Teacher loan forgiveness bill returns

Education

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Rep. Sally Toone, (D-Gooding)

BOISE — Calling it one more tool to remedy Idaho’s teacher shortage, Rep. Sally Toone is taking another run at a loan forgiveness bill for rural teachers.

“We want our next generation to come back and be part of our communities,” Toone, a retired teacher and Gooding Democrat, told the House Education Committee Tuesday morning.

If passed, Toone’s loan forgiveness bill would have a price tag of $1.5 million a year. It would allow up to 500 rural teachers to get a break on their student loans — of up to $3,000 a year for four years — covering at least a fraction of the close to 10,000 teachers and counselors who work in rural districts.

In pushing for her bill, Toone pointed to the need. A growing number of school districts and charters have been forced to go the alternative certification route to fill teaching positions. Even so, said Toone, Idaho schools still left 120 teaching jobs vacant in 2016.

About a dozen states have loan forgiveness laws on the books, Toone said.

House Education didn’t debate Toone’s bill Tuesday; instead, the committee voted unanimously to print the bill. That paves the way, perhaps, for a full hearing on the issue at a later date.

Toone also floated the idea of a loan forgiveness program in 2017, but no bill surfaced. Gubernatorial candidate and state Rep. Paulette Jordan, D-Plummer, is again co-sponsoring the proposal.

Idaho Education News reporter Clark Corbin contributed to this report.

This article was originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on Feb. 6. It is used here with permission.

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