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Senate Committee Seeks Tweaks to TIF, Alternative Certification

The Senate Appropriations Committee's version of the massive fiscal 2011 spending bill contains a few unusual teacher-related items tucked within its nearly 2,000 pages. Among them are changes to the high-profile Teacher Incentive Fund program and a fix meant to get around a legal ruling in California over alternative certification and the "highly qualified" teacher standard.

Colleague Alyson Klein has a great write-up of the changes to the TIF program. Someone, presumably the teachers' unions, appears to have done some heavy-duty lobbying, because this kind of language was notably absent from the final regulations for the TIF program put out by the Obama administration.

Those regs nodded toward getting input from teachers' unions, but they didn't actually specify a 60-percent-teacher-vote mechanism for adopting the plans, which is what this language seems to indicate. The unions have long said that TIF grants should be subject to bargaining or to a teacher vote.

Second, with the addition of four lines of language, the Senate is also poised to resolve that brouhaha in California over alternative certification. (See Page 1068 of the bill.)

Recall that an appeals judge sided with a group of parents and advocacy groups in a California lawsuit against the federal Education Department. The court found that the Bush administration's 2002 regulation on "highly qualified" teachers improperly broadened the No Child Left Behind statute by allowing alternative-route teachers to circumvent the definition. The statute requires HQTs to hold full certification, while the regulations permits teachers in alternative routes to be considered HQ, even without certification, if they are making progress in their programs.

Fans of high-profile alt-cert programs like Teach For America were dismayed by the ruling, while opponents, including advocates for traditional ed. school programs, cheered.

But in essence, this new Senate provision would render the whole situation moot, by formally adopting the regulatory interpretation into law.

Of course, none of this is a done deal until the bill is passed by the full Senate. (The House has already agreed to pass it if the Senate does.)

Will either of these developments get buried as things march along? Stay tuned.

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