Calmer weather in store this week

Bill proposed would forgive student loans for Oklahoma teachers

OKLAHOMA - One lawmaker is working on a way to forgive student loans while helping with our state's teacher shortage.

Educators say this bill starts the conversation about issues with school funding but it doesn't address the real problem and that`s teacher pay.

As assistant superintendent, Jason Brunk is also responsible for hiring staff. But as of lately, finding qualified teachers is becoming a challenge.

“A lot of shortage areas, certainly not seeing the number of applications that we've seen in years past but we'll continue to work on it,” Brunk said.

There are several bills circulating around the capitol to help districts operate and now there`s one with the hopes to keep teachers educating in the state.

“In 2000, we had a teacher shortage with mathematics and science teachers, and now of course we have a shortage across the board. So, I wanted to help out by expanding this to all secondary teachers,” said Rep. Mickey Dollens.

Representative Dollens' bill would give Oklahoma teachers student loan forgiveness if they stay at any school for at least seven years.

“The incentive will be in conjunction with the teacher pay raise. I don't want anyone to think that we're neglecting the raise,” Dollens said.

Dollens said bill doesn`t count years teachers already served in the classroom.

“This isn't retroactive, a teacher in an education program will has to declare their intent to participate in this program, and yes, after seven years their loans will be forgiven.”

And even though educators tell us it`s a good idea, they don`t see it going far without the dollars.

“Unfortunately they got that line in there that says contingent on the availability of funding and unfortunately our state isn't in the situation right now to be able to address that,” said Brunk.

Currently state law offers student loan forgiveness to math and science teachers with a commitment stay at a school for five years.