ATLANTA — A new bill in the state House of Representatives would give teachers a financial incentive to work at underperforming schools.
The measure, known as House Bill 736, would provide student loan relief to teachers who teach in the state’s “turnaround-eligible” schools — schools that made Georgia’s worst performing list released in December 2019.
The list includes schools from across the state — in rural and urban areas — including one in Dalton (Morris Innovative High School).
David Belton, chairman of the House Special Rules Committee and a Republican from Buckhead, introduced the legislation Monday that has bipartisan lawmaker support.
Under the proposed legislation, the Georgia Student Finance Commission would establish a student loan forgiveness program for teachers with a bachelor’s degree from a college in Georgia and who have outstanding loan debt from postsecondary education.
The bill stipulates teachers who receive the loan forgiveness must teach a “high demand” subject, such as math, science, special education or other subjects determined by the commission.
The debt relief would cover costs not covered by the already established HOPE scholarship and would not cover the costs of books, fees or living expenses.
The loan program would be offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Belton told CNHI that even though Georgia has made significant strides in student test scores and graduation rates, teacher enrollment is down, leading to class size increases and teachers leaving for other states in the first years of their career.
“We're trying to find ways we can incentivize really quality people to go into teaching,” Belton said, “and also to help out these rural schools and also these low-performing schools to get some really quality folks in there.”
Funds would have to be appropriated for the new program. Belton said he’s optimistic a majority of state funds will continue to go toward education — as they have historically.
“One thing the governor's not cutting is education — 55% of the budget goes to education,” he said. “Education was really the big winner last year and last couple of years."
The bill is set to be reviewed by the House Higher Education Committee.
Riley Bunch covers the Georgia Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites.