Mississippi Looks to Create Loan Repayment for Teachers

Mississippi Looks to Create Loan Repayment for Teachers

Democratic Sen. David Blount of Jackson said Mississippi has several programs intended to help fund college education for people who intend to become teachers. Photo by Imani Khayyam

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi could create a program for the state to pay off some college loans for people who become teachers after the Senate passed Senate Bill 2305 on Thursday, which would create a three-year loan repayment program.

After a person completes one year of teaching, the state would pay a certain amount of the money the person borrowed for college. The state would pay more after the second year and more after the third year.

People who teach in areas deemed to have critical needs would receive higher payments.

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Senate Bill 2305 passed by a wide margin. It will go to the House for more work.

Democratic Sen. David Blount of Jackson said Mississippi has several programs intended to help fund college education for people who intend to become teachers.

“All of them are well-intentioned, but none of them had been funded in recent years,” Blount said Thursday.

Some of the existing programs are “loan forgiveness” plans, with people receiving money during college if they pledge to become teachers. Blount said those can end with some people defaulting on loans and the state becoming a collection agency.

“People’s plans change, maybe they choose not to go into the teaching profession, maybe they move to another state, maybe they teach for a year and decide they don’t want to teach anymore,” Blount said.

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With the new proposal, the state would make payments after a person works as a teacher. In areas with critical needs for teachers, payment amounts would be $4,500 after the first year, $5,500 after the second year and $6,500 after the third year. In other areas, payment amounts would be $2,500 after the first year, $3,500 after the second year and $4,500 after the third year.

Critical-needs areas have high numbers of people teaching subjects in which they are not certified.

The loan repayment program would be named in honor of the late Democratic former Gov. William Winter, who pushed legislators to enact the Education Reform Act of 1982, and the late Tupelo businessman Jack Reed, a friend of Winter who served on the first state Board of Education and who ran unsuccessfully for governor as a Republican in 1987.

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Loan repayment is one of several proposals to try to deal with a teacher shortage in Mississippi. The Senate last month passed a bill to increase teacher salaries, and that awaits consideration in the House.

Senators on Thursday also passed Senate Bill 2267, which would ease the process for people who are licensed to teach in other states to become licensed to teach in Mississippi. The person would have to undergo a background check. The bill also goes to the House.

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