WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consider Teachers Act, a bill introduced in the Senate by Senator Mike Braun, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, and in the House by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton aimed at fixing a broken system burdening teachers with unfair loans, has passed the U.S. Senate.

The TEACH Grant program provides grant assistance to students who serve four years as a full time teacher in high-need, often underserved communities. However, often due to basic clerical mistakes, thousands of teachers have found their grants converted into loans that must be paid back with interest. The Consider Teachers Act aims to fix this broken system permanently, and provides extra time for teachers to complete service requirements due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"The TEACH grant is an important program to incentivize teachers to serve in neglected communities, but 12 years of poor government management has turned these grants into groans for thousands of teachers," said Senator Mike Braun. "This bill passing the Senate shows our appreciation for America's great teachers, and now I hope the House of Representatives will act to fix this broken system once and for all." 

“Arizona teachers receiving TEACH grants serve in low-income schools, helping Arizona students access quality educations across our state. The government made a promise to these teachers—and our commonsense, bipartisan bill ensures the government honors its obligation and protects our teachers from surprise bills,” said Senator Kyrsten Sinema. 

“I am pleased to join Senators Braun and Sinema in introducing the Consider Teachers Act of 2021, which will reform the Teach Grant program that is unfairly converting many teachers' grants to loans. Currently, many teachers are finding their grants converted to loan debt because of small administrative errors that might be unavoidable due to the coronavirus crisis. This bill will correct the administrative process and extend the period teachers have to fulfill their service requirements by three years for those who were affected by the coronavirus crisis,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

BACKGROUND: 

In 2007, the federal government created the TEACH Grant, providing grant assistance to students who serve four years as a full time teacher in a high-need field. Under program terms, if service requirements are not met, grants are converted into loan obligations. While the program was well- intentioned, poor program administration has resulted in teachers unfairly having grant dollars converted into loans—prompting many to refer to the converted grants as “groans.” The Consider Teachers Act addresses these challenges that are thwarting the program’s intent.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, the majority of TEACH Grants, 66%, are converted into Federal Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loans which must be paid back with interest. Previously, once converted, a loan cannot revert back to grant. 21,000 teachers have completed the program without a conversion, but 94,000 recipients have had their grants converted to loans. Small paperwork issues often triggered the conversions. For example, if teachers sent in their annual form one day late, or had other problems, such as a missing date or signature, the grant was converted.

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