Sen. Braun and colleagues applaud signing of Consider Teachers Act into law

Fixing A Broken System

                                  (File)

WASHINGTON – The Consider Teachers Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Mike Braun, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Senator Tina Smith, Senator Raphael Warnock, and Senator John Cornyn, and in the House by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and Congresswoman Victoria Spartz aimed at fixing a broken system burdening teachers with unfair loans, was signed into law today.

The TEACH Grant program provides grant assistance to students who serve four years as a full time teacher in high-need, often underserved communities. However, often due to basic clerical mistakes, thousands of teachers have found their grants converted into loans that must be paid back with interest. The Consider Teachers Act aims to fix this broken system permanently, and provides extra time for teachers to complete service requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The TEACH grant is an important program to incentivize teachers to serve in neglected communities, but 12 years of poor government management has turned these grants into groans for thousands of teachers," said Senator Mike Braun. "The passage of the Consider Teachers Act in the House and Senate shows our appreciation for America's great teachers, and I am proud that this bill to help teachers has been signed into law."

“With our plan now signed into law, we can better protect Arizona teachers serving in low-income schools helping Arizona students access quality educations across our state. The government made a promise to these teachers—and our commonsense, bipartisan law ensures the government honors its obligation,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema

"The TEACH Grant program has done so much for Texas students in high-need areas, but it's crucial that we make sure this program is implemented responsibly and efficiently," said Senator John Cornyn. "The Consider Teachers Act would streamline this grant process, ensuring that teachers will not be saddled with debt as a result of the bureaucratic inefficiencies in this program. I'm proud to join my colleagues in the Senate and House in shepherding this important bill through Congress." 

“Finally, we have some good news for teachers participating in the TEACH Grant program who wrongly had their grants converted into loans—with back interest due,” said. Senator Tina Smith. “This bipartisan legislation will reform the program’s administration processes so minor paperwork issues don’t cause crushing financial consequences. This never should have happened in the first place, and it took too long to fix, but I’m glad we’re making changes to improve the program and support these teachers.”

“As a mother and educator, I understand the importance of strong teachers for high quality learning,” said Congresswoman Victoria Spartz. “I was happy to join my Senate and House colleagues in leading the Consider Teachers Act, which clarifies and streamlines some processes for the TEACH Grant program.”

“I am pleased President Biden signed the Consider Teachers Act today, which will stop the practice of unfairly converting many teachers’ grants to loans under the TEACH Grant program,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. “Currently, many teachers are finding their grants converted to loans because of small administrative errors. This bill will correct the administrative process and extend the period teachers have to fulfill their service requirements by three years for those who were affected by the coronavirus crisis. As the daughter of a teacher in the D.C. public schools, Vela Holmes, this bill pleases me personally.”

“The TEACH Act is a perfect example of well-intended policy that, when put in to practice, produced a bureaucratic headache for those it intended to help, said Education and Labor Committee Republican Leader Virginia Foxx. “A lesson Congress should always remember – policies that look good on paper must convert to real world success. The bipartisan Consider Teachers Act will help more teachers obtain their promised student loan forgiveness, as long as they fulfill their four-year service obligation, without fear that bureaucratic folly could leave them indebted for life.”

“It is critical that the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant program would actually work as intended as we recover from the global health emergency that cost education jobs, exacerbated achievement gaps, and worsened the teacher shortage in many states and districts,” said Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott. “However, administrative issues with the program have inadvertently converted thousands of these grants into loans which must be paid back with interest. The Consider Teachers Act is a bipartisan legislative fix which ensures TEACH grants can continue to strengthen and expand our nation’s teacher workforce.”

BACKGROUND: 

In 2007, the federal government created the TEACH Grant, providing grant assistance to students who serve four years as a full time teacher in a high-need field. Under program terms, if service requirements are not met, grants are converted into loan obligations. While the program was well- intentioned, poor program administration has resulted in teachers unfairly having grant dollars converted into loans—prompting many to refer to the converted grants as “groans.” The Consider Teachers Act addresses these challenges that are thwarting the program’s intent.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the majority of TEACH Grants, 66%, are converted into Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans which must be paid back with interest. Previously, once converted, a loan cannot revert back to grant. 21,000 teachers have completed the program without a conversion, but 94,000 recipients have had their grants converted to loans. Small paperwork issues often triggered the conversions. For example, if teachers sent in their annual form one day late, or had other problems, such as a missing date or signature, the grant was converted.

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