Fed Money Always Comes With Strings Attached

Last Friday, Governor Terry Branstad’s office announced that the Central Decatur and Saydel School Districts had their teacher’s vote to adopt a teacher leadership and compensation structure which was in partnership with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET).

Last September, the districts and NIET won a grant from the U. S. Department of Education’s 2012 Teacher Incentive Fund to put the teacher leadership and compensation structure in place. The districts have been in the planning stage since then. Before finalizing the plan, which is tailored to meet local needs, NIET requires that teachers in each school building vote on whether to approve it. In Central Decatur, 87 percent of teachers voted yes. In Saydel, 94 percent of teachers voted yes.

The goal of the project is to build on the expertise and growth potential of teachers in each school, providing them with support in boosting student achievement and meeting higher academic goals. This will be done by putting in place NIET’s System for Teacher and Student Advancement (TAP), which creates mentor and master teacher roles that provide more support for classroom teachers to help them improve instructional strategies.

These teacher leaders work with administrators to align professional support with school academic goals and with the needs of each student. As part of the project, the districts will make it possible for teachers who specialize in science, technology, engineering and math to seek more training at local universities. Helping principals become more effective also is a focus of the project.

The grant provides $2.3 million for the first two years, with the possibility of nearly $9.6 million total over five years depending upon annual congressional appropriations.

A couple of questions – how will this be sustained after the five years runs out?  And what strings are involved?  I would hope that the respective school boards signed-off on this grant.  I could frankly care less that the teachers voted in favor of it.  It’s the taxpayers’ and parents’ opinion that matters which should be reflected in the school board’s actions.  Hopefully they answered these two questions.

Never get excited about Federal money.  It can’t be sustained and it always has strings.

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.

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