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Booker, Norcross, Pascrell Introduce Legislation to Address Growing Teacher Shortage

Bicameral bill would overhaul student loan forgiveness program, increase financial assistance; High-poverty schools suffer most from shortage of qualified teachers

June 19, 2019
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WASHINGTON D.C.—U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with Congressmen Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), today reintroduced legislation that addresses the country’s real and growing teacher shortage by completely overhauling the current student loan forgiveness program and boosting financial assistance for teachers. 

 

The Supporting the Teaching Profession Through Revitalizing Investments in Valuable Educators (STRIVE) Act would overhaul the student loan forgiveness program by providing incremental loan forgiveness each year to public school teachers who teach in low-income schools. After seven years, such teachers would have their student loans completely cancelled. The overhaul would be retroactive, so current teachers who have been teaching for at least seven years would also have their loans cancelled.

 

The current student loan forgiveness program for most teachers who work in low-income schools only offers up to $5,000 of repayment assistance after five years of consecutive work (math, science, and special education teachers have the opportunity to receive more – up to $17,500 – but this is still significantly less than what today’s legislation would offer). And currently, besides a few exceptions, teachers who work less than five years receive nothing.

 

The bill introduced today would also increase financial assistance to teachers by reimbursing low-income teachers for their licensing and certification fees which can be upwards of $400. It would also boost professional development opportunities for teachers by increasing and mandatorily funding Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act, and setting aside a portion of that funding specifically targeted toward recruiting and retaining schools leaders of color. And it would expand existing teacher prep and training programs to include early childhood educators.

  

“Every school day, teachers walk into their classroom and give our students their all, even as the current system continues to overwork and under-support them,” Senator Booker said. “Lesson planner, counselor, cheerleader, decorator, pencil supplier—our teachers are asked to wear each of these hats and often to do so on their own dime. It’s time we renew our commitment to those educating our next generation because without the teaching profession, there would be no other professions.”

 

“Like all Americans, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the teachers that impacted my life and who prepared my children and grandchildren for their futures,” Rep. Norcross, a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said. “Our education system depends on the amazing men and women who teach our children every day. We must ensure teachers receive all the support they need to shape the next generation. The STRIVE Act means peace of mind for educators across the country and will encourage our best and brightest teachers to serve in high-needs areas, so all our kids can benefit from a great education.” 

 

“Teachers are guiding models for our children as they step towards adulthood and we have a responsibility to provide them with any support they need,” Rep. Pascrell said. “My years as a public school teacher were some of the most rewarding in my life. The understanding I gained about the challenges teachers must meet guides my own work today. Senator Booker’s legislation is a template of what we should be doing in Washington. It will help give our educators the flexibility and peace of mind they deserve to work with our children. I am proud to support it and proud every day to support the teachers of America.”

 

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the country’s teacher shortage is real, large, and growing: enrollment in teacher preparation programs declined by nearly 40 percent over the last decade and during the last school year, the size of the shortage was estimated to be roughly 110,000 teachers. High poverty schools suffer the most from a shortage of qualified teachers.

 

Specifically, the STRIVE Act will:

 

  • Provide incremental and complete loan forgiveness to public school teachers who teach in Title I schools for seven years. The bill is retroactive, so teachers who have been teaching for at least seven years prior to the implementation of the bill would also have their loans cancelled. For those teachers who have been teaching for less than seven years, a percentage of their loans would be cancelled.
  • Extend eligibility for student loan forgiveness programs to early childhood educators.
  • Boost and mandatorily fund programs, including Title II of the Every Student Succeeds Act, that are preparing, recruiting, and training high-quality teachers, principals, and other school leaders, and set aside a portion of such funding targeted toward recruiting and retaining schools leaders of color. 
  • Expand participation in these programs to include early childhood educators.
  • Encourage diversity in the teaching profession by subsidizing teacher licensing and certification fees for low-income teachers.
  • Require states to provide the Secretary of Education and the public with an annual State Report Card on the quality of early childhood educator preparation programs and their available tax credit, scholarship, and loan programs.

 

The STRIVE Act is endorsed by the following organizations: the National Association for the Education of Young Children; Committee for Children; First Five Years Fund; National Black Child Development Institute; Council for Exceptional Children; Zero to Three; American Federation of Teachers; American Federation of Teachers New Jersey; National Education Association; Teach Plus; Teach for America; Teaching Matters; Alliance for Excellent Education; National Council for Teachers of English; Educators for Excellence; Public Advocacy for Kids; and Democrats for Education Reform.

 

What advocates are saying about the STRIVE Act:

 

"The STRIVE ACT acknowledges the often overlooked and unmatched dedication and commitment of countless educators,” said New Jersey Education Association President Marie Blistan. When we support our educators today, we support our children and our collective future.  It's time to reduce the burden of student loans on educators and to mandate funding for teacher-focused grants. The STRIVE ACT will empower educators to do what they do best: educate.”

 

“The STRIVE Act highlights the urgent need for our nation to ensure all educators, including those serving the youngest learners, have access to the high-quality training and support necessary for them to grow, thrive, and do their very best work for students,” said Jean Desravines, CEO, New Leaders. “Among these crucial supports are an outstanding principal and supportive school leadership, which 97 percent of teachers list as the most important factor influencing their career decisions. We applaud Senator Booker for calling for greater investments in America’s educators.”

 

“The special education teacher and early intervention provider shortage is at persistent crisis proportions,” said Deborah Ziegler, Director of Policy and Advocacy, Council for Exceptional Children. “CEC applauds the leadership of Senator Booker in addressing this issue through the STRIVE Act. This act provides provisions to build systems capacity regarding the recruitment, preparation and retention issues facing every state in the nation. Every child with a disability is entitled to a well-prepared special education teacher or early intervention provider and the STRIVE Act provides solutions to the workforce.”

 

“The National Black Child Development Institute commends Senator Cory Booker for his efforts to advance a diverse, highly-qualified teaching workforce through the STRIVE Act,” said Tobeka G. Green, President and CEO, National Black Child Development Institute. “All barriers our children and educators face to the best educational opportunities, environments and resources they need to succeed must be eliminated. NBCDI is honored to have a committed partner in Senator Booker who shares our goals to increase investments in teacher preparation programs and support diversity within the teaching profession, especially in early childhood education.”

 

"Our nation's educators deserve as much support as we can give them to prepare them for and keep them working in classrooms across the country,” Marc Egan, Government Relations Director of the National Education Association (NEA), said. “Senator Booker's bill would provide much-needed preparation, loan forgiveness, and other resources for over-burdened classroom teachers and early childhood educators."

 

“Senator Booker’s STRIVE Act has taken a truly unique approach to increasing investments in Pre-K and higher education by pairing significant growth in education funding with policies that will greatly benefit students, drive a more equitable distribution of education resources, and attract and reward talented educators to the schools and subject areas where we need them most,” Shavar Jeffries, President of Democrats for Education Reform, said. “By making federal scholarship and student loan forgiveness programs more generous, less backloaded, and better targeted, the STRIVE Act is the game-changer we need to catalyze the professionalization of teaching and to attract a new generation of diverse and highly qualified educators to our nation’s classrooms.”

 

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