Teacher Ed. Grants Would Be Slashed Under Pending Bills

From: Education Week
Teacher education programs have for years drawn criticism from policymakers and even some prominent voices in the field. Now, Congress is poised to slash spending on the main federal program aiding colleges of teacher education, despite efforts by some lawmakers to refocus the program to bolster partnerships between such colleges and school districts. Under a fiscal 2008 spending bill the House of Representatives approved in July, support for the Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants program would fall by one-third, from $60 million in just-ended fiscal 2007 to $40 million. The Senate Appropriations Committee, which in June passed its spending bill that includes the U.S. Department of Education, would cut funding for the program to just $28.5 million-a drop of more than 50 percent. Still, the spending plans in both houses would stop short of eliminating the program, even though President Bush proposed doing just that in his budget request for fiscal 2008, which began Oct. 1. Any such cuts would be misguided, Linda Darling-Hammond, an education professor at Stanford University and a champion of teacher professionalism, said last week. She would like, instead, to see federal spending on teacher education boosted substantially. “Even if you don’t like what [education schools] are doing, you can’t get around them,” she said, noting that the institutions produce the vast majority of U.S. teachers. “If you think they’re broken, then you need to fix them. . [Policymakers] are not going to change that system by ignoring” the colleges. Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants are authorized under the Higher Education Act, which has been awaiting renewal since 2003. The program includes three funding streams: one that helps districts and colleges collaborate on teacher training, another to allocate one-time grants to help states improve teacher education, and a third for teacher recruitment. An HEA-reauthorization bill approved by the Senate in July would eliminate the state and recruitment grants to focus resources on a single partnership program, aimed primarily at helping financially needy districts and teacher colleges create “residency” and induction programs and other enhanced field experiences for new educators. The bill’s focus on collaboration with districts holds promise for improving high-poverty schools, but the proposed spending cuts may mean there’s not enough money to support such efforts, said Jane E. West, the vice president for government relations for the Washington-based American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. “It’s completely insufficient,” Ms. West said of the House and Senate funding proposals. She said the types of programs outlined in the Senate’s higher education reauthorization bill would be especially costly to support.

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