By: Matt Galka
August 13, 2015
TALLAHASSEE -- Every year the Department of Education releases a critical needs list for areas with teacher shortages in the state. A bill filed hopes to cut into that shortage by paying off debt and keeping instructors in Florida.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – commonly referred to as STEM fields, will get some attention from the state legislature in 2016. Rep. Ed Narain wants to encourage young people to jump into teaching those subjects.
“What we’re finding is a lot of students they get educated, they take advantage of in-state tuition, and then they leave. So they go to other states, and they’re actually able to benefit their economies and their employment, but not here in Florida. So we want to change that,” said Rep. Narain (D-Tampa).
Narain filed a bill for 2016 that would forgive student loans for STEM teachers. He hopes it can help keep talented young people in the state while also addressing teacher shortages in those areas. Mark Pudlow with the Florida Education Association says the need for educators keeps growing.
“I think that over the years it’s become more pronounced, and a lot of the reason for it is, the pay isn’t up to other professionals level, and there’s been a lot of political meddling in the education field with politicians telling teachers how to teach,” said Pudlow.
The bill has a cap of forgiving $16,000 worth of student loans per STEM teacher.
Narain’s bill would forgive student loans after a teacher teaches for eight years. He says the bill focuses on STEM because that’s where the jobs are going.
“When we look at the jobs that are being created in other places like Silicon Valley, over in Charlotte, over in Texas even, they’re STEM jobs, and those are jobs we want to have here in the state of Florida,” said Rep. Narain.
An identical bill was filed for 2015’s legislative session but failed to get a hearing.
The Department of Education lists English and Reading ahead of STEM courses when it comes to need for filling teacher shortages in the state.