Stocks. . . bonds. . . or teachers?

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As the new school year approaches, budget cuts are forcing states and school systems to make decisions that will affect teacher quality for many years to come. For example, North Carolina just ended a 25-year-old program that offered free tuition to college students who promised to teach for four years in the state's schools. The program was credited with attracting bright individuals who might not have otherwise considered a career in teaching.

Memphis schools are taking a decidedly different approach in the tough economy. Instead of scaling back their recruitment from highly selective talent pipelines such as Teach For America and the Memphis Teacher Residency, the district has reaffirmed its commitment to these programs—hiring at least 30 percent of new teachers from these sources even as veteran teachers have lost their jobs, a practice that has generated some criticism.

While the Memphis schools have a multi-million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, part of which requires hiring through programs like TFA and the Memphis Teacher Residency, the N.C. Teaching Fellows program unfortunately has no comparable outside funding. However, the scholarship's cost
$26,000 for each college student at the most—isn't so bad considering that 60 percent of the participants from the last ten years are still teaching in North Carolina. In this economy, it's hard to find an investment with better returns.

Laura Pomerance