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Levine Supports Senator Schumer's 'Marshall Plan for Teachers'

On the first day New York City students returned to their classrooms after the Labor Day weekend, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) called the quality of public school education in New York and America "the greatest threat to our future." At a press conference, accompanied by President Levine, Schumer unveiled his "Marshall Plan for Teachers," a $15 billion plan over the next ten-years to revamp the teaching profession "to attract the best and the brightest to classroom teaching."

President Levine remarked, "In offering the original Marshall plan, George Marshall said, 'Any assistance that this government may render should provide a cure rather than a palliative.' Senator Schumer's Plan for teaching does this by offering a comprehensive solution to the need for more and better teachers."

Schumer declared that it is time for the federal government to make a commitment to addressing teacher shortages. Levine added, "The simple fact is that our country is not producing enough teachers to fill the gap quantitatively. So, at a time in which we are talking about the need to improve the quality of teaching, if nothing is done, if legislation like Schumer's is not adopted, our schools will be left with two choices-leave classrooms empty or fill them with warm bodies."

Schumer pointed to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics, which indicated that there will be an expected shortfall of 2 million teachers nationwide within the next ten years. "The problem," he continued, "is particularly acute in New York City and other cities throughout the country where low starting pay and difficult teaching conditions make recruitment difficult."

Levine zeroed in on two areas of critical shortages-math and science. "We can already see the future in subjects like math and science. Today, in New York State, more than one-quarter of all math teachers and over one-half of all chemistry and physics teachers are not certified to teach their subjects."

Schumer plans to introduce the package of legislation next month which will:
·Forgive all student loans for those who teach for at least five years;
·Develop a program to encourage and train retired professionals to teach in the public schools;
·Provide grants to schools to cover 75% of the cost for teachers to complete a one-year intensive program to become board certified;
·Create a Mentor Teach program whereby the best teachers adopt young teachers and help train and counsel them; and
·Create a five-year federal grant of $2,500 a year for math and science teachers who pass a national competency test.

Schumer said, "the bottom line is that we have to make teaching an exalted profession on par with professions like law and medicine because in today's economy of ideas a teacher holds a special place in society."

In a response to a reporter's question about the quality of the proposed legislation, Levine said, "I can't imagine a better program. It increases the quantity of teachers by making education more attractive to out brightest young people. At the same time, the Plan recognizes this will not provide sufficient numbers, and augments the pool by recruiting older adults and career changers. Plus, it aims to turn the tide of new teachers leaving the field, thereby reducing attrition and increasing teacher numbers."

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