U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said today that the 2007 funding bill passed on January 31 by the U.S. House of Representatives, “kills a federal program rewarding outstanding teachers and principals and threatens a crucial effort to improve Memphis schools.” As the Senate began debate on the Joint Funding Resolution for government programs through the end of Fiscal Year 2007, the former U.S. Education Secretary proposed an amendment to the bill that would restore $100 million to the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF).
In 2006, the U.S. Department of Education awarded $42 million from the fund to 16 grantees from across the country, including Memphis, and more awards are expected. In Memphis, the TIF awarded $3.1 million to provide support for teachers and principals in 17 Memphis schools and plans to provide another $12 million to Memphis over the next four years. The money is being used to train and compensate principals and teachers who help low income children achieve better results.
Alexander said the cut proposed by the Democratic House – from $100 million to $200,000 this year – would kill the program. He said that President Bush’s proposed 2008 budget would do the opposite, increasing the program’s funding to $200 million next year.
“This is a disheartening education agenda for the new Democratic majority,” Alexander said. “The loudest criticism I hear of the No Child Left Behind law is that it is not properly funded. Now this Democratic budget kills one of the most important parts of that funding. The surest route to helping low income children is to put them in a classroom with the best teacher and in a school with the best principal. That’s how 16 grantees from Philadelphia to Denver are using these funds.
“One of the most difficult challenges in improving our schools has been finding fair ways to train and reward principals and teachers who help low income students achieve more,” Alexander said. “Memphis and other cities who receive grants under the Teacher Incentive Fund have the most promising ideas in place, in many cases working with the support of the local teachers union.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings wrote Alexander today to thank him for filing the amendment to restore funding for the Teacher Incentive Fund and noted that, “. . . a lack of funding for TIF in Fiscal Year 2007 would jeopardize our ability to make timely continuation funding available for current grant recipients.” A copy of her letter accompanies this release.