image unaffiliated with REST Act and NEST Act introduction

In an effort to retain teachers in rural Minnesota and Indian Country, U.S. Senator Al Franken helped introduce legislation that would address teacher shortage issues as well as improve education in Minnesota overall.

Minnesota as a whole is facing a teacher shortage in recent years. A report released by the Minnesota Department of Education last month found that more than 6,500 teachers throughout the state left their jobs during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Rural areas are greatly affected since people approaching retirement age make up a large portion of the population. With many teachers getting ready to retire, the state must entice younger teachers to settle down in rural towns where the school districts cannot pay as much as those in metro areas.

There are two bills addressing teacher education and retention in Minnesota. The first, the Rural Educator Support and Training Act, would offer teachers—and those studying to become an educator or school administrator—scholarships and loan forgiveness as well as ongoing professional development prospects. To be eligible, they must be committed to teaching in a rural area for at least three years. The scholarships would cover everything from tuition and fees to textbooks and some living expenses.

Number of Borrowers with More Than $100k in Student Debt has Quadrupled in Past Decade

The second piece of legislation is the Native Educator Support and Training Act (or the NEST Act), designed to assist in recruiting and keeping teachers in Indian Country through scholarships, federal student loan forgiveness, and professional development courses. This would be open to both students studying education and existing teachers who are Native American or who commit to teaching at schools with a high population of Native American students.

As a member of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Franken explained that every student should receive a quality education regardless of where they are residing. He commented further, “One of the major challenges I often hear about is that frankly there aren’t enough teachers in those communities. These two bills would help address that, and I’m going to be working to pass them into law so that we can get more teachers to work in these communities to ensure kids receive the education they deserve.”


image copyright Eric Austin