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Public Statements

Statements On Introduced Bills And Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, D.C.

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By Mr. MCCAIN (for himself and Mr. BENNET):

S. 1932. A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow members of the Armed Forces who served on active duty on or after September 11, 2001, to be eligible to participate in the Troops-to-Teachers Program, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, today I am pleased to be joined by Senator MICHAEL BENNET in introducing the Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act. This legislation would allow more veterans and school districts to participate in the Troops to Teachers program. In addition to expanding the program, the proposed bill would create an advisory board that would be charged with improving awareness and participation of the program, ensuring that the program meets the needs of our schools and veterans. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will also support this important piece of legislation.

In 1994, Congress authorized the Department of Defense, DOD, to oversee a new national program, Troops to Teachers, which was designed as a Transition assistance program for retiring or separating members of the military to obtain their teaching credentials and place these teachers in schools throughout the country. The program was reauthorized by Congress in 1999. That reauthorization transferred responsibility for oversight and funding from the DOD to the Department of Education and authorized $10,000 bonuses to participants who agreed to teach in ``high-need'' schools. Troops to Teachers was later incorporated and reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Since its inception, over 11,000 teachers have been hired by school districts across the Nation, of which many are nontraditional first-time teachers.

Teaching is among the most honorable professions in our society. I believe we should encourage military veterans to enter the teaching profession and that this bipartisan bill would further enhance the Troops-to-Teachers program. Simply put, the proposed legislation would reduce the years of military service requirements from 6 to 4, extend the eligibility to all schools that receive Title I funds, and create an advisory board that would coordinate and make recommendations to Congress in regards to the program.

Current eligibility guidelines for the Troops to Teachers require that members of the military have 6 years of service and that members of the guard and reserve have 10 years of service with a commitment to serve an additional 3 years. The requirement of 6 years active duty is leaving many single enlistment contract 4 year veterans and/or Guard members out of consideration. Lowering the required years of service would expand eligibility and create a larger pool of potential teachers for this program.

Under the current Troops to Teachers program, participants who agree to teach for 3 years in a ``high need'' schools are eligible to receive a $5000 stipend to offset the cost of teacher certification. The proposed legislation would extend the eligibility for the stipend to any eligible teacher who agrees to teach 3 years in a school that is in a district receiving Title I funds. The proposed bill would retain the optional bonus of $10,000 which is available to individuals who take jobs in low-income schools. This legislation would result in a 49 percent in the number of eligible schools for the program. For my home State of Arizona, over 600 additional schools would become eligible to participate in the program.

A recent GAO Report revealed that although Troops to Teachers is a successful program, it suffers from a lack of coordination and oversight. To remedy this concern, the proposed legislation would create an advisory board that consists of a representative from the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, and representatives from state offices and veteran's service organizations to make recommendations on ways to improve and expand the program.

Our veterans make excellent candidates to impart the virtues of serving to a cause to the next generation and instill the value of learning as a means to self-improvement and much nobler ends. Their unique experiences bring a more diverse teaching environment to our children and grandchildren.

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