RALEIGH (March 9, 2017) ‚Äď Legislative and education leaders proposed a partial restoration today of the N.C. Teaching Fellows Program that would offer forgivable loans to college students who agree to become public school teachers in high-demand STEM and special-education fields.
The Teaching Fellows program began in 1986 and offered four-year scholarships to promising students in return for a commitment to teach in public schools for at least four years. The program produced 8,523 graduates, and in 2014, more than 4,600 Teaching Fellows were teaching in all 100 North Carolina counties.
The General Assembly voted to end the program in 2011, and the last class of nearly 500 Teaching Fellows graduated in 2015. But in part because of lagging teacher salaries, the 15 schools of education in the University of North Carolina System saw a 30% decline in enrollment from 2010-2016, even as North Carolina became the ninth most-populous state in the country.
In his budget proposal last week, Gov. Roy Cooper proposed forgivable ‚ÄúNC Best & Brightest‚ÄĚ loans of $10,000 a year for 500 prospective teachers who agree to teach for four years in a public school or three years in a low-performing or low-wealth school.
In an encouraging development, Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, co-chair of the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee, and Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Wake, co-chair of the Senate Education Appropriations Subcommittee, announced legislation today to partially restore the Teaching Fellows program to recruit STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and special-education teachers.
Under the legislators‚Äô proposal, the state would provide $6 million for about 160 students a year to receive forgivable loans of as much as $8,250 a year if they commit to teach in a STEM or special-needs field.
Barefoot noted that math, science and special education are considered the most difficult-to-staff subject areas in North Carolina schools. ‚ÄúThis will ensure that the greatest needs of our public schools are being met by highly qualified teachers,‚ÄĚ he said.
The legislators were joined by UNC President Margaret Spellings for the announcement at NC State University‚Äôs Centennial Campus.
‚ÄúPreparing teachers to serve the state of North Carolina has always been a core part of the University‚Äôs mission,‚ÄĚ Spellings said. ‚ÄúMany of our public institutions began as teachers‚Äô colleges, focused on educating our state‚Äôs best and brightest to serve a rising generation of students.
‚ÄúThis bill keeps with that tradition, reflecting the value our state places on teaching and the importance of keeping highly qualified professionals in every classroom.‚ÄĚ