I am a teacher in a public school, although sometimes I feel like I work for the company store.
For the past five years, I’ve been making monthly payments on a student loan that started at $ 50,000 but grew to $ 59,000 due to accrued interest. So far I have repaid the principal of $ 97.
To survive in this business, I need help. My fellow teachers too. We need student loan cancellation and a strong national teacher loan cancellation program.
Last month, Senator Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) again urged President-elect Joe Biden cancel up to $ 50,000 in student debt by borrower by executive action, without legislation. This would help ease the burden of student loans for some 45 million Americans and stimulate the economy.
Biden suggested he would support a $ 10,000 more conservative a figure that economists say would help the most vulnerable borrowers.
Some economists argue that the $ 50,000 amount would disproportionately benefit high-income university graduates and graduate degree holders, such as doctors and lawyers. who have the most student debt but whose higher wages put them in a better position to repay loans.
Although the smaller figure may erase the debt of nearly 15 million borrowers who owe $ 10,000 or less, over 60% of us owe more than that.
And that wouldn’t do enough to help teachers.
My profession requires additional education beyond a four-year degree – at least, a one-year accreditation program. Because most school districts pay higher salaries to those with higher degrees, just over half of teachers in public schools also hold a master’s degree. However, the stagnant salaries of teachers lag behind those of similarly trained professionals.
The average student debt of an American teacher today hovers around $ 37,000, which is only slightly lower than the average teachers’ starting salary of $ 38,000. Teachers with a master’s degree end up owing around $ 48,000.
I am one of the 67% of teachers who hold federal student loans. I got my teaching degree and master’s degree in education at UCLA, which has one of the best public education programs. I am grateful for the training I received. Debt, not that much.
But the $ 10,000 loan forgiveness offered by Biden is only slightly more than the interest I’ve accrued since graduating. It wouldn’t do much for me and many other current and future American educators.
Right now, the federal government forgives pitifully little when it comes to teacher loans. He has a Teacher loan rebate program, who only forgives $ 5,000 after five years of service in a high need school.
States offer a bewildering mishmash of partial forgiveness programs, leaving most educators to wait for Public service loan remission, a federal program designed to encourage students to engage in relatively low-paying careers like teaching. But you have to make 10 years of payments before you can even qualify for tax exemption.
Under the Trump administration, 99% of civil service loan forgiveness applicants turned down, effectively invalidating the program and triggering a congressional inquiry. Biden is likely to restore the program, but it won’t be comprehensive enough to significantly ease the teachers’ debt burden.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has made a difficult career almost impossible. Teachers’ workload doubled and burnout is on the rise. Almost 30% of educators are considering early retirement or leaving the profession, which could lead to a serious shortage of teachers that could threaten the swear to reopen most schools during his first 100 days in office.
When students return to class, educators will face a huge national challenge – helping students recover from a year or more of pandemic trauma and lost learning. To fix this, we’ll need more than just bodies in buildings. We will need more highly qualified teachers.
What we won’t need are under-prepared people who have to go through emergency accreditation programs and Teaching for America’s Crash Course which last five to eight weeks. Phone under-prepared teachers are leaving the profession two to three times more than teachers with traditional training, and they are more likely to serve low-income students of color – precisely those who will need support the most as they exit the pandemic.
A generous loan forgiveness program would encourage teachers to enter and stick to the profession. It would also be attract a more diverse workforce, imperative in this time of national account on the race, when more than 80% of students who specialize in teacher training are white. The weight of student loans weighs more heavily on black and latin teachers, who are more likely to hold loans and have difficulty repaying them. Giving these teachers an incentive to pursue and stay in the profession also benefits students: have only one black teacher may reduce dropout rates and increase college enrollment among black students.
Teachers deserve to receive quality training without incurring insurmountable debt. Students deserve highly qualified teachers who don’t also take on a second job as they struggle to make ends meet. Canceling the teacher loan would be an immediate first step in ensuring quality education and making teaching a more financially viable career.
An obvious alternative to canceling the loan would be to simply increase teachers’ salaries, but that would likely be a low priority in a recovering post-pandemic economy. This would require the adoption of new tax legislation.
In his presidential victory speech, Biden claimed that he was “a great day” for educators. He should show us he is serious by instituting a relentless loan cancellation program as soon as he takes office.
Lauren Quinn is a high school English teacher in Los Angeles. @LLcoolquinn