NAfME Endorses Federal Legislation to Support Teacher Recruitment & Retention
By Zachary Keita, NAfME Advocacy and Public Policy Communications Manager
Updated April 17, 2023
The teacher retention issue is multifaceted and felt across school systems in the United States. No one solution can solve such a wide-ranging and diverse issue. Research shows that high college costs and student loan debt influence students’ career choices, with higher debt burdens associated with students avoiding public service jobs, particularly in the education field. Student loan debt also impacts teacher retention, causing teachers to leave the profession, due to their salary being insufficient to cover monthly student loan payments. Student loan debt has even been shown to impact the diversity of the teacher profession, with students of color having higher average debt burdens that make entering and staying in the profession more difficult. With our country experiencing a national teacher shortage, the need to attract qualified individuals from diverse backgrounds to the profession is dire.
Legislation discussed in this blog would provide federal funding to bolster teacher salaries, increase support for teacher preparations programs, and provide educators with more comprehensive and robust loan forgiveness opportunities. NAfME is proud to support several proposed pieces of legislation that seek to address the teacher retention issue from multiple avenues.
Pay Teachers Act (PTA) (S.766) of 2023
The Pay Teachers Act of 2023 (PTA), introduced by Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT), would significantly increase the federal investment in the educator workforce and in public schools. PTA seeks to provide a unique avenue of support for the United State’s public-school teachers, by establishing a “minimum salary for teachers” of no less than $60,000. Recognizing the role of low pay in teacher attrition and hoping to make the profession a more lucrative option, PTA would provide teachers with a competitive and livable wage throughout their careers. Due to the disproportionate impact of teacher shortages on schools serving Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) and students from low-income backgrounds, PTA would significantly increase the federal investment in Title I schools and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) teacher prep programs. Specifically, the bill would:
- Increase investments in students
- Triple Title I-A Funding to $36.77 billion
- Increase funding for the Rural Education Program (Title V-B) to $430 million
- The Rural Education Achievement Program (REAP) assists small and low-income rural districts to raise student achievement where factors such as geographic isolation, poverty, and small enrollment might adversely impact the overall operation of the district.
- Increase funding for Impact Aid Support Payments to $1.46 billion
- Provides additional funding for local education agencies (LEAs) whose property tax revenue is impacted due to the presence of tax-exempt federal property
- Increase funding for the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) to $1.13 billion
- The BIE is the preeminent provider of culturally relevant educational services and supports provided by highly effective educators to students at BIE-funded schools to foster lifelong learning.
- Increase Teacher Pay
- Establish a “minimum teacher salary” of no less than $60,000 that provides teachers with a living wage that increases throughout their career and is commensurate with similarly college-educated professionals
- States unable to meet the minimum teacher salary requirements may participate in the Teacher Salary Improvement Pathway, which provides an extended timeline for eligible states to comply with PTA teacher salary requirements
- Eligibility Requirements: States with an average teacher salary of less than $45,000 or states where more than 50% of teachers did not receive at least $60,000
- Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s (ESEA) equitable distribution of teacher requirements to include students with disabilities and English learners
- Increase Federal Investments in the Teacher Profession
- Authorizes a new Grow Your Own Program within the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) and provides $550 million for TQP grants in FY24
- Provides $150 million to the Augustus F. Hawkins Center for Excellence Program in FY24
- Designed to support comprehensive teacher preparation at programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
- Provides $300 million for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) part D in FY24
- Designed to comprehensively prepare specialized instructional support personnel, special educators, early educators, and the higher education faculty and researchers that support their preparation.
- Provides $100 million for the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) program
- The SEED program provides funding to increase the number of “highly effective educators” through the implementation of evidence-based practices that prepare, develop, or enhance the skills of educators. Recognizing the current issues surrounding the educator pipeline
- Provides $100 million for the Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program
- The TSL program supports entities in implementing, improving, or expanding their overall Human Capital Management System (HCMS). The TSL programs primarily serves educators in High-Need Schools who raise student academic achievement and close the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students
The Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act, introduced by Senator Ben Ray Luján (NM) and Representative Teresa Leger-Fernandez (NM-3), would expand eligibility for loan forgiveness under the newly named Educator Loan Forgiveness (ELF) Program to early childhood educators, program directors, and K–12 school leaders serving high-need schools. These are schools that are eligible for Title I funding; have been identified by the state for comprehensive or targeted support and improvements; or operated by the Bureau of Indian Education, Tribal educational agencies, or the Native Hawaiian education system. The federal government would make monthly student loan payments on behalf of qualified educators during their service and provide complete loan forgiveness at the end of five years if individuals remain in high-need schools. The bill would also allow recipients of Federal Parent PLUS loans (whether held by an educator or their parent) and Grad PLUS loans to be eligible for loan forgiveness. Qualified candidates could also pursue ELF and still be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program after 10 years.
Where ELF uses loan forgiveness as an incentive to attract prospective educators into the profession, the EDUCATORS for America Act seeks to rebuild and reform the educator pipeline to ensure state and local communities have the diverse and high-qualified teachers, principals, librarians, and other instructional support personnel they need to provide students with a robust and well-rounded education. This legislation was introduced by Senator Jack Reed and Representative Alma Adams. If enacted, the EDUCATORS for America Act would do the following:
- Authorize $500 million annually for grants to a statewide strategy for the recruitment, preparation, and retention of underrepresented populations in the education field, such as teachers of color, first generation college students, and teachers with disabilities
- Authorize $500 million annually to support educator preparation programs and partnerships including:
- Updating and expanding The Teacher Quality Partnership program to include residency programs, strengthen the principal and school leader prep programs and enable partnerships to address the need for early childhood educators, school librarians, school mental-health professionals, and other specialized support personnel.
- Reauthorizing the Honorable Augustus F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence Program to support HBCUs, TCUs, and Minority Serving Institutions MSIs
- Remove financial barriers to entering the educator workforce by:
- Doubling the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants to $8,000 per year
- Including the costs of clinical experiences in the cost of attendance for awarding financial aid
- Having the Secretary make student loan payments on behalf of educators working in high-need schools and early childhood care and forgiving their loans after 5 years of service
- Allowing educators who work in high-need fields to receive credit toward loan repayment while they serve rather than receiving a lump sum after serving five to 10 years
If enacted, these bills have the potential to bolster the number of educators in the United States, while diversifying the profession, supporting our nation’s most underserved students, and making the educator profession a more attractive option for prospective candidates. NAfME is proud to support the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act, the EDUCATORS for America Act, and the Pay Teachers Act. We look forward to working with members of Congress to pass these important pieces of legislation, that seek to provide numerous avenues to address the teacher retention issue.
Updated April 17, 2023 © National Association for Music Education
October 18, 2022
- Federal Advocacy & Public Policy
- Music Educator Workforce
October 18, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)