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Memorandum to the House of Representatives and the Senate on the FY09 education appropriations bill

April 16, 2008

John Wright, a classroom teacher for more than 20 years and president of the Arizona Education Association, was to testify at a hearing today titled, “Fiscal Year 2009 Education Appropriations: Improving Teacher Quality.” Although the hearing was canceled, we have submitted his testimony for the record. A brief summary follows.

Research shows that teacher quality is the single most important factor in student success. What constitutes quality? According to the nonpartisan National Commission on Teaching Quality, three factors are critical:

  • Subject matter expertise.
  • Knowledge and understanding of how children learn and develop.
  • A wide range of teaching strategies. 

These skills cannot be measured effectively by either snapshot in time – a single classroom observation or standardized test of teacher knowledge – or student test scores. To ensure a quality teacher for every child, the federal government and the states must embrace a systemic approach. To help show the way, NEA has researched and developed strategies to:

  • Improve teacher working conditions.
  • Close achievement gaps among students.
  • Provide quality teacher preparation.
  • Support accomplished teachers.
  • Attract talented teachers to high-needs schools.
  • Ensure high licensing standards for teachers.
  • Diversify the teacher workforce.
  • Provide professional learning and development for teachers.
  • Compensate every teacher at a professional level – an annual salary of at least $40,000.  

The subject of this hearing is how the fiscal year 2009 education appropriations bill can help ensure a highly qualified teacher in every classroom. We urge the Committee to:   

  • Reject proposals to fund an adjunct teacher corps and expand the Teacher Incentive Fund, as neither has been proven an effective approach to improving teacher quality.
  • Restore Teacher Quality State Grants to the $3.175 billion originally authorized. 
  • Reject proposed cuts in school leadership and advanced credentialing programs, and Higher Education Act teacher quality enhancement grants. 
  • Increase funding for Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), by at least $1 billion.
  • Provide funding for urgent school repairs.
  • Support teachers by providing funds to reduce class size.

Diane Shust, Director of Government Relations

Randall Moody, Manager of Federal Advocacy