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Higher Education Bill Incorporates Obama Proposals to Improve Teacher Preparation, Fund Predominately Black Institutions

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Higher Education Bill Incorporates Obama Proposals to Improve Teacher Preparation, Fund Predominately Black Institutions

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today praised fellow members of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee for incorporating his proposals to establish teacher residency programs and to recognize and fund predominantly black institutions into The Higher Education Amendments that today passed the Committee. The Higher Education Access Act, which today also moved out of the committee, includes a more than $100 million increase in college aid for Illinois students in 2008-2009.

"Whether the cause is skyrocketing tuition costs or a lack of resources and leadership, higher education remains out of reach for too many students today," said Senator Obama. "This comprehensive legislation will not only make college more affordable, it will provide our prospective teachers with the preparation, skills and support they need to serve children in high-needs school districts and invest a new generation of leaders by funding predominately black institutions. America's teachers and schools deserve our long term commitment so that they can provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed and restore America's competitiveness."

Earlier this year, Obama introduced the Teaching Residency Program Act (S.1574), which would establish an innovative framework for prospective teachers to partner with mentor teachers for an academic year, receive master's level coursework and certification, and gain hands on classroom experience. He also introduced the Predominantly Black Institutions Act (S.1513) to create an official designation in higher education law and provide funding for institutions with large African American student populations that do not meet the criteria for Historically Black Colleges.

Teaching Residency Programs are not only effective for teacher preparation and support, but also to increase the number of teachers in high-need districts, since recruitment usually occurs in the districts that sponsor them. The teaching residency legislation supports successful models of teacher preparation, building on what works, and delivers on the Teacher Academy campaign pledge Obama made when he ran for the Senate in 2004. Each year, high-needs schools often lose nearly one-fifth of their teaching staffs. This constant turnover of under-prepared teachers undercuts efforts at school improvement and costs the nation over $2 billion annually. Typically, teachers leave the profession much sooner if they are inadequately prepared and lack mentoring support when they arrive. It is critical that prospective teachers observe expert practices modeled and then practice them with ongoing support.

Predominantly Black Institutions are primarily urban and rural two-year colleges that serve at least 50 percent low-income or first-generation college students. More than a quarter of a million students would benefit from grants awarded as a result of the PBI designation. Grants could be used for a variety of purposes, from acquiring laboratory equipment to supporting teacher education to establishing community outreach programs for pre-college students.

As a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Obama also worked to secure an increase of $100 million in college aid for Illinois students in 2008-2009, and a projected $850 million over the next several years. This increased student aid is mostly in the form of Pell Grants. This is paid for not by increasing the deficit, but by reductions in government subsidies to banks and other lenders. This is similar to the provisions of the HOPE Act, the first bill Senator Obama introduced in the Senate in 2005.

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