House Higher Education Committee Has Hearing on Bill Providing Stipends for Teachers in Rural and Turnaround Schools

The House Higher Education Committee heard  HB 736  by Rep. David Belton (R-Buckhead) for the second time this afternoon after the bill underwent extensive revisions. It no longer offers student loan forgiveness for teachers in turnaround schools. Instead, the bill would create a stipend of $3,000 for up to five years for educators who choose to teach in a turnaround school or a school labeled by the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) as one of the state’s most rural schools. GaDOE would select a list of 100 schools deemed to have the highest number of vacancies from approximately 325 eligible schools by October 1 of each year and would allocate a certain number of slots to each school. The program would be limited to 1,000 teachers. The bill prioritizes teachers with student loan debt over veteran teachers, although veteran teachers would be eligible for the stipend if there are not enough loan-bearing teachers who apply.

Rep. David Dreyer (D-Atlanta) stated, “We would agree that this is not a perfect bill and does not solve all of our problems with teacher recruitment and retention, but this is a step in the right direction.”

PAGE Legislative Affairs Specialist Josh Stephens spoke in support of the new version of HB 736 saying, “PAGE sees this bill as another tool in the toolkit to help bolster teacher recruitment and retention efforts for rural school districts and high-needs schools.”

Rep. Chuck Martin (R-Alpharetta) expressed his interest in changing the funding mechanism for the program from a stipend appropriated to GaDOE by the General Assembly to a dollar-for-dollar tax credit. Several committee members expressed concern with this idea. The committee did not vote on the bill at this meeting. 

-Josh Stephens