Obama Proposes $1 Billion Program for Elite STEM Teachers

President Barack Obama announced a plan to spend $1 billion to create an elite group of mathematics and science teachers, ABC News reports. The money will be spent on bonuses for teachers considered high-performing and is aimed at improving student achievement in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering and technology.

Those who are selected for the Master Teacher Corps will be a salary bonus of $20,000 if they commit to participate over several years. In addition to their teaching duties, they will also assist and mentor less-experienced teachers and thus, hopefully, improve the instructional quality for all American students.

Obama introduced the plan at an election rally in San Antonio, Texas, which he said was part of his administration’s commitment to education reform. He said that offering financial incentives to teachers in high-demand fields, the country could make serious strides in the effort to catch up to other countries in the students’ math and science achievement.

“I’m running to make sure that America has the best education system on earth, from pre-K all the way to post-graduate,” Obama said. “And that means hiring new teachers, especially in math and science.”

One hundred million dollars to fund the program initially will be available immediately, and the rest will be part of the proposed budget for next year. However, in light of the fact that budget proposals submitted by the Obama administration over the previous two years have always given rise to partisan conflict in Congress, the program’s approval is far from certain.

An aide to Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, noted that the federal government already has more than 80 teacher quality programs and said it would be foolish to pump money into programs that may be duplicative or unproductive.

“Republicans share the president’s goal of getting better teachers in the classroom,” said Kline spokeswoman Alexandra Sollberger. “However, we also value transparency and efficient use of taxpayer resources.”

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, however, was optimistic, saying that he hoped that both parties would find a way to work together to make sure that students had the best teachers in their classrooms. He said that legislators have to consider this proposal not through the ideological lens but as a means to fill the upcoming demand for additional STEM college graduates. A report released earlier this year by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology estimated that the the country will need an increase of 34% in STEM graduates to meet the job market demands going forward.