State lawmakers have introduced a bill to help teachers pay off their student loans.
Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange, Durham), along with some of his democratic colleagues, introduced House Bill 1031 – the North Carolina Teacher Help Fund.
The fund will give up 38.5 million of education lottery funds to public school teachers to help pay off their student loans.
Meyer, himself a former public school employee, said they would use funds from a major Powerball drawing in January.
“We’d like the windfall from the lottery profits to be a jackpot for North Carolina teachers,” said Meyer.
He said they would need a consistent revenue stream, however, for the fund in the future.
According to Meyer, up to 3,800 teachers would be eligible for the loan forgiveness and they could each receive up to $10,000.
Both public and charter school teachers would be eligible.
Rep. Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth) said this bill was something everyone could stand behind.
“Why can’t we use these funds to help ease the burden on these public servants? Why can’t we use it as an opportunity to unite our state behind what is good, what is right? And that is supporting our teachers,” said Hanes.
In exchange for the funds, teachers would have to commit to at least four more years in the classroom.
Rep. Bobbie Richardson, (D- Franklin) thinks that commitment to teachers could be a boost for North Carolina’s economy.
“I believe that showing unwavering support and respect for our teachers would put North Carolina on the map for economic development,” said Richardson.
North Carolina has ranked towards to bottom in teacher pay in the last several years. But according to the National Education Association, the state is expected to rise in the rankings after a 7% teacher pay increase went into effect last year.
Meyer said more still needs to be done to attract and keep teachers in the state.
“This type of loan forgiveness is targeted directly at the young teachers who are most likely to leave our profession because of North Carolina’s lagging pay,” said Meyer.
Meyer said this bill is in line with the original purpose of the lottery; to supplement education spending, not to act as a revenue stream for essential items.
Meyer said that Gov. McCrory’s budget proposes using the same funds to purchase text books and technology for classrooms, which he said usually comes out of the general fund.