To draw teachers to high-needs schools, Del. offers to repay $10k of their student loans

McKean High School teachers Rebecca Sheehan and Jaimin Carter both hope to take advantage of a new Delaware law that could pay up to $10,000  of their student loans over five years. (Cris Barrish/WHYY News)

McKean High School teachers Rebecca Sheehan and Jaimin Carter both hope to take advantage of a new Delaware law that could pay up to $10,000 of their student loans over five years. (Cris Barrish/WHYY News)

Getting teachers to work high-poverty, poor-performing schools and predominantly minority schools has proven difficult in Delaware.

But a new state law is aimed at helping to attract young teachers to these schools by repaying part of their student loans.

Gov. John Carney said the bill he signed into law Wednesday was the most important of the recent legislative session. It repays up to $10,000 of a teacher’s student loans if they are working in a so-called high-needs school.

One of the potential recipients is Jaimin Carter, a second-year teacher at McKean High School in the Red Clay Consolidated School District. He earns about $43,000 a year and has about $30,000 in debt.

“This bill could really help motivate definitely me to stay in education because we know a lot of people shy away from human services jobs because they know they won’t make the money to pay their bills and pay their student loans,” Carter said. “It’s definitely going relieve some of that burden I have because student loans aren’t a joke.”

Rebecca Sheehan, who also teaches at McKean, where Carney signed the bill in a ceremony attended by several state lawmakers and high-ranking education officials, said she will use it to help pay off loans that are now about $20,000, and called the opportunity “amazing,”

Aaron Bass, chief executive at two charter schools, agrees.

“We have staff that are working to the bone to make sure their children get what they need,” Bass said. “When we are able to make sure that we take care of that in any way, shape or form, it helps us want to retain teachers, especially in the state of Delaware, instead of going to other places. It also helps us make sure the children who have the highest amount of need get the best teachers possible.”

Having tenured teachers in schools that struggle benefits students, Carney said.

“The most important factor in getting them to be successful and successful in school is good teachers,” he said. “And so attracting good teachers to work in those schools and environments will allow us to accomplish that.”

The program provides for $1,000 to $2,000 a year in repayments for teachers who qualify and can be paid for up to five years.

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