Bills have been filed in both Houses of the Florida Legislature to initiate a very modest loan forgiveness program for teachers in STEM fields.
The bills, SB 274 and HB 403, would provide $16,000 in loan forgiveness for teachers who are “assigned to teach a STEM course in this state” for eight consecutive years. The eligibility bar for the program is low – “Be a graduate of a Florida public postsecondary education institution that offers 4-year degrees or teacher certifications” and “Hold a valid Florida educator certificate”.
The bills were filed by Democrats. SB 274 was filed by Senator Perry Thurston, who is a member of the Senate Education Committee and represents a section of Broward County. Representative “Newt” Newton from St. Petersburg, a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12, filed HB 403.
Research supports the loan forgiveness strategy for teachers in shortage fields. In 2015, Feng and Sass published a study of the Florida Critical Teacher Shortage Program, which was terminated in the depths of the recession in 2010. The researchers found that the “loan forgiveness program decreased attrition of teachers in shortage areas”.