Washington state added nearly 1,300 teachers Wednesday to its growing group of teachers who have passed the rigorous certification program offered by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
Washington’s class of 1,272 was the second most in the nation, behind North Carolina which pioneered the program. It now has the fourth most NBCT in the country with 5,247.
But on the day the class was announced, Gov. Chris Gregoire called for the elimination of a bonus program that both compensates teachers for the expense of gaining certification and to encourage them to do so. Gregoire would end the $5,000 annual bonus for all NBCTs and the extra $5,000 for those who teach in so-called challenging schools – those with the most poverty and lowest achievement.
Technically Gregoire is calling for the program to be suspended, not ended. It will save the state nearly $100 million in the 2011-13 two-year budget. It could be reinstated in subsequent budget years but as the program becomes more successful and as more teachers pursue and win certification, the bonuses become more expensive for budget writers.
Still, the bonuses are the only program the state has to reward the best teachers and the only program to encourage the best teachers to take assignments in the toughest schools. About one-quarter of the NBCTs teach in such schools.
It will especially painful for many in this class that took the state up on a conditional loan program it just started. The state agreed to pay $2,000 of the $2,500 fee and would take repayment out of the successful teachers’ first annual bonus. But if there’s no bonus, there’s no direct way to recover the loan and those teachers may have to come up with the tuition money themselves.
Jim Crawford, an education budget analyst for the state Office of Financial Management, the governor’s budget office, said the suspension of the bonus won’t kick in until next school year so the teachers certified today will get the bonus this year. Teachers who took out the loan but are still pursuing certification could possibly still be helped, Crawford said.
“They’ve raised a legitimate problem we need to go to work on,” Crawford said.
Here’s the press release announcing the new class.