BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) and U. S. Rep. David Price (NC-4) and G.K. Butterfield (NC-01) introduced legislation to address two critical aspects of the national teacher shortage: improving teacher retention and attracting teachers to schools with the greatest needs.
Butterfield and Price said they believe recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers is a critical component of improving public education and maintaining our economic competitiveness. Both bills have been endorsed by the National Education Association.
"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. "My bill aims to help states and localities develop programs tailored to their circumstances in order to meet this challenge — and then to disseminate these best practices throughout the country."
Butterfield's bill, the Support Educators and Reinvest in Valuable Education (SERVE) Act, rewards teachers who stay in low-income schools in the same school district for at least five years by increasing loan forgiveness benefits. Under current law, special education teachers and those who teach science or math subjects in low-income schools for at least five years are eligible for up to $17,500 in loan forgiveness, but those who teach all other subjects are eligible for only $5,000 in loan forgiveness. The legislation would make all teachers who teach in low-income schools and remain in the same school district eligible for the full $17,500 in loan forgiveness, helping schools with the greatest needs recruit quality teachers for every classroom. Rep. Price is an original co-sponsor of the bill.
Price's bill, the Keep Teachers Teaching Act, would make states or school districts eligible for federal grants to develop innovative teacher retention programs, such as the Kenan Fellows program administered by North Carolina State University. The bill would also direct the Department of Education to identify the most promising teacher retention approaches and disseminate information about them to states and school districts around the country. Price introduced the same bill during the last Congress. According to the Congressional Research Service, half of all of K-12 teachers leave the profession within five years of being hired because of poor working conditions, low pay, low morale, or lack of opportunities for advancement. Butterfield is an original co-sponsor of the bill.
"Half of all teachers leave the profession after only five years," Butterfield noted. "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."
With the new school year starting this month, the two proposals also seek to respond to the severe cuts to public education imposed in North Carolina and other states in recent years, which have resulted in the loss of thousands of teaching jobs and reduced teacher pay. In light of these damaging cuts, giving teachers an incentive to serve in high-need classrooms and supporting school systems' ability to keep them there have become more important than ever, the two officials pointed out.
The son of a school teacher, Butterfield is a product of the North Carolina public school system, graduating from Charles H. Darden High School in Wilson. He also attended North Carolina Central University, where he earned undergraduate and Juris Doctor degrees.
Price, a former educator who taught public policy and political science at Duke University, has been a leader in Congress on legislation to improve the quality of public education throughout the nation by bringing teachers of the highest caliber into the profession and then keeping them in the classroom.