Rep. George Miller has an important new bill on teacher quality, The Teach Act of 2005, which does a bunch of useful things (pdf). It helps with differential pay and career ladders, accountability for teacher preparation programs, funding to develop value-added programs for teachers, and recruitment of new teachers. It’s important both substantively and politically, it’s a good reform-oriented bill.
Host of endorsement letters here. Note that the NEA still can’t bring itself (pdf) to support offering teachers in scarce subjects extra compensation. The new public rationale is that shortage subjects might change in the future…no kidding, really?…good thing laws and incentives can change, too (and, in practice, it’s hard to imagine anyone having their pay cut so it’s really a permanent pay increase anyway). Their retrograde posture on this issue is nothing short of astounding, at some point something will have to give.
One quibble. The tax deduction for teacher expenses is a good move since there are some unique aspects to teaching on this score, but making part or all of teacher compensation tax-exempt, while well-intentioned, opens up a whole can of worms. Why not emergency room personnel, police, fire and rescue, etc? Better to just pay ’em what they deserve and keep some consistency in the tax code.