Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praised legislation called the PROSPER Act now being considered by Congress when she appeared before the House Education Committee on Tuesday — but critics believe that it will harm public education if it becomes law.
PROSPER is the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform Act, and it was approved recently by the lawmakers who held Tuesday’s oversight hearing. It now goes to the full House for a vote, probably this week; the Senate has not yet taken it up. Along with eliminating millions of dollars in federal student aid and other actions, PROSPER would also eliminate federal funding for teacher preparation programs.
It is worth remembering that the Education Department during the Obama administration had instituted regulations under Title II of the Higher Education Act — the teacher prep funding that the GOP is now trying to eliminate — that would have required states to rate teacher preparation programs based on four measures, including the scores of high-stakes standardized tests that students being taught by graduates of these teacher prep programs have in class. To repeat: The Obama Education Department wanted teacher prep programs to be evaluated in part on the student test scores of their teacher graduates.
The Trump administration rescinded those regulations early in 2017. But now, Republicans want to eliminate teacher prep funding altogether, suggesting that their opposition was not so much to what was in the regulations but rather to the fundamental idea of providing federal funding for teacher prep.
If, as some Title II critics say, these programs are not effective, they could instead insist on improvements so teachers can be trained and improve their craft. PROSPER, incidentally, also would end federal TEACH grants to students who agree to teach math, science and other key subjects in high-poverty schools for a set time after graduation.
Here’s a piece on how PROSPER would gut teacher prep funding at the federal level if it is approved by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. It was written by Mildred García, president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
By Mildred García
Protesting low pay for educators and the underfunding of schools, recent teacher strikes in several states — Arizona, Colorado, Oklahoma, West Virginia — spotlight a critical problem: state politicians who are stripping funding from education. Unfortunately, a similar pattern is playing out at the federal level.
For decades, the federal government has provided relatively modest but nonetheless invaluable support for the preparation of future teachers. Legislation now pending in the House would gut that support. The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act — which cleared the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Dec. 13, 2017, and is now awaiting a floor vote — would eliminate billions in dollars for federal student aid. Just as disastrous, though, would be the bill’s effect in regard to educator preparation.
The PROSPER act would erase provisions of the Higher Education Act related to teacher preparation. If such legislation were enacted, it would mean the abdication of the federal government’s important role in supporting research and incentives that help improve educator preparation programs. It would also mean the elimination of modest federal aid now provided to help future teachers offset the high cost of attaining their degree.
As a representative of hundreds of state colleges and universities nationwide that take great pride in educating teachers to be teachers, I urge Congress to rethink this imprudent and irresponsible direction in policy. In an era when we need well-trained teachers more than ever before, this is not the time for Congress to walk away from the federal government’s pivotal role in supporting educator preparation.
Specifically, the PROSPER Act would end the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant program, the only federal initiative dedicated to reforming and strengthening teacher preparation in colleges and universities. The TQP helps fund research that creates evidence about what works in educator preparation. That evidence has sparked and informed demonstrable reform and innovation in teacher preparation programs.
The PROSPER Act would also eliminate federal TEACH grants, which support undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing to be teachers in high-need fields. It also abolishes loan forgiveness programs that encourage students to pursue careers in teaching. Legislation like the TEACH grants helps ensure that our nation’s schools have a robust pipeline of well-trained teachers. Such grants are particularly important for developing teachers from underrepresented populations and for high-need schools. Continuing federal financial aid is imperative to helping encourage high school and community college students to pursue careers in teaching.
AASCU institutions are the backbone of the teacher preparation system in the United States, graduating nearly half of all teachers every year. We believe that a constructive conversation about changes in policy must begin with the recognition of the considerable value that university teacher preparation programs provide for their students and for the schools and communities that teacher candidates will one day serve as classroom instructors.
We believe that continued federal support is imperative for the ongoing development of a critical base of evidence that can help drive ongoing innovation and improvement in the programs that prepare future teachers. That support directly helps ensure that teachers are competent to do all that society expects of them. We further believe that continued financial aid for would-be teachers will help encourage more young people to seek careers in the classroom.
All of us, legislators included, recognize the significant value that teachers provide in preparing young people to be productive citizens and employees. Because teachers are so important to our society and our economy, we urge that Congress not walk away from its role in supporting educator preparation. This is no time to pull the plug on vital supports that help us nurture great teachers.