By Tim Lockette
MONTGOMERY — The state board of education has plans to create a teacher-recruitment program that would give would-be educators $5,000-a-year scholarships in exchange for a four-year commitment to teach.
State Superintendent Tommy Bice said those teachers should be trained in a program similar to the teacher-preparation program at Jacksonville State University.
"It would be a clinically-based program in which they spend a lot of time with a master teacher," Bice said. "Jacksonville is already moving in that direction."
At a meeting Tuesday, the Alabama State Board of Education voted to approve a list of budget priorities the school system intends to pursue as the Legislature considers the budget next year.
The board proposed that K-12 spending increase from $3.7 billion this year to $4.1 billion next year, a rise of $416 million, according to the Associated Press.
The budget proposal would allow the state to hire 459 teachers, making up for recent losses More than 1,300 positions were eliminated in recent years, Bice said.
On the board's wish list was a plan to divert $10 million in existing funds to new personnel programs, including a project called Teach for Alabama, which would recruit high school graduates with high test scores into the teaching profession. The would-be teachers would get $5,000 per year in scholarship money, and would commit to four years of teaching in Alabama schools.
The proposal bears a passing resemblance to Teach for America, the nationwide program that recruits high-performing college students into teaching careers — but there are differences.
Teach for America recruits students on college campuses, and often gives them teaching courses after graduation.Bice said Teach for Alabama would bring recruits into a college teacher preparation program that gives students a large amount of in-school time.
Bice said there was no single model for the program he had in mind, but he said Jacksonville State's teacher-preparation program was a good example of the approach the program should take. He said the JSU program gives students classroom experience earlier than the traditional end-of-college internship.
Attempts Thursday to reach the department heads at JSU's College of Education for comment were unsuccessful.
Department spokeswoman Malissa Valdes-Hubert said the money for the new program would largely be drawn from the Alabama Reading Initiative, also known as ARI.
ARI has long been considered one of the state's most successful educational programs. Among other things, ARI offers training in reading instruction to teachers in all subjects — not just the English and reading teachers who have traditionally taught the subject.
In remarks after the board meeting, Bice said the cuts to ARI can be made because the program is has become well established, with teachers in various subjects and grades now able to train other teachers.
Also on the school board's priority list is a request for $5 million for new arts education program in the state's schools. Bice said arts education has almost vanished from schools since No Child Left Behind went into effect, largely because only math and reading are tested under the program.
"So many children find their place in the world through the arts," he said.
Bice said the school board hoped to bring its funding back to pre-recession levels within the next few years. With that increase, he said, there could be room for pay raises for teachers, which he said would cost about $35 million per every percent in pay increase statewide. He noted that teachers have gone for several years without a raise.
"A raise would be a great message that we value the profession of teaching," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Capitol and statewide correspondent Tim Lockette: 256-294-4193. On Twitter @TLockette_Star
This article originally appeared in the Anniston Star.