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Embattled $2 Billion for Teacher PD Poised to Survive in Federal Budget

Title II, the $2 billion grant program for teacher development, will likely remain intact for fiscal year 2018, despite President Donald Trump's proposal to eliminate the program entirely.

Congressional leaders unveiled a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill last night, and the House has already passed the package. The Senate must act by midnight on Friday to avoid a government shutdown. Trump is expected to sign the bill. 

See also: Federal Spending Bill Would Boost Education Aid, Reject Trump Choice Push

Title II money is used for teacher professional development and class-size reduction. Trump's budget proposal eliminated the grant program, saying that the money is "spread too thinly to have a meaningful impact on student outcomes. In addition, there is limited evidence that teacher professional development ... has led to increases in student achievement." This is not a new argument—the Obama administration also questioned the effectiveness of the program and decreased its budget from nearly $3 billion to about $2.3 billion. 

But the proposal to eliminate Title II sparked backlash among the education community. Title II advocates said state and district leaders are working to improve professional development, in large part due to the Every Student Student Succeeds Act, which calls for PD programs to be evidence-based. 

Stephanie Hirsh, the executive director of Learning Forward, a membership organization that works to improve professional learning in schools, said in a statement that the funds "are essential to educators at every level in schools, providing critical resources to help them improve teaching and learning for students."

"We've heard from hundreds of educators about the importance of Title II-A at the local level," she added. "We know that policymakers heard educators' voices as they made their budgeting decisions."

In a statement, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten applauded Congress' bill as well.

This bill, she said, "includes funding for key programs that help poor kids, reduce classroom sizes, improve special education and community school programs, and provide educators with professional development to refine their craft. This means our schools are better resourced, our teachers have access to better training, and our kids are learning and thriving." 

See also: Here's How States Are Using Title II Funds to Strengthen the Teaching Profession

The budget bill also gave a $34 million funding boost to the Corporation for National and Community Service, which pays for programs run by AmeriCorps. Trump's budget proposal had put the program on the chopping block

Most Teach for America members are also part of AmeriCorps—and because of that partnership, TFA members can defer their federal student loans during their two years of service. They also can forgo interest on the loans during that time period and receive an annual $5,800 award that they can use to pay off student loans, earn a master's degree, or offset the cost of teacher certification. 

Smaller teacher-prep programs also rely on AmeriCorps funding, including Urban Teachers, a nonprofit that trains teachers in the Baltimore, District of Columbia, and Dallas areas. 

However, Trump's proposed budget for fiscal 2019 also eliminates both the Title II program and the Corporation for National and Community Service. So legislators will take up these issues again soon. 

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