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Schumer says loan forgiveness could help stop teacher shortage, help districts like Syracuse

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Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is bashing the Trump administration’s education department for not using money Congress appropriated for college loan forgiveness for teachers. He said it’s compounding a teacher shortage that’s only going to get worse. The program would help central New York’s biggest school district.

Schumer said Congress allocated $3.5 billion for loan forgiveness and only one percent of people eligible have been able to take advantage of the program. He says the Department of Education is letting $3.5 billion in a federal loan forgiveness program sit, instead of distributing it to teachers who would help fill the teacher shortage gap. 

Scott Persampieri, Recruitment Director at the Syracuse City School District, says it would help attract students to his urban school district. The district had openings for 300 new teachers this fall. They couldn’t fill them all.

"I would say we had 20 to 30 positions that we ended up having to scrape and scour to fill, and in some cases had to find certified substitute teachers while we looked for long term solutions,” he said.

Persampieri said that’s not an ideal situation. And he doesn’t expect things to get any better. An avalanche of retirements is one of the reasons for the shortage, but there are also fewer teachers in the education pipeline. He said the district’s recruiting tactics, including: residency programs with local colleges, recruitment outside of New York State, and incentives like paid Master’s degrees only go so far. The federal loan forgiveness program Schumer wants to kick start should help, Persampieri said. It’s meant to attract teachers to an urban district like Syracuse, because part of the commitment is working in a high-needs district.

“So without that I would imagine it could potentially cause teachers currently in the district expecting to get this loan forgiveness, to leave the district and work in a suburban setting somewhere,” said Persampieri.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.