Teaching Panel's Backers Seek $25 Million in Aid
Washington--Advocates of the proposed national teacher-certification board last week asked members of Congress to support their bid for federal funds to begin the board's initial research and development.
But in a hearing otherwise filled with praise for the certification initiative, the advocates sparred with Assistant Secretary of Education Chester E. Finn Jr. over the implications--and the size--of the private nonprofit group's request for federal support.
The national board's backers, he suggested, "want to have their cake and eat it, too," by seeking $25 million in federal aid but independence from federal control.
"We do not want to control the national board," Mr. Finn said. "We want it to succeed, but if it receives federal dollars, we want it to follow the customary procedures."
Three-Year Effort Seen
Among those testifying in favor of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards before the Senate Subcommittee on Education, Arts, and Humanities were former Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. of North Carolina, chairman of the certification board, and Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, who serves as a board director.
Supporters of the board, created last May to develop a voluntary professional certification program for teachers, asked the subcommittee to introduce legislation granting the board $25 million over three to five years. That sum, they said, is approximately half the amount needede development of the new certification board.
The three subcommittee members at the hearing, including Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, who acted as chairman, indicated support of the proposal. The panel's chairman, Senator Claiborne Pell, Democrat of Rhode Island, did not attend.
Mr. Hunt described the certification board as a "catalytic agent" that would bolster professional standards for teaching. National certification would force colleges, he said, to improve their undergraduate education majors, pressure schools to provide a professional environment, attract the top students to the profession, and encourage the public to increase teacher salaries.
The board was created on the recommendation of the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy's 1986 report A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century.
Federal funds are necessary, Mr. Kean said, to conduct research on how the board would go about measuring the professional skills of teachers. Federal support also would encourage matching funding from the private sector, he said.
"We could do it without the feder8al goverment," Mr. Kean said. "But it would take 10 years, and I don't think the nation can wait that long."
After three to five years of research and development, the certification board would be self-sustaining through professional fees, Mr. Hunt and Mr. Kean said.
The board would submit reports to the Congress every year, have its accounts audited, and have its spending of federal funds audited by the General Accounting Office, they said.
The board also would ensure that research contracts were awarded on a competitive basis and that researchers were subject to merit review.
But it is "essential," Mr. Hunt said, that the board not be controlled by the federal government or be viewed as a federal program.
National teacher certification would "help schools attract better qualified applicants to teaching by raising the visibility and rewards of the profession," Senator Dodd said.
He suggested that he would support legislation granting the board $25 million over three years to be used only for research and development. The Education Department should be involved in "some advisory capacity," he added, but should not have "veto power" over the board.
But Mr. Finn contended that the board should not be given federal funds for research without being subjected to the Education Department's "peer review" process.
"We've had a friendly, arms-length relationship with the board, and we'd like it to continue that way, but the board is changing that relationship" by seeking federalel15lfunds, Mr. Finn said.
He complained that the amount the board is seeking exceeds the department's annual research budget. Each of the department's 19 research centers receives about $1 million a year, he said.
"These are enormous sums of money in education research," Mr. Finn said.
He noted that the board would be "welcome" to seek existing research funds from the department. However, Mr. Finn said, the board has not developed a "detailed research agenda" outlining specifically the areas in which it would conduct research.
Such plans are "customary procedure" in the awarding of federal research grants, he added.
The assistant secretary said the department "shares the goals" of the board, but he suggested it was not moving to implement its certification plan quickly enough.
"I wish the board would move faster," Mr. Finn said. "I don't know how much research is necessary before it gets to its work. We already know much about good teaching."
Any education research that receives federal funding should be subject to the same process that department-funded research is subjected to, Mr. Finn contended. He described four stages in that process:
Submission of a research plan.
Peer review by a panel of experts selected by the department.
Submission of periodic project reports for expert review.
Accountability for expenditure of funds.
Developed a Consensus
Certification-board officials bris4tled at Mr. Finn's suggestion that they had not moved fast enough, and assured the subcommittee that their activities would be accountable to the Congress.
Senator Dodd also took issue with Mr. Finn, saying he was impressed by the "speed" with which the board had acted.
"The national board has been able to develop a consensus in a profession that has been divided for many years," he said.
The Senator said he was not willing to enter into a protracted political battle over legislation to help fund the board. He said he would decide in a few weeks on what action to take on the proposal.
Sen. Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina, said that he was ''concerned that perhaps the research would more aptly be carried out" by the Education Department, but that he would keep an open mind on the legislation. Senator Robert T. Stafford, Democrat of Vermont, also indicated support of the proposal.
Others who testified at the hearing were: Bradley Blanchette, a Colchester, Vt., teacher; Alan K. Campbell, executive vice president of ara Services in Philadelphia; Mary Hatwood Futrell, president of the National Education Association; Barbara Hatton, former dean of the School of Education at Tuskegee Institute and now an official with the Ford Foundation; Susan Adler Kaplan, a Providence, R.I., teacher; James A. Kelly, president of the certification board; Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers; and James A. Wilsford, superintendent of schools in Orangeburg, S.C.
Gov. Robert D. Orr of Indiana also intended to speak at the hearing but missed his airplane flight.
Vol. 07, Issue 22