Student Loan Forgiveness Proposed For Teachers In Low-Income Areas
The notion of debt forgiveness is hardly a popular theme and rarely embraced by both sides of the aisle; however, there’s a kernel of an idea regarding student loans that appears to be gaining momentum in statehouses around the country.
In a nutshell, some government leaders, from New Mexico to South Carolina and Wisconsin, are floating the concept of student loan forgiveness for highly proficient teachers who spend a certain amount of years in low-income urban and rural schools.
“The education community is trying to find ways to get our best and brightest students into areas of need,” said Association of American Educators Executive Director Gary Beckner. “Of course, areas of need are low-income communities and hard to teach communities and urban areas. It seems as though some of the governors and legislators across the country are trying to find unique ways to make sure we can reapply some of this funding.”
The non-profit Association of American Educators Foundation is the largest national non-union teacher association with a mission statement to provide the public and public educators with opportunities, information and funds to help reform and improve the education of America’s youth.
Beckner feels student loan forgiveness is a financial incentive that could help attract the brightest and best into the profession. Specifically, this means young teachers willing to take on a challenge.
As for those in favor of the concept, Beckner said member surveys reveal more than 80 percent of teachers support educators being paid more for taking on additional roles/responsibilities, while 79 percent are in favor of educators being paid more to teach in troubled schools requiring extra attention.
Apparently the one group Beckner said that’s an opponent to student loan forgiveness is teacher unions.
“You’re going to find a lot of pushback in the system that doesn’t want to see new ways of paying people that might seem unfair or where more people will be getting more money even if the job is harder,” Beckner said.
Considering school districts are struggling with dwindling budgets across the country, Beckner said any student loan forgiveness initiative has to come from the federal level.
“It’s not going to cost the government that much money,” Beckner said. “Frankly, most of these loans are defaulted on anyway or paid on such a long term that it doesn’t really have an effect. So if it works, I think it’s a pretty good idea. And it has to come from the government but the Department of Education is famous for not really creating anything new, just trying to find nuggets of what’s working out there and getting behind it and pretending like it was their idea. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully they’ll get behind it.”
Naturally, these days one says government partisan lines are drawn, but Beckner doesn’t think that’s the case. He said longitudinal studies have shown that having good and effective teachers for periods of three to five years show positive results on student academic achievement.
“We just need to find some way to get teachers willing to tackle these tougher jobs,” Beckner said. “And it’s not just money. They have to have the heart for it but they’ll be making enough to survive in those areas.”
Finally, considering how much of America’s Latino youth are attending under-achieving schools, this could be the game changer for which parents have been waiting.
“Absolutely,” Beckner said. “They have been behind the curve getting the best teachers in front of the urban areas where the kids need the best education to get a leg up. We’ve just not explored enough creative ideas to make it work. This is at least one idea that should be given a hearing.”