updated 5/6/2004 12:35:45 PM ET 2004-05-06T16:35:45

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry pledged Thursday to channel $30 billion over 10 years to improve teacher pay as well as raise teaching standards, including bonuses of up to $5,000 for those who teach math and science or work in high-need schools.

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The program would tap a $200 billion education trust fund established with money from the repeal of President Bush’s tax breaks for those earning more than $200,000 a year, the Kerry campaign said.

“It’s time for a new bargain with America’s teachers and children — I will offer teachers more, and I will ask for more in return,” Kerry said in a statement. He was visiting a school as he concludes a three-day education tour.

The plan called for rigorous testing for new teachers and would require fast but fair procedures for improving or replacing teachers who perform poorly.

“While teachers deserve protection from arbitrary dismissal, no teacher deserves a lock on a job,” the campaign said in a statement.

Mentoring programs proposed
The plan also proposed establishing mentoring programs to link new teachers with experienced peers and using technology to set up teacher voicemail boxes and post homework assignments on the Web.

Kerry said he wanted to recruit or retain 500,000 teachers during his first term in the White House. He also said he would provide tuition assistance to college students who agree to teach in high-demand areas. Schools that boost student achievement or make other improvements would receive up to $500,000 under the plan.

“No more broken promises on funding. No more empty rhetoric on reform,” Kerry said. “We’re going to get this done right because we know that empty rhetoric leads to empty dreams — and we won’t let that happen in our America.”

Kerry has criticized Bush’s education program, the No Child Left Behind Act, even though he voted for it in Congress and supports its goals. The Massachusetts senator contends the administration has failed to fund the program adequately, but the Bush campaign points to Kerry’s criticism as an example of flip-flopping on issues.

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