Student loans could be canceled to encourage teaching in Michigan’s low-income neighborhoods


LANSING – Student loans could be tied to student lunches for teachers in some Michigan school districts desperate to attract them.

A bill recently introduced in the Senate would establish a student loan waiver program for those teaching in schools where at least half of the students meet the income eligibility criteria for the free or reduced meal program.

This represents 45% of Michigan public school students, according to recent data from Public School Review, an organization that compiles data from public schools by state.

Of the 3,381 Michigan public schools listed in their report, 1,695 have more than 50 percent student eligibility for free or reduced breakfasts.

Engaging teachers in low-income school districts could help tackle teacher shortages, said Doug Pratt, director of public affairs for the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest school staff union.

“There aren’t enough people entering the field through teacher preparation and too many people leaving early in their careers for other professions that pay people better,” said Pratt. “It’s a perfect storm of problems, and we’ll need a variety of solutions like student loan cancellation to attract more people and keep them in the profession. “

Teachers in eligible school districts will receive a rebate of up to $ 20,000 in state and federal loans during their first four years of school if the bill passes.

The state Department of Education would administer the funds and create an application process. A teacher loan forgiveness fund would be established within the treasury to provide the money.

The Department of Education would award grants each year for 10% of a teacher’s total remaining debt for each year of continuous work in an eligible school district. This could last up to 10 years.

To remain eligible for the loan cancellation program, teachers should continue to teach in eligible districts each year.

The ministry is still reviewing the bill and has no position at this time, said William DiSessa, spokesperson for the ministry.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Rosemary Bayer, D-Beverly Hills, and has been dubbed “the Excellence in Education Act” in legislation. Bayer did not respond to a request for comment.

Pratt said a similar federal program, called the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, turned down 98% of applicants due to complex rules.

And attracting teachers isn’t just about money, he said. Another problem is teacher burnout leading to early retirement.

“One of the drivers of the shortage of educators is certainly the lack of remuneration in education, but it is also the lack of respect,” said Pratt. “We have to solve these two problems.

“One way to do it is to say that we understand the skyrocketing student loan rates and we can fix it,” he said.

Data from the Ministry of Education showed teacher shortages in a wide range of categories, including language arts, math, sociology and special education, according to a memorandum from the ministry.


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