By Samson Reiny
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday proposed a $1 billion program to recruit high-performing math and science teachers to mentor and evaluate their peers and help students excel.
The so-called Master Teacher Corps program calls for recruiting 2,500 such educators at the outset and increasing that to 10,000 over four years, paying them $20,000 stipends on top of their base salaries. Each teacher would be required to serve at least four years.
To help launch the program, the Obama administration has pledged to release $100 million already available to school districts that have made plans to develop and retain effective teachers of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the plan would raise the prestige of the profession and increase teacher retention.
"This is a chance to look across the entire pipeline, from attracting better talent, to better mentoring that talent, to having folks stay in the profession for a much longer time," Duncan told reporters on Tuesday in remarks embargoed until Wednesday.
"We're not just fighting for better education here. We're fighting for our country. If we want to keep good jobs in this country, we know we need a much better educated workforce, and so many of the skills that are in demand right now are in the STEM areas," Duncan said.
Obama, facing a tough re-election bid in November amid a balky economy, has said he wants to prepare 100,000 additional STEM teachers over the next decade.
(Reporting By Samson Reiny; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Vicki Allen)