Background & Analysis

The Federal Education Budget Project’s background and analysis pages provide detailed information on federal PreK-12 and higher education programs and spending.

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The federal government supports a wide range of programs to improve the quality of teachers in PreK-12 classrooms and make the teaching profession more attractive to both current and potential new teachers. Funds for these dozen programs are distributed by the U.S. Department of Education to states, local education agencies (LEAs), institutions of higher education (IHEs), and to individual teachers directly. Some of these grant, loan forgiveness, and incentive programs aim to attract prospective teachers to high-need subjects and schools, while other formula and competitive grants for states, LEAs, and/or IHEs are designed to improve teacher recruitment, training, retention, and compensation. In fiscal year 2013 Congress appropriated $2.9 billion for these teacher programs, which accounts for 4.4% of the total discretionary budget of the U.S. Department of Education.

Table of contents:

Grants Provided to States, LEAs, Schools, and Partnerships

Grants and Loan Programs Available to Teachers

Teacher Transition and Alternative Certification Programs

  • Transition to Teaching

  • PreK-12 Teacher Programs and Funding
    ($ millions)

    Discretionary Programs 2014 Funding
    Improving Teacher Quality State Grants 2,350
    Teacher Incentive Fund 289
    Mathematics and Science Partnerships 150
    Special Education Personnel Preparation Grants 84
    Teacher Quality Partnership Grants 41
    Transition to Teaching 14
    Teaching American History 0
    National Writing Project 0
    Advanced Credentialing/Advanced Certification 0
    Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow 0
    Academies for American History and Civics 0
    Perkins Loan Cancellation for Teachers and Head Start Instructors N/A
    Discretionary Total 2,928
    Mandatory Programs 2014 Funding
    TEACH Grant* 96
    Stafford Loan Forgiveness for Teachers** 254
    Mandatory Total 350
    *Funding reflects cash value of grants. However, TEACH grants appear as loans in the federal budget and have a different reported cost.
    **Estimate based on Dept. of Ed data. Refers to 2013 appropriation for FFEL and DL borrowers.

    Grants Provided to States, LEAs, Schools, and Partnerships

    Improving Teacher Quality State Grants
    The Improving Teacher Quality State Grant program is the largest federal program devoted to PreK-12 teachers. The program provides states with grants to implement activities that increase the number of highly qualified teachers, principals, and assistant principals in high-need classrooms and schools, including pre-kindergarten classrooms. Grants are also used to improve the effectiveness of teachers and principals by holding local education agencies (LEAs) and schools accountable for improving student academic achievement. The program is authorized under Title II of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. In fiscal year 2014, Congress appropriated $2.4 billion for Improving Teacher Quality State Grants. Grants to states ranged from $8 million to $197 million, and the average state award was $34 million. The 2015 President’s Budget Request would defund the program and would establish a separate teacher effectiveness programs under proposed program consolidations.

    Improving Teacher Quality State Grants are distributed to states based on a two-part formula set in federal law. Under the first part of the formula, each state receives a base allocation equal to the amount it received under the Eisenhower Professional Development State Grants and Class Size Reduction programs (the forerunners to Improving Teacher Quality State Grants) in 2001. Remaining funds are then divided up among states based on a weighted formula that accounts for each state’s relative share of the population aged 5 to 17 and relative share of poor children in the same age range. The formula provides a higher weight to the state’s share of poor children (65 percent) than its share of the school age population (35 percent). No state can receive less than one half of 1 percent of the excess allocation (any allocation above the 2001 funding level).

    States must allocate 95 percent of funds they receive under the Improving Teacher Quality State Grant program to LEAs (i.e. local school districts) via a formula that accounts for both the school district’s share of poor children in the state (weighted 80 percent) and its share of the state’s school age population (weighted 20 percent). LEAs may use these funds for professional development, class-size reduction, and other activities to improve teacher quality, including teacher and principal recruitment and retention initiatives, signing bonuses and other financial incentives, teacher and principal mentoring, tenure system reform, merit pay and other compensation reforms, and teacher testing. According to the U.S. Department of Education, LEAs use the majority of these funds for professional development activities for teachers, paraprofessionals and administrators, and to reduce class size.

