January 24, 2019

Denver, CO – The Senate Education Committee today passed SB19-003, Educator Loan Forgiveness Program, a creative solution to addressing Colorado’s teacher shortage by improving an existing, but unfunded, program. The bill, which has bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, passed committee with a 3-to-2 vote and now moves to the Appropriations Committee.
 
There are an estimated 3,000 teacher jobs remain unfilled in Colorado, particularly in rural districts and in certain fields including math, science, and special education. That number does not include unfilled positions for other support positions like speech pathologists.
 
“It is unacceptable that there are thousands of unfilled educator positions in districts across our state,” said Senator Rachel Zenzinger, the Senate sponsor and teacher. “When these positions continue go unfilled, our children lose out. This bill is a necessary investment in the future of our state and our children.”

This bill would address the issue of educator shortages by providing applicants as much as $5,000 in loan forgiveness upon completion of a year of teaching in a high-need geography or subject area.  

“Educators are struggling to pay for rent, school supplies, student loans, and other necessities. We can take some of that burden away so that they can stop worrying about making ends meet and shift their focus to kids in the classroom,” said Senator Zenzinger.  

Low salaries and high student loan debt balances are major obstacles towards attracting and retaining educators in the field, in certain geographies, and in certain subject areas.

Colorado teacher salaries were 15 percent below the national average of $59,660 in 2017. But teacher salaries vary widely by district, with average salaries in some urban and suburban districts in Colorado as high as $70,000 while many rural districts have average salaries of about $30,000.

“This bill is designed to help educators in high-need subject areas and geographies. While the program is not specifically targeted to rural areas, I have no doubt that it will have some of the biggest impacts in those districts,” added Senator Zenzinger.

For more information about SB19-003, please visit: https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb19-003.

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