SENATE approves $6 billion for teacher training

Tuesday, May 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Senate voted Tuesday to improve teacher training while rejecting a plan that linked student test scores to federal money.

States would receive an extra $3 billion in federal funds in 2002 and $3 billion more over the following six years to be used to train teachers and ensure that they are competent in the subject they teach. The plan, by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would require teachers in schools that predominantly serve poor students to be licensed by their state and deemed ``highly qualified.''

Authorization of the additional money was approved on a 69-31 vote with 19 Republicans joining the 50 Senate Democrats who have sought more education funding.

Schools that serve large numbers of poor children would be required to make all their teachers ``highly qualified'' within four years. States that fail to get training and certification for teachers in these schools would risk losing some federal Title I funds, which are targeted at poor children.

Senators defeated an amendment, offered by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, that would have mandated that schools increase the number of students making academic progress on annual tests before they receive proposed increases in federal money. The vote against the amendment was 73-27.

The Senate was also debating an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would give states money to hire thousands of new teachers.

President Bush's education package is moving through both the House and Senate this week. The House Education committee is to continue work on its version of the bill Wednesday.

Annual testing in reading and math, the cornerstone of Bush's plan, cleared its first serious hurdle last week, when the House committee rejected a bid to kill the tests for third- through eighth-graders.

In the Senate, members of both parties went on record for more money _ roughly $2.5 billion more a year for 10 years _ for Title I programs and for children with disabilities.

Kennedy said Tuesday the votes show that Democrats' push for more money is taking hold in the Senate.

``We're going to get the funding on this,'' he said. ``We would prefer to have the president's blessing on this, but we're going to get the funding.''

Bush and congressional Republicans have proposed smaller increases in federal education spending. Otherwise, the House and Senate bills are similar, both giving school districts greater flexibility in their use of federal money in exchange for improved student performance on tests.

Under both versions, students in schools that fail to improve scores significantly would be able to use federal money for private tutoring or transportation to another public school.