Raleigh, N.C. — It might be the easiest bill Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, ever has pushed in the state House.
House Bill 339, which calls for reviving the North Carolina Teaching Fellows program, already has more than 70 of the 120 House members backing it.
"Given that there are 70 co-sponsors and four sponsors, all I can do is lose," Horn told the House Education - Universities Committee on Tuesday while explaining the bill. "I shall not burden you any further and allow that opportunity to occur."
The Teaching Fellows program was created in 1986 to recruit top students to enter the teaching profession by providing them with tuition help and leadership training in exchange for a promise to teach in North Carolina for at least four years. Lawmakers dismantled the program as part of budget cuts enacted during the recession, and the final participants graduated from college in 2015.
The proposal would provide forgivable loans of up to $8,250 a year for up to four years to pay for tuition, fees and books for students studying to teach special education or STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classes. The program would include five schools – either University of North Carolina campuses or private colleges – that will be selected based on their track record of training teachers.
High school students, current college students who want to shift to an education major and graduates who want to return to school for a career change to teaching are eligible for the forgivable loans, Horn said, adding that enrollment in teacher training programs statewide has declined by more than 20 percent in recent years.
Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth, a former Teaching Fellow himself, said he hopes that schools that serve poor and rural populations will be included among the five schools that will participate in the revived program.
"They have a unique expertise to produce teachers who will ... willingly go back and serve those communities," Hanes said.
The bill easily cleared the committee on a voice vote and next heads to the House Appropriations Committee.
"We're back," Horn announced.