WASHINGTON – Last week, United States Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05) and Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41) introduced H.R. 4647, the Teacher Debt Relief Act. This critical piece of legislation incentivizes the recruitment and retention of teachers by streamlining existing student debt relief and loan forgiveness programs.
Under federal law, educators are eligible for some debt relief after five years of service. However, the law forbids simultaneous enrollment in the general Public Loan Service Forgiveness program, leading to teachers being forced to work an additional ten years in order to qualify for full relief. The Teacher Debt Relief Act fixes this oversight by allowing teachers to enroll in both programs concurrently, making paying off debt and staying in the classroom a more achievable reality.
Rep. Hayes said: “As an educator who relied on student loans, I know how crushing a burden it can be to worry about making loan payments while on a teacher’s salary. Our federal laws should be incentivizing people to become and remain teachers, not creating undue and duplicative burdens that will keep them out of the classroom. As a former teacher, Congressman Takano also intimately understands this problem and I thank him for joining me in this important effort to help relieve the pressure faced by those in our nation’s classrooms.”
Rep. Takano said: “Supporting your family and paying the bills, purchasing classroom supplies, and making student loan payments on a teacher’s salary is a strain on many teachers across the county. Yet they continue to educate our nation’s youth, the least we can do is support them by relieving the burden of student loans in exchange for their public service. This legislation will make it easier for teachers to pursue a career in education by making student loan debt relief more attainable. As a former public-school teacher, I know how valuable this can be for present and future educators. I’m proud to be teaming up with a fellow teacher, Rep. Jahana Hayes, to expand opportunities for more Americans to pursue this meaningful profession.”
The Teacher Debt Relief Act has also been endorsed by the National Education Association.
“More than two-thirds of those who become educators have student loan debt. As an educator herself, Congresswoman Hayes knows firsthand the adversity teachers face when it comes to their debt. NEA is proud to stand by Rep. Hayes in supporting the Teacher Debt Relief Act, allowing educators to receive debt relief sooner on their pathway towards achieving for Public Service Loan Forgiveness.” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association.
Teachers with bachelor’s degrees have an average debt of $20,000, while those with master’s degrees typically accrue $50,000 in student loan debt. This has also impacted diversity in education, with individuals of color taking on an average of $7,400 more in student debt before even earning their first dollar. Overall, high student loan debt remains a barrier to recruiting and retain leaders in the workforce.
Rep. Jahana Hayes has been a public school teacher in Connecticut for more than 15 years and was recognized in 2016 as the National Teacher of the Year. Currently serving her first term in the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Hayes sits on the Committees on Education & Labor and Agriculture and proudly represents Connecticut’s 5th District.