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Teacher Programs Realigned in FY 2011 Federal Budget Request

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In its FY 2011 budget request, the Obama administration has finally put its cards on the table with respect to its plans for the federal teacher programs.

Let's take a closer look.

The biggest news, as I've suspected for a while now, is that the administration wants to realign the $3 billion Title II teacher-quality state formula grants program. (EdSec Arne Duncan dropped some significant hints about this last time I got a chance to interview him.)

Currently, that program is extremely flexible, with dozens of different activities and very few preconditions. According to one summary document, the administration seeks to put preconditions on these grants. States would need to revamp their evaluation systems for teachers and principals before getting their cut of the formula funds, for instance. And the program would be decreased to about $2.5 billion.

"Taxpayers invest nearly $3 billion a year in a teacher quality block grant that heavily supports investments with little evidence of or impact on increasing learning," the document states. (Sounds a lot like the lede of my story on this topic.)
A $950 million "Teacher and Leader Innovation Fund" would combine both the Teacher Incentive Fund, a performance-pay program, and support for advanced credentialing programs, such as National Board certification. This appears to be the fund through which the department will support efforts to base teacher evaluation, promotion, compensation and so forth on determinations of teacher effectiveness.

Funding for a bunch of teacher preparation/alternative certification programs, including Teach for America, Transition to Teaching, and the Teacher Quality Partnerships (which support teacher residencies) would be consolidated into a $405 million "Teacher and Leader Pathways" competitive grant program.

The Troops-to-Teachers program would be transferred to the Department of Defense.

A bunch of other smaller programs and earmarks will be combined into three new "Effective Teaching and Learning" competitions focusing, respectively, on literacy, STEM education, and foreign language/history/civics. According to the budget, all three programs would contain a focus on effectively using technology, to make up for the elimination of the education technology professional-development grant program. Those programs would total about $1 billion in all.

Some caveats to assuage those of you who aren't happy about this turn of events. First, remember that this budget makes three pretty hefty assumptions: That Congress will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (NCLB) this year; that it will rewrite it as outlined in this proposal; and finally, that congressional appropriators will do what the administration wants. There are good reasons to be skeptical about all three of those assumptions.

I'll have reaction from the teacher groups and observers as it comes in.

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