    Of each state’s total Improving Teacher Quality State Grant allocation, the State Education Agency can elect to keep 2.5 percent for state activities. These state-level funds may be used for programs to improve teaching and learning, including reforming teacher and principal certification or licensing requirements, creating or improving alternative routes to certification, developing teacher recruitment and retention programs, and developing and implementing performance-based compensation systems. The remaining 2.5 percent of the state’s allocation must be made available for competitive subgrants to partnerships between LEAs and institutions of higher education. Return to table of contents.

    Teacher Incentive Fund
    The Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) provides competitive grants to LEAs, states, or partnerships with nonprofit organizations to implement financial incentive programs for teachers and principals that increase their effectiveness and help improve student outcomes in hard-to-staff schools and subjects. The compensation systems that grantees develop under TIF must take into account student achievement and classroom observations at various times throughout the year in determining teacher pay. Plans must address the long-term sustainability of these compensation programs. TIF was first authorized in the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2006.

    In fiscal year 2012, Congress appropriated $289 million for 35 new TIF grants, averaging $8.3 million. In fiscal year 2013, Congress appropriated $284 million to support 92 continuing awards granted in prior years. 2009 grants provided with an additional $200 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were designed to focus on performance-based compensation systems that use student academic growth to measure teacher and principal effectiveness.

    The 2014 TIF grant competition distributed 92 awards to grant applicants with $280 million in total funding, including both regular appropriations and remaining funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriation. The 2015 President’s Budget Request makes no request for continued funding for TIF and would fold it in with other teacher effectiveness programs under proposed program consolidations. Return to table of contents.

    Teacher Quality Partnership
    Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grants are competitive matching grants available to partnerships between a high-need LEA, a high-need school or early childhood education program, an institution of higher education (IHE), an education program within that IHE, and an arts and sciences program within that IHE. These grants aim to improve the quality of current and future teachers through better preparation, recruitment, and professional development. The program was authorized under the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 to replace the Teacher Quality Enhancement Partnership Grant program, which was authorized under 1998 amendments to the Higher Education Act of 1965. Partnerships must provide matching funds for the federal grant money they receive.

    TQP grants fund programs that improve the quality of teachers in high-need schools and early education programs by providing high quality training to teachers and leaders. Three types of partnership grants are available under this program. Pre-Baccalaureate Preparation of Teachers program grants aim to reform teacher preparation programs by increasing the use of research-based models to guide instruction, improving teacher and early education instructor recruitment, and strengthening training programs. Teaching Residency program grants are used to develop evidence-based teacher residency programs that give novice teachers the opportunity to learn from successful experienced teachers. School Leadership grants are used to provide professional development to principals and other school leaders.

    Congress appropriated $41 million for Teacher Quality Partnership Grants in 2014, carrying over the post-sequester funding from the prior year. In 2014, funds were directed primarily to new awards, where as 2013 funds were used for continuing grants. The President's 2015 Budget Request would remove funding for the program and instead fold it into a teacher effectiveness program created under proposed program consolidations. Return to table of contents.

    Advanced Certification or Advanced Credentialing
    Advanced Certification/Advanced Credentialing is a competitive grant program that provides grants to develop and implement activities that encourage and support teachers seeking additional training through the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, the National Council on Teacher Quality, and other authorized nonprofits. Grants are available to state educational agencies (SEAs), LEAs, or nationally recognized certification and credentialing organizations in partnership with LEAs or SEAs. In 2010, no new awards were made under this program, but the U.S. Department of Education made one continuing award of $11 million to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. No funding was provided in fiscal year 2014.

    The 2015 President’s Budget Request does not include funding for Advanced Certification or Advanced Credentialing and would fold it in with other teacher effectiveness programs under proposed program consolidations. Return to table of contents.

    Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow
    The Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow grant program is a relatively new program established under the America Competes Act of 2007. It provides two funding streams for competitive grants to institutions of higher education that wish to develop either baccalaureate or master’s degree programs in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), or critical foreign languages (CFL), that allow students to concurrently enroll in a teacher certification program. Graduates from these programs earn both a degree in STEM or CFL and a teaching certificate. The grants aim to improve teachers’ content knowledge in these high-need subject areas. In fiscal year 2010, Congress appropriated $2 million for the grants. No funding was provided in fiscal year 2014. Return to table of contents.

    Subject Area-Specific Teacher Programs
    The federal government supports a number of programs that make grants to states, LEAs, IHEs, and partnerships between these entities and nonprofit organizations to improve the quality of teaching in certain subject areas. Recipients generally use funds under these grants to support teacher training and professional development programs that ultimately improve student outcomes in specific subjects. These programs include:

    • Mathematics and Science Partnerships - The Mathematics and Science Partnerships program provides funds to states to improve instruction in mathematics and science. The Department of Education distributes funds under a formula based on each state’s share of the number of children aged 5 to 17 who are from families living below the poverty line. Congress appropriated $150 million for these grants in fiscal year 2014. The formula appropriated funds to states in amounts ranging from $745,000 to $18.4 million in 2014, and the average grant to states was $2.7 million. The President's 2015 Budget Request does not include funding for the program.

    • Teaching American History - Congress appropriated $46 million in fiscal year 2011 for continuation grants to support the Teaching American History competitive grant program. The Department of Education did not make new awards in 2011 through 2014, and the President's 2015 Budget Request does not include funding for the program.

    • Academies for American History and Civics - The Academies for American History and Civics program was authorized under the American History and Civics Act of 2004 and Title V of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The program supports intensive workshops for teachers and students in the areas of history and civics. In fiscal years 2011 through 2014, Congress did not appropriate funds for the program, and the President's 2015 Budget Request does not include funding for the program. In 2010, the program received $2 million, including $1 million for the portion of the program that serves teachers, called the Presidential Academies for the Teaching of American History and Civics.

    • National Writing Project - The National Writing Project is slightly different from the other subject-specific programs. It is a nationwide nonprofit organization funded with federal grant aid to operate teacher training programs on writing instruction. The organization received no funding for fiscal years 2011 through 2014; in 2010, the organization received $25 million to support 200 projects across the country. The president did not include funds for the program in his 2015 Budget Request.

    • Special Education Personnel Preparation Grants – Through Part D of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the U.S. Department of Education makes competitive grants to states, LEAs, nonprofit organizations, or other eligible entities to prepare teachers to provide students with disabilities with a high quality education. The projects funded by the Special Education Personnel Preparation program provide professional development and training to ensure that all special education teachers are highly qualified, encourage increased focus on academics and core content areas in special education, and ensure that general education teachers have the skills and knowledge to provide instruction to students with disabilities. The program received $84 million in federal funding in fiscal year 2014. Most of the funding that year went to continuation grants, with a small amount provided for new awards and peer review costs.
      Return to table of contents.

    Grants and Loan Programs Available to Teachers

    Federal Stafford Loan Forgiveness for Teachers
    The Stafford Loan Forgiveness Program for Teachers provides up to $17,500 in student loan forgiveness for teachers who are highly qualified to teach mathematics and science in secondary schools or special education in elementary schools. Recipients must teach full-time for five consecutive academic years in certain low-income elementary and secondary schools. Teachers who work in high-poverty schools in other subjects are eligible for $5,000 in loan forgiveness. Only federal Stafford loans qualify for forgiveness.

    Under the original version of the program authorized by an amendment to the Higher Education Act in 1998, teachers were eligible for up to $5,000 in total loan forgiveness regardless of where or what they taught. The law was updated and expanded in 2004 under the Taxpayer-Teacher Protection Act to require new recipients to meet the definition of “highly qualified teacher” as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act. The Taxpayer-Teacher Protection Act also temporarily raised the amount of debt that could be forgiven from $5,000 to $17,500. The increase was made permanent in 2006.

