Teacher program slashed; another budget fatality

Published 8:09 pm Monday, September 8, 2008

Some first-time educators in Alabama had help coming through the door, but not so in their second go-round.

An innovative program got under way last year, giving rookie teachers statewide the opportunity to learn under a seasoned educator.

The $3.9 million program allowed 2,900 teachers to benefit from the assistance of mentors, helping ease the transition from a college classroom to a working classroom.

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Not only do new teachers need the guidance, more experienced teachers can benefit from the $1,000 stipend to serve as mentors.

It’s a program that state education officials say kept the turnover rate in the profession well below the 10 percent national average, but its stunted growth is another ugly casualty of Alabama’s underfunded education system.

The program won’t apply to second-year teachers, a mighty handicap considering teachers in Alabama are tenured after three years.

The program was a success considering the 84 percent of teachers surveyed that said their mentors were a major part of their ability to successfully adapt to their new roles.

Gov. Bob Riley said the expansion technically isn’t dead. If that’s the case, the state needs to seriously consider putting more money in, at least on a limited basis.

If not all the teachers that participated are eligible, then the second-year teachers deemed as still struggling with the transition should be allowed to have mentors.

In a sink or swim world and in an education system that could surely use the money in other places, this mentoring program is a luxury.

But as parents, there has to be some peace of mind in sending children off to learn from people who feel comfortable with what they’re doing.