WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two U.S. senators and three U.S. representatives introduced legislation this week that could expand a program that helps members of the armed forces become K-12 teachers.
Troops to Teachers, which has regional offices at UCCS, would benefit from the Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act. The bill was introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. The measure is also supported by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wisc., and Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.
“Our military is the strongest in the world not because of our weapons or tanks, but because of the men and women who serve in its ranks. With that in mind, we should be doing everything we can to create, support and enhance pathways to the teaching profession, and allow our military men and women to continue their service in classrooms across the country,” Bennet said. “Let’s enlist their skills and experience to once again make America’s system of public education the envy of the world and the driver of the American Dream.”
La Vonne Neal, dean, College of Education, and a former U.S. Army officer said the demand for teachers is strong, particularly in the areas of math, science and special education. The ability to trade one form of public service for another makes the program attractive to individuals leaving the military. Additionally, members of the military often have experience in dealing with different races and cultures, an important factor when working in today’s classrooms.
“While it may seem dramatically different to be in the military and in the classroom, individuals who choose these careers have a desire to serve the greater public good,” Neal said. “The desire to serve, when combined with considerable life experiences and strong character, makes many former members of the military excellent teacher candidates.”
Neal credited Joe Morgan, regional director, Troops to Teachers, and faculty and staff within the College of Education, for efforts to bring the program to the attention of legislators and for responding to requests for information from staff representing the senators and representatives.
The Troops to Teachers program, originally created in 1994, provides qualified troops with financial incentives to teach in the nation’s neediest schools.
The Senate-House companion legislation, the Post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act, will make the existing program more accessible by reducing length of military service requirements for participants, expanding the number of school districts at which troops may receive a stipend to teach, and by creating an advisory board charged with continuously seeking ways to improve awareness and participation in the program.