Kilmer & Brooks Introduce Bill to Help Teachers by Making Loan Assistance More Effective

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Susan Brooks (R-IN) introduced the Teacher Loan Repayment Act (TELORA) to improve federal loan assistance programs and provide teachers with clear and tangible incentives to enter and remain in the classroom. A companion bill was introduced by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Mark Warner (D-VA).

“My folks were both public school teachers and they taught me to value the doors that a good education can open,” said Rep. Kilmer. “To encourage talented teachers to make their mark helping students learn, we need to make sure educators aren't left with crippling loan payments and substantial debt. Our bipartisan, bicameral bill creates a more effective approach that gives teachers the right support so they can make a difference in the lives of kids everywhere.”

“Our kids need good teachers, and as the proud mom, daughter and sister of a public school teachers, I understand the importance of rewarding hardworking teachers for their dedication in the classroom,” said Brooks. “This legislation will help recruit and retain skilled teachers to challenging schools, and help make sure they can continue to make a positive difference in the lives of their students and the communities they serve.”

“Today’s teacher loan forgiveness programs often miss the mark,” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, Vice President for Social Policy & Politics at Third Way. “They are complicated, underutilized, and conflicting, and they make teachers wait years for the promise of loan forgiveness down the line. But today’s reintroduction of the Teacher Loan Repayment Act (TELORA) represents a major shift by radically streamlining loan assistance programs so that teachers can get the support they need from day 1 in the classroom. One of the best ways we can improve education and increase student success is to make sure every student has access to a high-quality teacher. TELORA is a meaningful investment we can make to ensure that we are attracting and retaining the best and brightest for years to come.”

The current menu of federally-sponsored teacher loan assistance programs has failed to meet the goal of attracting and retaining educators. From Federal Stafford and Perkins Loan Forgiveness for Teachers to TEACH grants, the current options are under-utilized due to confusing eligibility requirements and lengthy commitments.  In addition, some of these programs can actually cost teacher candidates more money in the long run.  Despite the goal of providing equitable access to qualified teachers, there are a variety of obstacles toward getting teachers into the neediest schools.

The Teacher Loan Repayment Act (TELORA) provides teachers with a clear and tangible incentive to enter and remain in the classroom. TELORA would:

Streamline Existing Programs

TELORA would eliminate the current patchwork of loan assistance programs and instead replace them with one streamlined federal program that provides all eligible teachers with a monthly loan payment. Each loan payment would count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, resulting in full loan cancellation for teachers after ten years.

Provide Teachers with Real Financial Benefit

Under this legislation, the federal government (as administered through the states) would put $250-400 toward every eligible teacher’s loan payment each month up to an eventual aggregate total of $23,400. If the monthly payment is less than this stated range, the remaining money would go toward paying down the loan principal. These payments would be non-taxable, providing hardworking teachers with substantial financial relief every month.

Incentivize Teachers to Work in the Neediest Schools

Only teachers who choose to work in Title-I schools (schools enrolling at least 40 percent of children from low-income families) would be eligible to receive loan forgiveness under TELORA. This would provide teachers with an extra incentive to work in the most challenging schools where students need them most.

How It Works

The payments for TELORA would ramp up every year, rewarding teachers who choose to stay in the classroom long-term. The process to implement TELORA is simple—states report the number of eligible teachers to the federal government, designated federal funds are then sent to state agencies, and then those state agencies pay federal funds to the lenders directly. Teachers simply watch a portion of their loan payments disappear each month.