Raleigh, N.C. — A House committee on Tuesday approved two measures designed to boost teacher recruitment in the state.
House Bill 844 would set aside $2.9 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year and $5.4 million in the following year to create a loan program for students planning to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or special education classes.
Students would receive $5,000 a year under the program, but sponsor Rep. Edward Hanes, D-Forsyth, said the State Education Assistance Authority could award more to match as much as possible the cost of attending a school in the University of North Carolina system. The state would then wipe out the loan if the student teaches a STEM or special education class anywhere in North Carolina for four of the six years after graduation – Hanes said students could take two years off during that period to earn a master's degree – or three straight years in a low-performing school district.
"There are 100,000 STEM jobs available right now that cannot be filled because we don't have students who are comfortable and competent in the areas of science and mathematics," Hanes said. "We need our best STEM teachers growing our science and math base at home so that North Carolina can claim our fair share of that growing economy."
Rep. Mark Brody, R-Union, asked why the program doesn't try to steer more students toward poorer districts, noting larger districts don't have much trouble attracting quality teachers.
Hanes replied that sponsors were trying to "find a sweet spot" so everyone could benefit from the program, not just certain areas. The home districts of students in the program would get the first crack at hiring them, he added.
Meanwhile, House Bill 602 would study ways to get students – from high schools, community colleges or those already on university campuses – into the teaching pipeline by recruiting them to study at colleges of education in the UNC system.
"There are scholarships and different programs that are available, but many of them are totally underutilized because there's no one connecting the dots for the students that the programs exist," said sponsor Rep. Jeff Elmore, R-Wilkes.
Both bills head next to the House Appropriations Committee.