Senate Passes Sinema Bill Protecting Arizona Teachers from Surprise Loan Charges
The U.S. Senate unanimously approved Arizona senior Senator Kyrsten Sinema's bipartisan Consider Teachers Act--legislation protecting Arizona teachers from costly surprise changes in grant payment requirements. Sinema's bill - cosponsored by Republican Senator Mike Braun (Ind.) - fixes an issue with TEACH grants that mistakenly converted grants awarded to teachers who serve low-income schools into loans which require repayment by reverting all such loans back to grants and dismissing any accumulated interest or fees.
"Arizona teachers use TEACH grants to serve families in low-income schools. The government made a promise to those teachers, and our commonsense, bipartisan bill ensures the government honors its obligation," said Sinema.
The TEACH grant program began in 2008 as a way to recruit teachers to teach high-need subjects in low-income, Title I schools. The grant program helps cover education costs for teachers in exchange for commitments that they teach in low-income schools for four years. If they do not make good on that commitment, the grants convert to loans. However, in 2014, a Department of Education review found over 10,000 recipients had their grants converted to loans as a result of errors made by the company hired to manage the program. Sinema heard from Arizona teachers whose grants were erroneously converted to a loan through no fault of their own. Since the TEACH grant program was created, the Department of Education reports that there have been 35,593 TEACH grant awards made--totaling $107,740,051--to students in Arizona.
Sinema's bill is endorsed by the Arizona Education Association and now heads to the U.S. House.