WASHINGTON — The Senate is considering an amendment that would give states enough money to hire 58,000 teachers next year and help schools reduce class sizes.
The amendment, introduced by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., would give states $7.1 billion over five years, with $2.4 billion coming in 2002.
Republicans, who favor giving states more freedom over how they spend federal funds, on Tuesday said the measure would force states to hire more teachers without necessarily training them adequately.
“I think that’s misguided,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H.
Murray’s amendment is one of several being debated as the Senate considers reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which provides most of the federal money for K-12 education.
The House Education Committee this week is considering its own version of the legislation, and expects to send it to the full House by the end of this week.
The Senate went on record Tuesday in favor of more money for teacher training, while rejecting a Republican amendment that linked student test scores to new federal money for poor children.
Under an amendment introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., states would receive an extra $3 billion in federal funds in 2002 and a total of $3 billion more over the following six years to train teachers and ensure that they are competent in the subjects they teach.
Under Kennedy’s plan, schools that serve large numbers of poor children would be required to make all their teachers “highly qualified” within four years.
States that fail to get training and certification for teachers in these schools would risk losing some federal Title I funds, which are targeted at poor children.
Kennedy’s amendment, which merely reflects the “sense of the Senate” and is not binding, was approved on a 69-31 vote, with 19 Republicans joining the 50 Senate Democrats who have sought more education funding.
Senators defeated an amendment, offered by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, that would have mandated that schools increase the number of students making academic progress on annual tests before they receive proposed increases in federal money.
The vote against the amendment was 73-27.
Also Tuesday, Democrats said GOP budget writers have ignored lawmakers’ bids for more education funding, and said the current version of the 2002 federal budget contains virtually no new money for schools.
Referring to two pages lost by lawmakers Friday, National Education Association President Bob Chase said, “We can only hope that the missing two pages of the budget include critical investments in improving teacher quality, reducing class sizes, modernizing and ensuring safe schools and turning around low-performing schools.”
Bush and congressional Republicans have proposed smaller increases in federal education spending. In general, the House and Senate education bills are similar, giving school districts greater flexibility in their use of federal money in exchange for improved student performance on tests.
On the Net:
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: http://labor.senate.gov
House Committee on Education and the Workforce: http://edworkforce.house.gov