Saying the career ladder will not do enough for teacher recruiting, legislative Democrats unveiled a loan forgiveness bill for rural teachers.
But the size and scope of the proposal, and its immediate prospects, are unclear.
The bill would allow teachers to receive up to $12,000 in loan forgiveness over four years. In order to qualify, teachers would have to work in high-poverty and low-performing rural districts.
It would be up to the State Department of Education to define these terms — and decide which schools are eligible for the program. Rep. Sally Toone, D-Gooding, said about half of the state’s school districts could qualify.
Democrats had no cost estimates for the program. If the loan forgiveness bill passes, sponsors would follow up with a $3 million to $5 million appropriations bill, said House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, D-Boise.
The Legislature’s six Senate Democrats and 11 House Democrats are co-sponsoring the bill. No Republicans have signed on.
“We’re working at it,” Toone said during a news conference Wednesday morning.
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The proposal comes as the Legislature will decide whether to fund the third year of the career ladder, a five-year plan to boost teacher pay. Lawmakers have put $75 million into the plan since its passage in 2015. The 2017 installment carries a $62 million price tag, and is expected to be the costliest step in the five-year rollout.
Democrats say the pay raises are not sufficient to attract teachers into rural communities, especially when teachers can collect a pay raise by taking a job in neighboring states. This forces too many districts to hire non-certified “placeholder” staff, said Toone.
“That’s not fair to any of our students,” said Toone, a 37-year teacher.
Coming Thursday: Idaho Education News takes an in-depth look at the career ladder, and its effects across the state.