Luján, Leger Fernández, Hayes Introduce Legislation to Expand Federal Loan Forgiveness for Educators

Washington D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined U.S. Representatives Teresa Leger Fernández (D-N.M.) and Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) in introducing the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act of 2022 to expand the federal Teacher Loan Forgiveness program. The bill helps address educator shortages across the country and increases children’s access to a diverse and well-prepared educator workforce.

The Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act of 2022 updates the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program by having the federal government make the monthly federal student loan payments for educators serving in early childhood education programs and high-need public schools and completely forgive any outstanding debt after five years of service. The legislation ensures that in addition to teachers, school leaders and early childhood education educators can access these benefits. It would also allow service under this program to concurrently count toward the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. These changes will help to recruit and retain more educators and ensure more diverse candidates can afford comprehensive educator preparation programs, a key strategy to decrease shortages and help increase educator diversity in early childhood and K-12 education.

“Educators are the foundation of our classrooms and child care centers—preparing the next generation of leaders and giving them the tools to be successful in life. But teachers, child care workers, and school leaders are faced with high costs of education and the financial burdens that follow, creating hurdles that have only contributed to workforce shortages impacting New Mexico and countless other states,” said Senator Luján. “That’s why I’m introducing legislation to improve the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program and empower a more prepared and diverse workforce to educate our students at every level. By strengthening and expanding this program, this bill will help increase educator recruitment and retention and ensure more children can access the quality education they deserve.”

“My mother, Manuelita de Atocha (Mela) Lucero Leger, was a teacher; from her, I learned to tap into the miracle of education, community, and love as a driving force for policy. This is why I am introducing the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act to invest in educators and our children’s future. This bill will ease the financial burden of hard-working educators carrying high student loan debt and break down one of the biggest barriers for becoming an educator,” said Rep. Leger Fernández. “Serving our students shouldn’t require educators to take on excessive debt. We want to grow our teachers from the communities they serve – and if they are the first generation, they often must take on loans to pay for not just tuition but also living expenses. This bill will forgive student loan debt after 5 years of serving as an educator. We need to show educators the respect they have earned and incentivize them to stay in New Mexico. Let’s make education accessible to everyone, everywhere.”

“Like many educators, I relied on student loans to pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. I know the stress of worrying about making student loan payments on a teacher salary. As our country continues to navigate the economic impacts of the pandemic and as staffing shortages overwhelm our schools, we need robust federal programs to increase teacher retention and infuse the educator pipeline. I am pleased to join Senator Luján and Congresswoman Leger Fernández in leading legislation to improve the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program and provide much-needed financial relief so educators can stay in the classroom without the burden of lifelong debt,” said Rep. Hayes.

“The Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act would ensure that teaching remains a viable career choice and that teachers can enter the classroom and stay there,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Teachers and school staff have been struggling for years with everything from a lack of professional respect to subpar compensation. Add crushing student loan debt and it’s no wonder our country is facing a teacher shortage. The Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act would go a long way toward relieving some of that pressure. Among its many strengths, this bill expands the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, which would provide full loan forgiveness after five years for educators serving our highest-need students and make monthly payments on their behalf until their loans are forgiven. We urge its swift passage.”

“We commend Senator Luján and Representatives Leger Fernandez and Hayes for introducing the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act, which would invest in an important improvement and expansion to the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program,” said Miriam Calderón, Chief Policy Officer at ZERO TO THREE. “This nation’s early educators are some of our lowest paid professionals, even though they play a critical role in supporting babies’ healthy brain development and their families’ ability to work. By addressing early educators’ student debt, this bill would recognize and reward the critical work they do, while also drawing into and retaining more skilled, diverse professionals in the early education field.”

“The Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act would have an immense impact on our schools by relieving teachers of a considerable financial burden and helping district leaders attract and retain staff moving forward,” said Dan Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. “I hear from district leaders on a daily basis who are struggling to find enough teachers to fully staff their schools. Student loan assistance for educators is a powerful tool to retain current teachers and incentivize young people to enter the profession. We are grateful to Senator Luján’s for his leadership on this bill and attention to such a critical issue facing K-12 public education.”

A list of 50 organizations that endorsed the Loan Forgiveness for Educators Act of 2022 can be found HERE.

A summary of the bill can be found HERE. Full text of the bill is available HERE.

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