In the latest effort to bolster STEM (science, technology, education and mathematics) education, the Obama Administration has turned its attention toward teachers. President Obama recently announced a new $1 billion effort to create a Master Teacher Corps.
“If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible,” President Obama said in a statement.
Looking to close the gap between the United States and international programs, the program is designed to reward high-performing teachers in key areas that are critical to economic growth with salary stipends.
Teachers selected to the Master Teachers Corps will be paid an additional $20,000 per year to their base salary and be required to commit to participate in the program for multiple years.
The $1 billion needed for the program, is being carved out of the $5 billon set aside for the recently announced RESPECT project.
Plans are to begin with 2,500 teachers, 50 teachers from each of the 50 different sites, and then expand to 10,000 teachers over the next four years by working with non profit organizations and other partners to identify potential candidates.
While this announcement is coming during an election year and as the president is gearing up for re-election, the Obama Administration is insisting that it is not about politics citing bipartisan support for the measure.
“This initiative has nothing to do with politics," Duncan said to The Associated Press. “It's absolutely in our country's best long-term economic interest to do a much better job in this area.”
However, while Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., shares President Obama’s goal of recruiting better teachers, he raised concerns about funding a program that may have many duplicates currently in operation.
"Republicans share the president's goal of getting better teachers in the classroom," Kline spokeswoman Alexandra Sollberger said to The Associated Press. "However, we also value transparency and efficient use of taxpayer resources."
“A 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report identified 82 existing teacher quality programs,” Sollberger continued. “Many of the programs overlap, and little effort has been made to determine whether the programs were actually effective.”
In spite of these criticisms, many are praising the initiative as a step toward not only building the economy, but building a better educational system.
“It is indisputable that STEM education is critical to our student’s success and our state’s leadership role as a global innovator,” Chris Roe, Chief Executive Officer of California STEM Learning Network said in a statement. “And the single most important factor in determining if a student will be successful is if she or he has a high quality teacher. This proposal will help California and the U.S. swiftly build a world-class STEM teaching workforce and is an instrumental investment in our economic future.”
James Dugan is a writer for 360 Education Solutions