A New Bill For Teachers
Kennedy and Pell seek $700 million for programs
In an effort to head off looming teacher shortages, Senate Democratic leaders have introduced sweeping legislation designed to lure more college graduates—especially minorities—into the classroom.
Separate bills introduced by Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island would use financial incentive to increase the number of minority teachers and reduce the shortage of qualified teachers in poor and urban school districts. The bill would also provide aid and incentives to experienced teachers and funds for research on class size and school restructuring. A total of 700 million in federal spending would be authorized by the two bills in the first year.
"The measure we are proposing is only a beginning,'' said Kennedy, chairman of the Labor and Human Resources Committee. "We have set an ambitious national goal to enhance the quality of teaching in America, and it is time to start meeting it.''
Leaders of the two national teachers' unions were present when the measures were unveiled on Capitol Hill. National Education Association President Keith Geiger urged quick action on the legislation. He said the bills take a comprehensive approach "to improving the daily lives of teachers, improving the attractiveness of teaching as a viable career choice, and rectifying the serious shortage of teachers in key disciplines.''
"We are facing a national crisis,'' said Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, "and if the Federal government, particularly our elected officials, are seriously committed to strengthening our education system, they should support these bills.''
Kennedy's "excellence in teaching act'' would re-establish the Teacher Corps. Candidates accepted into the new corps would receive a scholarship of $8,000 annually for two years of graduate or undergraduate study. In exchange, they would make a commitment to teach in a specific location or discipline--five years in a geographic area experiencing a teacher shortage, four years in an inner-city school, or four years in a special program for math and science.
The legislation would also establish a Senior Teacher Corps for educators with at least eight years of statecertified teaching. Senior teachers who agreed to stay in teaching for another five years or to teach for four years at an inner-city school could receive a half-year paid sabbatical to hone their professional skills.
In addition, the Kennedy bill targets the recruitment of minorities by allocating money to help school districts and colleges develop programs to encourage high school students to enter teaching; to strengthen teacher-education programs at institutions with high minority enrollments; and to aid minorities who want to change professions and enter teaching.
Pell, chairman of the Labor and Human Resource Committee's education subcommittee, described his proposed "national teacher act of 1989'' as a "modest, targeted approach to enhancing the teaching profession.'' His measure is designed to complement Kennedy's, but in the areas where they overlap, Pell's bill would provide more funding.
The measure would establish loanforgiveness programs to repay loans obtained by student teachers in their junior and senior years. Students who taught in schools with high percentages of Chapter 1 students could have their loans forgiven over a five-year period.
The bills would also establish magnet schools for teaching; provide grants to train teachers of bilingual, early childhood, and special education; support studies on the effect of class size on instruction; and set up inservice academies for teachers and administrators.
Vol. 01, Issue 03, Page 20