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Ed Money Watch

A Blog from New America's Federal Education Budget Project

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We’ve been hearing a lot lately about teachers. State budget crises have forced school districts to pink slip thousands of teachers across the country and teacher union contracts require inexperienced teachers to be let go first. This has left many, primarily low-income, schools to increase class sizes or rely on substitutes to fill teaching gaps.

At the same time, much media attention has been focused on the two Obama administration one-time competitive grant programs signed into law as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The $4.4 billion Race to the Top (RttT) program requires that states design programs that improve the distribution of teachers in order to win grants. This requirement has led several states to pass teacher-focused legislation to comply with these requirements. Similarly, the $650 million Investing in Innovation (i3) program includes an “improving teacher distribution” category under which 354 local education agencies and organizations applied for grants.

But RttT and i3 are not the only federal programs that address teachers – despite all of the media attention they have received. In fact, the federal government funds 15 individual programs, run by the Department of Education, that provide either formula or competitive grants to local education agencies, states, institutions of higher education, and partnerships with non-profits, or grants or loans directly to teachers. In 2010, the federal government spent $3.9 billion – 5.9 percent of the Department of Education’s discretionary budget – on programs addressing teacher training, distribution, compensation, and retention.

Nine of these programs fall under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), accounting for $3.7 billion in spending. The Obama administration’s proposed program consolidations for ESEA reauthorization would fold these programs with other instructional and leadership initiatives into several larger programs relating to teaching and learning. This would include one $2.5 billion formula grant program for efforts to improve teacher effectiveness and several smaller competitive grant programs targeted at improving teacher quality and instruction in specific subject areas.

Detailed information on these federal programs is not readily available through a centralized source, making it difficult to judge the federal government’s support for teachers. In response, the Federal Education Budget Project (FEBP) has published a Background and Analysis page as part of the FEBP website that explains the size, scope, and purpose of federal programs that support teacher training and development programs. This timely new resource helps provide clarity on the many different federal teacher programs.

The Federal Programs for K-12 Teachers page includes summaries and funding information for the 15 federal teacher programs in the table below.1

K-12 Teacher Programs and Funding
($ millions)

Discretionary Programs 2010 Funding
Improving Teacher Quality State Grants 2,948
Teacher Incentive Fund 400
Mathematics and Science Partnerships 180
Teaching American History 119
Special Education Personnel Development Grants 91
Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers and Head Start Instructors* 67
Transition to Teaching 44
Teacher Quality Partnership Grants 43
National Writing Project 26
Troops-to-Teachers 14
Advanced Credentialing/Advanced Certification 11
Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow 2
Academies for American History and Civics 2
Discretionary Total 3,947
Mandatory Programs 2010 Funding
Stafford Loan Forgiveness for Teachers** 130
TEACH Grant 80
Mandatory Total 210
*Perkins Loan Cancellation appropriation; funds teacher loan cancellation and other loan cancellations.


1These programs are labeled as K-12 programs. However, it is often unclear whether they might also apply to pre-kindergarten teachers too. Our colleagues at Early Ed Watch raise that question in a post today.

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