Toward that end, the Troops to Teachers program has repeatedly met all of these objectives. By offering our men and women in uniform teaching credentials, it not only benefits their lives, but those of our children as well. Specifically, this critical program provides qualified troops with financial incentives, including a stipend for those who become teachers in our nation’s high-need schools for which only a relative few districts nationwide currently meet the criteria.
Unfortunately, the current law limits the school districts that can participate, and its stringent eligibility requirements disqualify most of our returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. I first learned about the Troops to Teachers program at a California Purple Heart Veterans Day event in my district. Two different veterans who were participating in Troops to Teachers informed me about the opportunities afforded by the program to continue contributing to our country. After serving in the Armed Forces, they are now able to teach in some of the most vulnerable school districts and impact our communities.
On Tuesday, I was honored to join my colleagues – Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Tom Petri (R-WI) and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) – to introduce the bipartisan, bicameral Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act. This common-sense legislation would make the existing Troops to Teachers program more accessible to those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan by reducing length of service requirements for participation. It would also expand the number of school districts in which participants can qualify for a stipend towards the costs of becoming a teacher. Finally, the bill would create an advisory board to improve awareness of the program and increase participation.
This legislation builds on the legislation that Mr. Petri and I had authored in previous years that would have enlarged the number of eligible school districts at which troops may receive a stipend. By making improvement to the current law, more than 3,600 schools in California alone could benefit from this program. In my hometown of Sacramento, nearly 150 additional schools could participate, and students and schools across the country will benefit as well. Already, Troops to Teachers has had 737 participants in California, and impacted over 425,000 students. Yet, the need for more teachers persists.
As we continue to grapple with an aging teaching workforce, the need for qualified science and math teachers is great. The qualities learned in the military, including critical problem solving and leadership skills, make our veterans ideal to address this growing problem.
Our Troops to Teachers program has never been more important. It meets the needs of our students and our veterans. Expanding this program would restore its original intent, and allow our men and women in uniform to serve their country again.
October 30, 2009, 01:35 pm