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The cost of keeping teachers

April 14, 2003

They've got until 2006 to do it, but under the federal "No Child Left Behind" law, 350 teachers in the Washington County school system must get additional schooling or pass a national test to be certified as "highly qualified" in the subjects they teach.

It's just one of the burdens imposed by a law that is essentially an unfunded mandate. But officials should think carefully before deciding that they can't afford to pay the price.

The law is designed to ensure that students of all ethnic groups and educational levels advance every year. The record-keeping alone will be a tremendous task, since test results must be broken down by race, sex and other categories.

For teachers, especially those nearing retirement, the recertifcation requirement will force many to consider whether taking additional courses or preparing for national tests is worth the effort for just a few more years of employment.

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Under the bill, they have three more years to do one or the other, but we predict an exodus at the end of that period, as some elect not to put in the time and effort needed for recertification.

In an April 6 letter to the editor, School Board Member Jacqueline Fischer said it will cost the system $1.9 million to help teachers achieve that certification and pay for tests.

That's the least the system should do because the more new personnel that must be hired, the more costly it will be, since systems all over the state will be competing to hire "highly qualified" faculty. Regular tarting salaries may not be enough when competing against systems that pay new teachers large "signing bonuses."

That's something for the Washington County Commissioners to remember as they consider the school budget request. There's value in keeping teachers who have roots in Washington County and who won't leave the first time a metro-area system offers them a few more dollars to do so.

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