How to Lure Teachers?

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Bush would recruit more Army veterans like Arthur Moore, above, to teach

On this one point George W. Bush and Al Gore would agree: our schools need more Marilyn Whirrys. For 35 years, Whirry has inspired high school students to think deeply about great literature and to use its devices in their writing. She is the kind of teacher that students come back to visit decades later in her classroom in Manhattan Beach, Calif. Last May a national educators' group named her its Teacher of the Year. And with the nation's public schools planning to hire 2.5 million new teachers over the next decade, Whirry is excited that each presidential candidate is pushing ways to recruit, train and reward better teachers. "They're both talking about teacher quality," she says. "We have a real opportunity right now."

Bush's plan combines most existing federal funds for professional development and class-size reduction into a flexible new fund for teacher training and recruitment, and he adds $400 million a year in new money. Bush would allow states to spend the funds as they see fit — so long as they establish teacher-accountability systems. This is similar to what Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s. But then, says Emily Feistritzer, president of the Center for Education Information, "the money disappeared." Under Bush's plan, she says, "I worry that the money won't go where it's intended to once it reaches the states."

Bush would expand funding from $2.4 million to $30 million for the Troops to Teachers program, which places veterans who want to teach in public schools. The program makes use of people like Arthur Moore, who retired in 1994 after 21 years in the Army and knew he wanted to teach. "There are a lot of people who would make excellent teachers but are discouraged by the bureaucracy of the certification process," says Moore, 45, who began teaching fourth grade in Baltimore and now tests students for special education. "Troops to Teachers is an excellent way to tap their potential by lowering the barriers." Bush would also expand loan forgiveness for math and science majors who teach in needy schools.

Gore's plan, endorsed by the teachers' unions, would spend $8 billion over 10 years to help recruit 1 million new teachers, with provisions for college aid, loan forgiveness and signing bonuses. Gore would spend an additional $8 billion to provide raises of as much as $5,000 each to teachers in poor districts that have adopted aggressive plans to improve teacher quality, plus as much as $10,000 each to teachers certified by a national board. Gore would also require states to ensure that all new teachers pass rigorous assessments. Says Feistritzer: "Gore's proposal might be a little excessive in the number of teachers he wants to recruit, but his teacher testing is exactly what we need."