Quality Teachers

Student Loan Forgiveness for Rural Teachers

By March 27, 2015 No Comments

A silent teacher crisis is at work in schools across Minnesota with rising teacher shortages in certain disciplines and subject matters. The effects are felt most in rural school districts. Principals in rural areas have found it particularly difficult to hire newly licensed teachers in subject areas like math, special education and English as a Second Language.

MREA has been calling the shortage a “silent teacher crisis” because while it impact is significant, it has been kept quiet.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Peggy Bennett (R-Albert Lea) aims to change that. HF1170 would create a college loan forgiveness program intended specifically to lure recent elementary and secondary education college graduates to licensure fields and school districts where the need is greatest.

MREA testified in support of the bill and has been working with both the House and Senate authors.

The House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee approved the bill Tuesday and referred it to the House Education Finance Committee where it was also heard this past week. Its companion, SF769, sponsored by Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL-Owatonna), awaits action by the Senate Higher Ed Finance Committee.

What Would It Do?

The proposed legislation would appropriate funds to the Office of Higher Education to administer the program that would be available for up to five years to newly licensed teachers and teachers adding a licensure field who are teaching in an identified teacher shortage area.

HF1170 would require the department to annually designate the subject areas, licensure field, and regions around the state experiencing teacher shortages. The department, Bennett said, would then communicate those shortage areas to the Office of Higher Education. A teacher who graduates from an approved teacher preparation program would be eligible to apply for the loan forgiveness program for five consecutive years after graduation.

Other education groups have rallied around the legislation, which has bipartisan support.