Introduction

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness (TLF) program has been a valuable tool for teachers since its authorization in 1998, providing them with $5,000-$17,500 worth of student loan forgiveness (depending on what criteria are met) in exchange for five consecutive years of K–12 teaching in high-needs schools. TLF was originally intended to encourage individuals to enter and continue in the teaching profession by providing them with substantive loan forgiveness. The amount of loan forgiveness provided by TLF has been stagnant since 2004, while the cost of college (and subsequent debt) has risen sharply, making the program a much less attractive incentive for prospective teachers.

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. NAfME has endorsed the following two pieces of legislation that seek to revise the TLF program and strengthen the educator pipeline.

 

Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act (S.4867) (H.R.8856)

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.

A summary of the bill can be found here. Full text of the bill can be found here.

 

EDUCATORS for America Act (S.3360) (H.R.6205)

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 (RI) and Representative Alma Adams (NC-12). 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 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 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)
  • Remove financial barriers to entering the educator workforce by:
    • Doubling the TEACH grants to $8,000 per year
    • Including the costs of clinical experiences in the cost of attendance for awarding financial aid
    • 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

A summary of the bill can be found here. Full text of the bill can be found here.

If enacted, these two pieces of legislation have the potential to bolster the number of educators in America, while diversifying the profession and supporting our nation’s most underserved students. NAfME is proud to endorse the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act and the EDUCATORS for America Act. We look forward to working with Senators Lujan and Reed as well as Representatives Adams and Leger-Fernandez and other members of Congress to pass these important pieces of legislation.

October 18, 2022. © National Association for Music Education (NAfME.org)

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Category

  • Advocacy
  • Federal Advocacy & Public Policy
  • Music Education Profession
  • Music Educator Workforce
  • Recruitment and Retention

Resource Type

  • Blog / Article

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