Published March 2001 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd
Teachers: Uncle Sam Wants You
In West Virginia and throughout the nation, public schools face a teacher shortage that threatens to undermine an education system which is already overburdened by expanding enrollment and a crumbling infrastructure. In the next decade, two million teachers across the nation -- half of all the teachers in our schools today -- will retire. Coupled with a severe scarcity of teachers and principals in rural and urban schools and with the shortage of educators who focus on key subjects like math and science, it becomes apparent that action must be taken today to avert a crisis in our classrooms tomorrow.
Consequently, I have cosponsored the National Teacher and Principal Recruitment Act -- a measure that should help to meet these challenges head-on. The Act would create a national Teacher Corps and a national Principal Corps to attract qualified individuals to the education profession. The Teacher Corps would utilize $500 million annually to fund scholarships and bonuses to recruit up to 75,000 new teachers to teach in high-need schools -- facilities that have a high percentage of students from families with incomes below the poverty line. Similarly, the proposed Principal Corps would receive $50 million annually to help recruit new principals for our nation's most disadvantaged schools.
To increase retention, both the Teacher Corps and the Principal Corps would provide mentoring and professional development to ensure that more educators remain in the classroom. The National Teacher and Principal Recruitment Act would also authorize a $1 million annual public service campaign -- similar to the recruitment promotions utilized by the U.S. Armed Forces -- to inform interested individuals about the resources, incentives, and support available to those who wish to enter the education field.
A quality education is the foundation of our society. Dedicated educators are crucial to building that foundation. It is imperative to the future of West Virginia and the nation that we address the shortages of teachers and principals in areas where their skills are needed most. It is my hope that the National Teacher and Principal Recruitment Act would help to attract more individuals to the education profession so that all American children may receive the quality education that they deserve.
March 28, 2001