There’s no doubt that the American education system has some major problems. And while many claims that the education department is underfunded, it’s a harsh reality that teachers and administrators may have to do more with less looking forward. To that aim, the federal government has been evaluating the systems already in place, and one target is the current teach grant program. Despite being established with the best of intentions, there are some problems with how this program operates.
By the rules of the current system, teachers often received substantial loans in place of grants. These loans can sometimes reach a staggering amount of $20,000, well outside the level that most teachers can pay them back. But the Department of Education is taking measures to reverse these issues. The problems faced by teachers are very real. These are jobs that are widely regarded as underpaid and under-appreciated, and teachers are often forced to tighten belts in response to these loans. Some have to downsize to smaller homes to accommodate the monthly loans, while others have been forced to take second jobs.
The problem may be very real, but it wasn’t intentional. The issue is one of improper paperwork, but an NPR investigation has turned the eyes of lawmakers towards the problem, and it appears that relief may be just over the horizon. Nineteen senators sent a letter in response to NPR, recognizing that the problem needs to be resolved, and a thorough review of the program was launched in May of 2018 by the Department of Education.
Known as the TEACH Grant Program, the intent was to put young and qualified teachers into underfunded school districts that are desperately in need of talent. The premise is simple. Teachers receive grant money for their education in return for spending a designated period of a tie in low-income school districts. The problem is that somewhere in the pipeline these grants were converted to loans along with all the interest that brings. Preventing this conversion requires teachers to fill out paperwork annually, but the rules behind this paperwork are poorly explained and often delivered to the wrong address or past the point of submission.
The new system intends to make these rules clearer, and they’ll retroactively pay teachers back and absolve their loans as long as they can prove their adherence to the programs. It may come a bit too late for some teachers, but it’s a step in the right direction and a possible opportunity to reverse course on a well-intended but poorly implemented program.