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Members tout bipartisan teaching bill

From NBC's Kelly Paice
Republican Sen. John McCain, along with four of his colleagues on the Hill, yesterday introduced a bipartisan post-9/11 Troops to Teachers Enhancement Act, which expands and modernizes the current Troops to Teachers (TTT) program with the goal of having more troops continue their service in the classroom.
 
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, former Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, said that America has the strongest military in the world and the experiences troops have can reach "beyond the battlefield and into schools and classrooms" with this program.
 
The original program was established in 1994 to help servicemembers attain their teaching certification, and since its inception has brought nearly 10,000 troops into classrooms across the nation.
 
However, Bennet outlined that under the current TTT program, many servicemembers are not eligible to participate due to a service requirement of six years. He says that this new bill makes some "much needed and common sense changes" -- such as reducing the length of service requirements from six years of active duty to four years, or at least 90 days of continuous active duty since 9/11, so that younger veterans returning from today's wars will be able to participate.
 
Wisconsin Rep. Tom Petri (R) called the new bill a "win-win situation," saying that the program allows troops to "inspire good role models" and to use their leadership skills and military experiences to enrich students' experiences in the classroom. Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney (D) added, "I think they [troops] will bring a thoughtful, broadminded view that no college degree could give."
 
In order for participants to receive a $5,000 stipend for teaching certification and training, they are required to teach in an economically disadvantaged school for a minimum of three years. There is also the option of receiving a $10,000 bonus in lieu of the stipend if the servicemember chooses to teach in a "high need" school -- a school where "at least 50% of the students are from low-income families." This bill intends to increase the number of schools across the nation in which participants can receive a stipend even if not teaching in "high need" classrooms, as the current program requires.