geared to attracting minority professionals from other fields into teaching.

In addition, Mr. Pell’s bill would establish loan-forgiveness programs to repay Stafford loans obtained by student teachers in their junior and senior years.

Students could have their loans forgiven over a five-year period by teaching in schools with high per8centages of Chapter 1 students.

The amounts forgiven would range from 15 percent during the first two years of teaching to 30 percent in the fifth year.

No estimates of the total cost of the forgiveness programs were available last week, according to Senate aides.

The bill also sets aside $25 million annually, beginning in fiscal 1991, to encourage schools and universities to develop model teacher-preparation programs.

Another major component of the Pell bill would be the establishment of national and Congressional-district teacher academies to provide inservice training and summer institutes for teachers and administrators. The academies would cover math, English, reading and language arts, civics and government, basic-skills and literacy instruction, the arts, history and geography, economics, life sciences, physical sciences, and foreign languages.

The national academies would be funded through a series of competitive grants awarded to postsecondary institutions and private, nonprofit educational organizations.

The bill authorizes $75 million annually for the programs.

The Congressional-district academies would be established through grants from state education agencies to school systems and nonprofit educational organizations.

The bill would provide up to $250 million a year for the program.

The Pell bill also would set aside $10 million annually for matching grants designed to encourage local school systems to study the effect of class size on instruction.

A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 1989 edition of Education Week as Senators Unveil Bills To Bolster Teaching Ranks