    In 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available, approximately $254 million in student loan debt was forgiven for more than 31,000 teachers, including nearly $81 million on more than 10,000 borrowers in the Direct Loan program. From 2007 through 2012, over 109,000 teachers have received loan forgiveness totaling $866 million under the program. Return to table of contents.

    TEACH Grants
    Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants provide aid directly to postsecondary students who are training to become teachers. The program provides grants up to $4,000 per year and up to $16,000 total for bachelor’s studies or $8,000 total for master’s studies for tuition, fees, and other housing costs to students who commit to teaching high-need subjects in low-income schools after completing their postsecondary education. Bonus TEACH Grants of $500 per year or $2,000 total for a bachelor’s or master’s program are available to individuals retiring from careers in high-need fields who are also eligible for TEACH Grants. The TEACH Grant program was authorized by Congress in 2007.

    Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for the grants and must agree to serve as full-time mathematics, science, foreign language, bilingual education, special education, or reading teachers in high-need schools for at least four years within eight years of graduating. Current teachers, retirees from other occupations, and those who became teachers through alternative certification routes are also eligible for TEACH Grants to help pay for the costs of obtaining graduate degrees. Individuals who fail to complete the agreed upon service in high-need schools and subjects are required to pay back their TEACH Grants as Unsubsidized Stafford Loans.

    In fiscal year 2014, the U.S. Department of Education expects that 33,671 students will receive grants under the program for a total cost of $96 million. The President's fiscal year 2015 Budget Request included nearly flat funding: $98 million for 34,116 recipients. Return to table of contents.

    Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness for Teachers and Head Start Instructors
    The Perkins Loan Forgiveness for Teachers and Head Start Instructors program provides loan forgiveness to teachers in certain schools or subject areas. It also provides loan forgiveness to Head Start instructors. Each year a teacher or instructor is enrolled in the program, the issuing institution of higher education cancels a portion of the teacher’s Perkins loan; 15 percent is cancelled in each of the first two years, 20 percent in the third and fourth years, and the remaining 30 percent is cancelled in the fifth year. A teacher or instructor’s entire Perkins loan balance – up to $5,500 for undergraduate students or $8,000 for graduate students – can be forgiven after these five years. The federal government reimburses the IHE for the loan principal and interest cancelled through this program through the annual appropriations process. The reimbursements go into the IHE’s Perkins loan revolving funds to make new Perkins loans.

    To qualify, Perkins loan holders must teach in certain low-income schools or Head Start centers designated each year by the Department of Education, or teach special education, mathematics, science, bilingual education, foreign languages, or another teacher shortage field as determined by the state.

    In 2009, Congress appropriated $67 million for Federal Perkins Loan Forgiveness. This appropriation includes funding for several loan cancellation programs other than the Loan Forgiveness for Teachers and Head Start instructors, which only made up a portion of the $67 million. However, in 2010 and 2011 Congress did not provide an appropriation for Perkins loan reimbursements for IHEs. Institutions of higher education are still required to cancel loans held by eligible teachers as described above using revolving funds, but reimbursements will only be provided if and when a future appropriation is made. More recent figures are not yet available. Return to table of contents.

    Teacher Transition and Alternative Certification Programs

    Transition to Teaching
    The Transition to Teaching program aims to bring highly qualified midcareer professionals into the field of teaching. The program provides competitive grants to state education agencies (SEAs), LEAs, and partnerships between for-profit or nonprofit organizations and SEAs or LEAs to recruit, train, and place teacher candidates with substantial career experience or recent college graduates to teach in high-need schools. Programs that provide alternative routes to certification must meet state certification or licensing requirements. In 2014, Congress appropriated $14 million to the program, and the Department of Education awarded the funds to 30 continuing grants. The average award was $456,000. The President’s 2015 Budget Request does not include funding for Transition to Teaching and would fold it in with other teacher effectiveness programs under proposed program consolidations. Return to table of contents.

Published May 1 2014 21:54