Jennifer Allen, a spokeswoman for Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, said in an eMail message to the Associated Press that Republicans support competition in education but also efficient use of taxpayer funds. Citing a Government Accountability Office report from last year that found 82 existing teacher quality programs administered by 10 federal agencies, she said that instead of creating another new program, a bill sponsored by Kline would consolidate many of the programs into a flexible grant that states and districts could use to recruit and retain good teachers.

Dennis Van Roekel, president of the National Education Association, said he supports the administration’s proposal and appreciates that it recognizes that salaries in teaching need to be competitive with other sectors.

“We always worry about the details and how we implement this and that’s really important, and we want to work with them on that,” he said.

On the issue of teacher tenure, Van Roekel has said in the past that the nation’s children would be much better served if education reform efforts were more focused on making sure teachers are adequately trained, certified, and licensed at the start of their careers, instead of targeting them years later.

“Until we start dealing with quality at the front door, instead of saying we want to be able to hire anybody, make a lot of mistakes, and then make it easy to get rid of them, we are going the wrong way,” he has said.

After Obama’s State of the Union address, education historian Diane Ravitch blogged about an apparent contradiction in the president’s thinking about teacher quality.

“He said that he wanted teachers to ‘stop teaching to the test.’ He also said that teachers should teach with ‘creativity and passion.’ And he said that schools should reward the best teachers and replace those who weren’t doing a good job,” she wrote. “To ‘reward the best’ and ‘fire the worst,’ states and districts are relying on test scores. The Race to the Top says they must. Deconstruct this. Teachers would love to ‘stop teaching to the test,’ but Race to the Top makes test scores the measure of every teacher. If teachers take the president’s advice … their students might not get higher test scores every year, and teachers might be fired.”

For more news about teacher quality, see:

States strengthening teacher evaluation standards

Hey, teachers: The Heritage Foundation thinks you’re overpaid

Four fallacies of the ‘teachers are overpaid’ argument