As we move into June, another school year draws to a close around the nation. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is the many visits that I’m able to make to the schools of central and western Illinois to interact with students and teachers for a first-hand look at our area’s education system.
As a former teacher myself, I’m truly appreciative of the hard work shown by our educators throughout the year, and I commend all teachers for their dedication to our children. President Bush and the First Lady, herself a former school teacher, have said it best: “We’re asking a lot of our nation’s teachers, and they deserve our full support.”
Congress and the President are working to ensure our teachers have the support they deserve. Through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the education reform legislation signed into law by President Bush in January 2002, states and schools are receiving historic levels of federal funding for teacher quality aid.
In the first year of NCLB (fiscal year 2002), federal teacher quality aid to states and schools was increased to $2.85 billion—a $787 million increase from the previous year. When compared to the previous administration’s last budget, submitted for fiscal year 2001, this increase represents a 35 percent change in just one year. Federal teacher quality aid received an additional $100 million increase in fiscal year 2003, bringing the total funding to $2.95 billion.
Not only did the No Child Left Behind Act dramatically increase federal funding for teacher quality aid, the legislation bolsters the “Troops to Teachers” and “Transition to Teaching” programs. Both of these programs help Americans change careers so they can put their talents to use in the teaching profession.
Congress is working to pass other legislation that supports America’s teachers. In 2002 we were able to enact the “Crayola Credit,” which allows teachers to deduct up to $250 from their federal income taxes each year for out-of-pocket classroom expenses. There are efforts underway in the 108th Congress to expand the “Crayola Credit” to at least $400 per year.
We’re also working to dramatically expand federal student loan forgiveness from $5,000 to $17,500 for Americans who teach math, science, or special education in disadvantaged schools. Separate bipartisan legislation has also been introduced to provide a federal tax credit for teachers who teach in disadvantaged schools.
Congress understands the important work in which our teachers are engaged. We will continue to work to ensure America’s teachers have the support they need to do their job—to educate the future of our nation. IBI