San Bernardino County’s lone Democratic representative introduced legislation on Wednesday that would forgive teachers from having to pay their student loans.
Rep. Joe Baca of Rialto wasted no time getting busy on the first day of the 112th Congress by introducing the Teacher Education Assistance Creating Hope for our Future Act. The legislation would give all public elementary and secondary school teachers the opportunity to receive $25,000 in student loan forgiveness if they have taught full-time for five consecutive years at any public school. Other student loan forgiveness programs already exist for teachers who teach specific subject matters or are in high-needs and difficult to staff rural or inner-city teaching districts, but Baca’s bill would broaden those programs to include all public school teachers in the United States – it also would increase the amount that would be forgiven.
This legislation could affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of teachers throughout the country. According to the California’s Teaching Force 2010: Key Issues and Trends report that The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning released in December, California had slightly fewer than 300,000 teachers during the 2009-10 school year – thousands of whom would stand to benefit from this bill.
“Teaching is one of the most important professions in our society – yet too often, America’s educators find themselves underpaid, and overworked with high class sizes,” Baca said in a news release after he introduced the bill. “We are in the middle of a budget crisis in California, where many of our best young teachers are receiving layoff notices instead of accolades. We must do more to encourage promising young people to enter the profession, and keep America’s best and brightest where they can impact the most lives – in the classroom.”
The economic downturn has forced states to have massive spending reductions in their budgets with education not being spared from many of those cuts. California certainly fell into that category. The California’s Teaching Force 2010 reported about 26,000 teachers were laid-off last spring, and the California Teachers Association reported about 14,000 of them had not been rehired by the time school started in August.
Baca previously sponsored the TEACH for our Future Act in the 111th Congress. It was co-sponsored by 36 of his colleagues in the House of Representatives and the National Education Association, the nation’s largest professional employee organization that represents 3.2 million teachers and education professionals, endorsed it. During the 111th Congress it failed to even make it out of committee and with Republicans now in the majority in the House it is unlikely to go anywhere again.
President Barack Obama, on the other hand, has been a strong and vocal supporter of education reform. He has continually stressed how valuable teachers are to ensuring students get the best education possible and in turn can use the knowledge they gain to be innovators and entrepreneurs this country needs to be a superpower in the future. Baca’s bill could be a step in that direction and encourage more people to enter the teaching profession.
“Any person who is willing to give him or herself in order to create a better future for our children is worthy of our admiration, whether they teach math and science or art and physical education,” Baca said. “It’s time for America to say thank you to our nation’s teachers – and to make it a little bit easier for them to receive the education they need to mold our future generations.”
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