As of late last week, 329 teachers from 86 charters and school districts had applied for the rural and underserved educator incentive grants. Another 360 applications were incomplete or in progress.
Recipients stand to get $12,000 over four years to pay for educational expenses, such as additional degrees, loan repayment, or career technical certifications.
The applications are due Dec. 9, and teachers will be notified by the end of the calendar year if they were selected for the grant.
This year, up to 500 teachers will be selected. Each year thereafter, 250 teachers will be chosen. Once the program has been fully built out in its fifth year, it will cost about $1 million annually.
The State Board will seek legislative approval each year to continue the program.
The grants are intended to provide rural and underserved districts with a teacher recruitment and retention tool.
Samuel Zogg, the principal at Teton High School, said the grant program could alleviate some financial stressors for teachers. They could pay off student loans, for example, and have more money available for rent or a mortgage. The cost of living has skyrocketed in the Driggs area and is not affordable for many teachers.
“Finding a house as an educator is impossible,” he said “If they move here, they’re renting … We work on reaching out to the community to see if anyone has affordable rentals, because those are really expensive too.”
At Ririe Elementary School, it’s also “incredibly challenging to get teachers,” principal Randy Martineau said.
“Other districts and communities that have better funding can do more than we can,” he said.
Those districts can provide “perks” like higher salaries and more support staff – including paraprofessionals, administrators, instructional coaches, and janitors.
“It would be good to be on equal footing with other places financially,” Martineau said.
Homes in Ririe are also expensive and hard to find, so a number of teachers commute.
Martineau had not heard of the rural and underserved grants until Friday, but said they sounded like a ‘great thing.’
“The way education is anything we can do to help teachers with any expenses would be great,” he said.
To apply for a grant or for more information, go here.