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Sen. Luján, Rep. Leger Fernández introduce new bill for student loan forgiveness for educators.
Sen. Luján, Rep. Leger Fernández introduce new bill for student loan forgiveness for educators. Photo: Getty Images

Sen. Ben Ray Luján, other U.S. Reps. introduce bill to expand student loan forgiveness for educators

On Sept. 15, Luján, Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, and Rep. Jahana Hayes introduced the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act of 2022.

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On Thursday, Sept. 15, New Mexico U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján along with U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández of New Mexico, and Rep. Jahana Hayes of Connecticut introduced a new student loan bill to expand forgiveness for educators. This comes after President Joe Biden announced in late August to further expand forgiveness until next January, as well as forgive up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients, and those making under $125,000 per year. 

The bill titled, The Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act of 2022, would expand the teacher student loan forgiveness program for educators who teach early childhood education in high-need public schools. If enacted, the bill would also help with teacher shortages being felt across the country, which would lead to children having more access and opportunities to a diverse and fully equipped school. 

“Educators are the foundation of our classrooms and child care centers — preparing the next generation of leaders and giving them the tools to be successful in life. But teachers, child care workers, and school leaders are faced with high costs of education and the financial burdens that follow, creating hurdles that have only contributed to workforce shortages impacting New Mexico and countless other states,” Luján said in a press release. 

“By strengthening and expanding this program, this bill will help increase educator recruitment and retention and ensure more children can access the quality education they deserve,” he added. 

The bill would ask the federal government to make the monthly student loan payments for educators who qualify. It would also completely wipe out all student debt for educators who have taught for more than five years. As teacher shortages occur not just in New Mexico but all over the country, Luján and the other representatives hope this bill would help retain but also attract new prospective teachers. 

“This bill will ease the financial burden of hard-working educators carrying high student loan debt and break down one of the biggest barriers for becoming an educator,” said Rep. Leger Fernández. “Serving our students shouldn’t require educators to take on excessive debt. We want to grow our teachers from the communities they serve — and if they are the first generation, they often must take on loans to pay for not just tuition but also living expenses.”

More than 50 different organizations endorsed the bill that include, the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Indian Education Association (NIEA), National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), ZERO TO THREE, First Five Years Fund (FFYF), Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC), National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association (NMSHSA). 

For Hayes, the bill has a more personal touch, as she was once a teacher that used student loans to get her degree to enter the profession. 

“I know the stress of worrying about making student loan payments on a teacher salary,” she said. “As our country continues to navigate the economic impacts of the pandemic and as staffing shortages overwhelm our schools, we need robust federal programs to increase teacher retention and infuse the educator pipeline.” 

Teacher retention was already an issue but the pandemic further exacerbated the problem. 

According to a survey from this past January conducted by the National Education Association revealed that more than 55% of educators expressed desire to leave their posts earlier than expected due to the worsening circumstances. In a similar survey from August 2021, the number was at 37%. More than 86% of current educators and school workers say they have seen more people retire or quit altogether since the beginning of the pandemic. 

As for the diversity of the teachers in schools at the moment, the Black and Hispanic teachers, 62% and 59%, are planning their exits as well.

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