Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet is continuing his push to expand the successful Troops to Teachers program, which would help our veterans extend their service to America in classrooms across the country.
Bennet, along with Reps. Thomas Petri (R-WI), Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Doris Matsui (D-CA), today urged leaders of the conference committee negotiating the final version of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and Senate and House Armed Services Committee leaders to include in the conference agreement an expansion of the Troops to Teachers program.
In their letter to Senate and House Armed Services Committee Chairmen Carl Levin and Buck McKeon and Ranking Members John McCain and Adam Smith, the members urged that the final bill include a provision they drafted and secured in the House-passed bill to allow more veterans to teach in Colorado's and America's schools and to streamline and improve the program by reducing red tape and expanding the scope of schools in which veterans can teach.
“With an increasing number of dedicated men and women transitioning from military service into civilian careers, we should remove any barriers to enlist their talents in the effort to teach our children,” Bennet and the members of Congress wrote in the letter. “More than one million teachers are set to retire in the next few years. Enabling districts facing shortages in hard-to-staff areas to participate in Troops to Teachers will help our students prepare to participate in a 21st century economy while helping our veterans successfully transition to civilian life and continue to serve our country.
Earlier this year, the Senate committee responsible for education approved Bennet’s Troops to Teachers measure as part of a larger bill. Bennet worked with Reps. Courtney, Petri and Matsui to draft and secure a similar provision in the House version of the NDAA. Today’s letter is part of their efforts to ensure the measure will be included in the final version of the NDAA, which a conference committee will negotiate, that will be sent to the President for his signature into law.
The Troops to Teachers program, originally created in 1994, provides qualified troops with financial incentives to teach in the nation's neediest schools. Since the program was created, a majority of Troops to Teachers have been hired in seven states, including Colorado.
Despite the program's success, many men and women coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan are ineligible to participate in the current program because of certain restrictions, including requirement of six years of military service and limits on the number of schools eligible to participate in the program. In Colorado, many of the school districts located near military installations - where Troops to Teachers participants often prefer to teach - are excluded from participation because of these restrictions.
The provision is based on the bipartisan Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act, which was introduced by Bennet and McCain and would make the Troops to Teachers program more accessible by reducing length of service requirements and expand the number of schools in which participants can qualify for a stipend toward the costs of becoming a teacher.
For more information on the Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act, please click here.
The full text of the letter is included below.
Dear Chairmen Levin and McKeon and Ranking Members McCain and Smith:
We write to respectfully urge you to include key provisions related to the Troops to Teachers (TTT) program in the Conference Agreement of the FY2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Specifically, we urge you to include provisions that would expand the opportunity for veterans to participate in the program and increase the number of participating schools.
We, along with Senator McCain, introduced legislation to accomplish these goals - opening the program to veterans with four years of continuous active duty service and expanding the number of eligible schools where TTT participants can teach. This language, along with a transfer of the program from the Department of Education to the Department of Defense, was added to the House NDAA legislation in an amendment sponsored by Reps Courtney, Petri and Matsui (see Sec. 548, H.R. 1540). The amendment passed by voice vote as part of an en bloc amendment.
In the Senate, similar language was included in amendment #1318, sponsored by Senators Bennet and McCain. Amendment #1318 differs from the House language in that it does not include a transfer of the program to DOD and it includes study language added to the Senate NDAA legislation during markup (see Sec. 1048, S. 1867). Amendment #1318 was agreed to and included in a larger package of cleared amendments; however, the package was blocked from inclusion in the final bill for reasons unrelated to the TTT changes.
We understand that there has been debate regarding the transfer of the program to the Department of Defense. The House and Senate bills differ on this. Regardless of what the conference committee decides regarding the transfer, it is our priority that the changes mentioned above -- expanding the eligibility of the program to service members with four years of continuous active duty service and expanding the eligible schools where TTT participants can teach -- be included. These changes are highlighted in the attached Bennet-McCain Amendment. It is our understanding that there was no opposition to this amendment language.
With an increasing number of dedicated men and women transitioning from military service into civilian careers, we should remove any barriers to enlist their talents in the effort to teach our children. More than one million teachers are set to retire in the next few years. Enabling districts facing shortages in hard-to-staff areas to participate in Troops to Teachers will help our students prepare to participate in a 21st century economy while helping our veterans successfully transition to civilian life and continue to serve our country.
Thank you for your consideration.