Last Thursday, February 14, U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) reintroduced legislation that would invest in educators of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The STEM Master Teacher Corps Act (S. 358) offers career advancement and higher pay to the top 5% of K-12 STEM teachers in the United States. Members of the teaching corps would, in turn, mentor other STEM teachers, share best practices, and serve as role models in their districts and states. The legislation includes plans for competitive regional grants for program implementation, specialized training and support for corps members, and funding for program evaluation. Seventy-five percent of the Master Teachers Corps Members would teach in high-need schools, with an emphasis on teachers in rural schools as well. Over the course of 4 years, the Master Teacher Corps would grow to include 10,000 educator members.
Sen. Franken said in a press release, “Creating a STEM Master Teacher Corps will help ensure that our students are equipped with the skills they need by giving new STEM teachers role models to look up to and get advice from. At the same time, it will give more experienced and effective teachers support, advancement opportunities and recognition of their hard work.”
A related plan released by the White House in July 2012 estimated that the program, which would operate out of the U.S. Department of Education, may cost approximately $1 billion, making it the single largest federal STEM education investment. With that said, and given the current budgetary situation, a program with a price tag of this magnitude is not likely to gain much traction in Congress. Following its introduction, the legislation was referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) for consideration. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
In October 2011, Triangle Coalition supported the original bill (S. 758) that was introduced during the 112th Congress. Now in the 113th Congress, Triangle Coalition is one of more than 55 groups that have currently signed on in support of the bill, S. 358.