WRAL.com - Congressmen try to boost teacher retention
By Bruce Mildwurf
Congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield introduced companion bills Wednesday that they say will reward teachers and help keep them in the classroom.
Butterfield's Support Educators and Reinvest in Valuable Education Act, or SERVE, would help forgive loans for teachers who work in low-income schools in the same district for at least five years. Under the proposal, all teachers would be eligible to have $17,500 forgiven. Currently, only science, math and special education teachers can get that much forgiven, while other teachers are capped at $5,000.
"Half of all teachers leave the profession after only five years," Butterfield said in a statement. "One way to encourage teachers to stay in their communities and to help ensure our kids receive the quality education they deserve is by providing additional support to our most dedicated educators, particularly those serving in low-income schools."
Meanwhile, Price introduced the Keep Teachers Teaching Act, which would create teacher retention programs through federal grants, such as the Kenan Fellows program at North Carolina State University.
"Nothing we do to improve public education in our communities will matter if we don't keep high-quality teachers in the classroom," Price said in a statement.
The Kenan Fellows program gives K-12 teachers across North Carolina five weeks of hands-on experience. They then return to their schools to work with other teachers and take what they learned to create curricula for their students.
"The neatest thing I didn't expect is everything I teach my students about chemistry they do at Biogen Idec," said Erin Lawrence, a sixth-grade science teacher at Wake Forest Middle School.
Lawrence is a Kenan Fellow this summer and is working at the Morrisville labs of biotechnology company Biogen Idec. She said incorporating the real-world experience and perspective into her classroom will make her a better teacher.
"Students need to understand why they're doing this," she said. "If they don't have that connection, if it's not relevant to them, they're not going to care, and they're not going to be able to succeed."
Compared with the 50 percent of teachers who leave the profession after only five years, 95 percent of teachers who have been through the Kenan Fellows program are still in education.
"They also get professional development, which helps them become leaders in their school systems and across the state," said Lisa Hibler, associate director of the program.
Price introduced a similar teacher-retention bill two years ago. It didn't move then, but he remains hopeful this time around.
"It's all about the students," Lawrence said. "That's why I got into teaching, and being part of the fellowship like the Kenan fellowship program helps me get better at my job, and then the students' experience in my classroom is better."