Originally created 09/22/05

Certification bonus costly, official says



COLUMBIA - South Carolina's top education official said a popular program that awards bonuses to teachers who receive national board certification is expensive and that money might be better spent on early childhood education.

"If we find it's not improving academic achievement, we could consider not continuing national board and putting it toward 20,000 4-year-olds," Education Secretary Inez Tenenbaum said.

The state education department is awaiting the results of a study by the University of South Carolina into whether pupil performance improves when teachers receive national board certification, Ms. Tenenbaum said Wednesday in a budget hearing held by Gov. Mark Sanford. That study will indicate whether the state's investment in urging teachers to seek the certification is paying dividends for pupils.

South Carolina has more than 3,600 national board certified teachers, a number that could grow to 4,375 by November.

"It's very costly," Ms. Tenenbaum said of the state's incentive program, which awards teachers with a $7,500-a-year salary increase for the 10-year life of the certification.

The state Education Department has requested an additional $101 million from the General Assembly to make pre-kindergarten available for all 4-year-olds in the state whose parents want the service. Ms. Tenenbaum also is seeking $6.9 million for teacher quality, which includes the certification program.

Mr. Sanford pressed Ms. Tenenbaum to indicate whether she would prefer the state fund early childhood education or the national board certification program.

Ms. Tenenbaum declined to pick one over the other, saying she had not seen USC's report.