UPDATE: Master Teacher Corps a Go for 2012

Jeff tries to explain how government works to readers of Science.

Our story yesterday on the Obama Administration's proposal to give large bonuses to the best U.S. elementary and secondary school science and math teachers got one important detail wrong: The White House doesn't have to wait for Congress to approve the $1 billion price tag to launch its STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Master Teacher Corps. Instead, the Department of Education will use $100 million from its current budget to start the program this year, under a different name.

Next week, U.S. school districts will submit their applications to the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), a $285 million pot of competitive money aimed at rewarding teachers who have the largest impact on student learning across all subjects. Such a performance-based compensation system runs counter to the usual teacher salary structure based on longevity and education and has been viewed warily by teacher unions. But it's a pillar of the White House's strategy of providing incentives for school districts to improve STEM education.

The department hopes this fall to make about 30 TIF awards to local school districts. (Some 120 districts are expected to apply by the 27 July deadline.) And last month department officials announced they were setting aside $100 million within TIF for districts that want to focus on STEM education. Districts can receive up to $12 million in the first year of a 3-year award, and some of the STEM teachers in those winning districts will become the de facto inaugural cohort for the master teacher corps, explains department spokesperson Liz Utrup.

The master teacher corps proposed annual salary stipends of up to $20,000 for as many as 10,000 teachers once the program was up and running. It's not clear, however, how much the teachers funded through TIF will receive, nor how many will be affected. In their applications, districts will have outlined a variety of strategies to improve student performance, Utrup noted, including changes in teacher preparation and retention, professional development, and evaluation of classroom performance.

Posted in Funding, Education Budget_2013, DOE