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October 31, 2006

Schumer proposes federal program to recruit, retain top math and science teachers

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) has proposed a new federal program to recruit and retain top math and science teachers through improved training and increased pay.

The program would complement a similar initiative proposed last year by The Business Council. That initiative, which the Council dubbed "Teach for the Future," received preliminary funding from the state Legislature in the 2006 state budget, and 500 new scholarships for math and science majors who commit to become teachers are expected to be awarded in 2007.

New York will always need young people educated in math and science, and we will also need bright young mathematicians and scientists to teach them in school," said Kenneth Adams, president and CEO of The Business Council. "Senator Schumer's proposal to invest in educating and training these teachers of the future is a solid and creative idea that should get strong support in Washington."

The Schumer proposal, the Mathematics and Science Teaching Corps (MSTC) Act of 2006, would create a federal fellowship program to recruit, train, and retain outstanding math and science teachers, according to a release from Senator Schumer.

During their years in the program, all program participants would get federal stipends to supplement their regular salaries. New teachers’ stipends will begin at $11,000 and scale up to $20,000 during their four-year teaching period; working teachers’ stipends will be set at $20,000 per year. Corps members teaching in hard-to-staff schools may receive further enhanced stipends.

Both aspiring and working teachers who apply to the program would have to pass a standardized test of their knowledge of the subject area. That test would be approved by the National Academy of Sciences. Candidates would also be required to demonstrate strong verbal skills and other attributes that are linked to effective teaching.

In exchange for a four-year teaching commitment, MSTC would provide teaching certification in a one-year master’s program for individuals who are highly skilled in math and science. Retention strategies would include district-level mentoring, professional development, and federal financial incentives. Current teachers would commit to teaching for five years and serve as leaders in their school, mentor new teachers and participate in professional development. They would also receive federal financial incentives to keep them from leaving the classroom for the private sector.

“Honing our students’ math and science skills is the key to maximizing the impact that this regional renaissance will have on native Upstaters, as well as to New York and America’s continued prosperity in our global economy," Schumer said.

"Unfortunately, math and science teachers who have expertise in their subject area are offered lucrative positions in the private sector, and are forced to make personal sacrifices in order to be in the classroom. This legislation will help make sure we stay at the cutting edge of technology and remain the global leader in math and science.”

Schumer noted that high-tech jobs grew by 50 percent between 1990 and 2002, according to the National Science Foundation, and that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that U.S. demand for science and engineering workers will grow at least three times as fast as the overall economy in the next 10 years.

“For the first time in generations, a young person in the Upstate New York doesn’t have to look elsewhere to start a career. There will be opportunities right here in the region. But the question is: Will they have the skill sets necessary to take full advantage of this new economy? Right now our children are lagging behind, and we must address this at once,” Schumer said.

Schumer's bill (S. 2248 and H.R. 4705) is being sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ).