North Carolina bill would offer free college to STEM, special ed teachers
- In a bid to increase the number of STEM and special ed teachers in the state, a bill in the North Carolina Senate would offer annual forgivable $8,250 loans for up to four years of college to as many as 160 students, Campus Technology reports.
- The loans would be usable at one of five yet-to-be-named public or private institutions, and students would be recruited as graduating high school seniors from areas with high teacher attrition rates, as transfers into teacher prep programs, or as bachelor's degree holders wishing to become licensed to teach.
- U.S. Department of Education data shows North Carolina teacher shortages are particularly stark in middle and high school math, as well as high school science, according to Campus Technology, and loan forgiveness in the program will occur quicker if graduates accept jobs at low-performing schools.
States nationwide have grappled with teacher shortages in recent years. In some states, like Utah, schools have been allowed to hire teachers with no training or experience, while Nevada districts have been given permission to provisionally license candidates who otherwise wouldn’t qualify. Others, however, have made moves like paying higher salaries or giving teachers more agency in decision-making to attract more qualified candidates.
The blame for many of the nation's educational challenges has often fallen on the shoulders of teachers, rightly or not. Shifting away from that culture was an initial focus of former education secretary John King, who apologized to teachers in his initial address in that role. Encouraging more students to enter the teaching force will require policymakers and districts to create an environment with less top-down mandates that stifle agency and innovation, better pay, and perhaps a greater sense of recognition and prestige for the work educators do. This is especially worth considering when it comes to filling STEM educator gaps, as encouraging highly-qualified educators in these fields to choose rural locations over more hip urban ones could require those extra incentives in particular.
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