House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Committee Statement

May 11, 2007

McKeon Statement: Hearing on "ESEA Reauthorization: Boosting Quality in the Teaching Profession"

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for convening today’s hearing, and I thank the witnesses for joining us and welcome them.

The subject of teacher quality is a priority for me, this Committee, and this Congress.  As we move forward with the reauthorization of NCLB, we must be mindful that we have 3.2 million teachers serving in our nation’s classrooms – working with our children to help shape their futures.  Through No Child Left Behind, we placed upon ourselves the responsibility to ensure that the children in those classrooms are receiving the best education possible – and from highly qualified teachers. 

About a year ago, unfortunately, the Department of Education announced that no state would meet No Child Left Behind’s requirement of having “highly qualified teachers” in every classroom by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.  And while many states submitted revised plans to achieving this goal, it is my belief that it will take a bolder approach to develop and retain the most capable teachers in our schools. 

The foundation for this approach is ensuring that resources are in place to make it happen.  During the No Child Left Behind era, Congress and President Bush have been working to address the subject of teacher quality by providing historic increases in teacher development funding to help states put the best-trained teachers in every classroom.  In fact, since NCLB was first enacted, we have seen a 35 percent increase in funding for the Teacher and Principal Training and Recruitment Fund – a formula grant program supporting activities to improve the elementary and secondary teacher quality. 

Another key part of our effort must be innovation.  On this front, states and schools have received more than $100 million in recent years to design and implement their own unique performance-based compensation standards through the Teacher Incentive Fund.  Testimony from several of our witnesses today will show that performance pay for teachers can boost the quality of the teaching force and improve student achievement.  I am sorry to say that the omnibus spending measure passed by Congress earlier this year virtually eliminated all funding for these programs, leaving many states and local school districts to question whether they can fully implement the teacher recognition pay systems they’ve designed over the past several years. 

To ensure that the Teacher Incentive Fund becomes a permanent part of our national effort to boost teacher quality, our Committee colleague, Congressman Tom Price, introduced the Teacher Incentive Fund Act – legislation that would authorize locally-designed performance pay programs.  The Teacher Incentive Fund Act enjoys broad, bipartisan support, and I encourage my colleagues to join me in ensuring it plays a prominent role in the No Child Left Behind reauthorization process. 

Coupled with advancing this important legislation, Congress also must work to break down burdensome barriers currently in place through overly-cumbersome collective bargaining agreements.  Quite often, these agreements include onerous bureaucratic hurdles for school districts that have nothing to do with teacher quality or student achievement.  Removing these hurdles would provide principals and other education leaders more freedom to reward good teachers, remove poor ones, and generally create a staff that is responsive to their schools’ needs. 

If we are truly serious about placing high-quality teachers in every American classroom, then this Committee must explore ways to include proposals addressing collective bargaining agreements in the reauthorization process.  For example, quite often, restructuring a school into a charter school or making other wholesale changes to a school’s staff and curriculum requires a waiver from some of the work rules contained in collective bargaining agreements.  Allowing school districts to waive those rules for schools in the restructuring phase is a policy change that deserves serious consideration.

Mr. Chairman, our nation’s teachers and principals are on the frontlines in the effort to close the achievement gap in our schools.  During this reauthorization process, we must push for innovative ways to reward these men and women for their successes inside the classroom.  I look forward to hearing the testimony of each of our witnesses and would like to thank each of you for joining us here today.

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