Nebraska Considers Loan Forgiveness Program for Teacher Shortage | Nebraska News

By GRANT SCHULTE, Associated Press

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Nebraska school leaders on Tuesday asked state lawmakers to create a student loan forgiveness program to help push more people into the profession, which has suffered significant losses during the pandemic.

Members of the Legislature’s Education Committee have considered several bills that would forgive up to $30,000 in student loans for teachers who agree to work at a Nebraska school. Like many states, Nebraska has seen many experienced teachers retire early during the pandemic amid the stress of remote learning and possible classroom exposure to the coronavirus.

“It was a problem before the pandemic, but the pandemic has exacerbated it,” said Senator Wendy DeBoer, of Bennington, who sponsored a measure that would allow forgiveness of up to $6,000 a year, with a maximum $30,000 over five years.

DeBoer said the measure would encourage education students to stay in Nebraska after they graduate from college and help offset low starting salaries for new teachers. She said the proposal was intended to help teachers in public and private schools. She noted that Nebraska already has a similar pardon program for rural doctors.

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The federal government also offers loan forgiveness to some teachers who spend at least five years in a low-income school or educational service agency, and states like Connecticut, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Missouri do. also. Neighboring Iowa created a down payment program to help educators buy homes, hoping to persuade them to stay in the state.

Education officials said the shortage in Nebrsaka is particularly severe in rural schools and argued that low pay makes it harder for new teachers.

“You’re really stepping into an area that initially doesn’t pay very well,” said Kyle McGowan, superintendent of public schools in Crete and spokesperson for administrators and teachers in Nebraska schools.

Sen. Lou Ann Linehan of Omaha said a loan forgiveness problem would take the state “a step in the right direction” to address the chronic shortage.

“It’s only going to get worse if we don’t do anything,” Linehan said.

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