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Senate OKs $6B For Teacher Training

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In a victory for Senate Democrats, the Senate voted Tuesday to improve teacher training while rejecting a plan that linked student test scores to federal money.

States would receive an extra $3 billion in federal funds in 2002 and $3 billion more over the following six years to be used to train teachers and ensure that they are competent in the subject they teach. The plan, by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., would require teachers in schools that predominantly serve poor students to be licensed by their state and deemed "highly qualified."

The 69-31 vote was the latest in a string of victories for Senate Democrats, who have demanded hundreds of billions of extra dollars in education spending as part of Mr. Bush's far-reaching plan, which would test student performance each year, overhaul failing schools and give some states more leeway in spending federal education dollars.

The bill does not include Mr. Bush's hotly contested private school voucher initiative, which would have given students in poor-performing schools up to $1,500 in federal aid to attend religious and other private institutions. Instead, the bill would allow students in failing schools to use federal funding to pay for private tutoring or transfer to another public school.

Conservative lawmakers, who support vouchers, have complained bitterly that Mr. Bush was bowing to pressure in the Senate, divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. Nevertheless, the education bill was expected to win Senate approval by the end of next week after lawmakers wade through dozens of proposed amendments.

The House is pressing ahead with a similar measure. It is expected to clear the House Education and the Workforce Committee Wednesday.

Also Tuesday, senators defeated an amendment, offered by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, that would have mandated that schools increase the number of students making academic progress on annual tests before they receive proposed increases in federal money. The vote against the amendment was 73-27.

The Senate was also debating an amendment by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would give states money to hire thousands of new teachers.

Despite an agreement on classroom reforms, Senate Democrats are still demanding that the White House spend more money on a range of education programs.

"This is going to be a long, continuing, ongoing battle, and one I'm absolutely convinced that we ... can win," said Kennedy, who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

On top of Tuesday's vote to boost teacher training, the Senate last week authorized more than $130 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years for "Title 1" programs that target schools with low-income students.

In addition, the Senate adopted an amendment seeking $120 billion in new funding over a decade for special education programs that aid students with physical and learning disabilities.

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