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New law to help some teachers pay off student debt

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
State officials and education advocates join Gov. Carney with the newly signed law.

A bill signed by Gov. John Carney Wednesday allows certain teachers in Delaware to seek state help paying off their student debt.


The new law allows educators teaching in “high needs” schools or certification areas to ask the state to make a payment directly to their student loan providers.

Payment awards are between $1000 and $2000. The limit is one award per year, and no more than five total per educator.

Education Secretary Susan Bunting says the state is concerned about finding teachers in some high needs subject areas.

“Math, the harder sciences— chemistry, physics that type of thing. Special education, languages. We have a lot of EL students, English Language Learners, who are coming, and we need people with certifications to teach those,” said Bunting.

McKean High School special education and math teacher Dr. Ed Crumlish says the law will help educators like him. He originally went to school for engineering, then pivoted to education.

“Went back to school to acquire an elementary education masters degree, and then eventually pursue my doctorate,” he said. “I have developed a crushing, over $100,000 worth of student debt.”

Head of the state’s Higher Education Office Shana Payne says nationally, educators graduate with an average of $30,000 in student debt.

Mike Matthews is president of the Delaware State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. He says student debt is a major problem for First State teachers.

“I spoke with hundreds if not maybe a thousand educators up and down the state, and many of them shared with me their stories of the crushing student loan debt they live under, in order to work in a profession that seeks to better the world that we all live in,” said Matthews.

He adds reducing financial barriers for teachers could help the state bring more diversity to its teaching workforce

Educators must also get a rating of “effective” or better on the Delaware Performance Appraisal System II to be eligible for the loan payment program.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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